Nursing may be natural, but it’s also downright difficult. While 83 percent of mothers breastfeed soon after birth, only 57 percent are still nursing six months later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s a surprisingly low number considering that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months. The benefits of breastfeeding range from prevention of childhood obesity to decreased risk of infection, SIDS, and allergies.
If you decide to give breastfeeding a try, rest assured that with a little bit of patience, some smart planning, and a firm resolution, you have increased chance of success. Read on for some simple, proven tips to help you make it through those early days.
- Hold your baby facing your breasts, with the front of her body facing yours, tummy to tummy. Her head should be in line with the rest of her body, not turned, to make swallowing easier.
- Tickle baby’s lip with your nipple to encourage baby to open very wide, like a yawn. If your baby isn’t opening up, try to squeeze some colostrum, and later, milk, onto her lips.
- If your baby turns away, gently stroke the cheek on the side nearest you. The rooting reflex will make baby turn her head toward your breast.
- Bring baby forward toward your breast once her mouth is open wide. Don’t lean over and push your breast into baby’s mouth — let your baby take the initiative. Keep a hold of your breast until baby has a firm grasp and is suckling well.
- You’ll know you’ve got a proper latch when baby’s chin and the tip of her nose are touching your breast. Baby’s lips will be flared outward, like fish lips, rather than tucked in. Check that your little one isn’t sucking on her own lower lip or tongue — newborns will suckle anything — by pulling her lower lip down while nursing.
- Watch for suckling — that is, extracting colostrum or breast milk from your breast, not just sucking or gumming your nipple. If baby is suckling, you’ll see a strong, steady suck-swallow-breath pattern. You’ll also notice a rhythmic motion in baby’s cheek, jaw and ear. Once your milk comes in, listen for the sound of swallowing or gulping. You’ll know baby isn’t latched properly if you hear clicking noises.
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