Why is breastfeeding important?
Breastfeeding is important because it provides a unique bond between mother and baby. It also provides immunity for the baby and helps protect against sudden infant death. Once the baby is delivered, they are immediately placed on their mother’s breast to stimulate breastmilk. The human body is very smart, and it knows how much milk to produce. The first milk that is produced is called colostrum, and it is very concentrated in antibodies and proteins which will be highly beneficial to the baby’s ability to fight illnesses and to grow.
For partners and family members, It is important to be supportive—breastfeeding is natural. It is good for the mother, it is good for the child, it is good for the whole family. Be encouraging, don’t be frustrated. Encourage yourself to learn how to breastfeed so you can be a coach for your partner. There is a specific way to latch onto the nipple to help with suck reflex. If there is help from the partner, there is a better chance for good breastfeeding.
How often and for how long should my baby feed/nurse?
The average baby breastfeeds between 8-12 times in a 24 hour period, but the feeding length can vary. Just like adults, infants’ feedings also vary from day to day. Your baby may only breastfeed for 5 minutes and be satisfied. The baby may only take one breast, or may take from both. We really encourage you to follow the baby’s lead. If your baby is displaying hunger cues, offer your breast. If your baby is satisfied, they will not take any more breastmilk.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
There are many signs that indicate that babies are getting enough milk. Some of these signs can be observed by mom during feeding. For example, active jaw movement—a few suckles and then pause—are signs your baby is getting milk. Sometimes you can also hear the baby swallowing milk during breastfeeding; however, if you can’t hear the baby swallowing, it is not necessarily a sign to panic or that the baby isn’t getting enough milk. Signs that we look for when a baby’s done, is that the baby often falls asleep at the breast—if the baby falls asleep after nursing, it can be a sign that the baby is no longer hungry. If the baby is still awake, relaxed muscles are a sign they’ve received enough milk. Other obvious signs are adequate wet diapers as this shows hydration and nutrition. After about days 3-4,4-6 wet diapers should be expected in a 24 hour period. Bowel movements vary from baby to baby, but at least 2 bowel movements in a 24 hour period can be expected. Finally, some signs of adequate milk intake are a continued pattern of growth in length, head circumference and weight at the baby’s well child visits with their provider. If you have any concerns, you should reach out to your healthcare provider.
Don’t forget that while breastfeeding is a nearly perfect food for your baby, it does not contain enough vitamin D for your baby’s bones—you should ask your doctor for a Vitamin D supplement for your breastfed baby.
Does breastfeeding hurt?
Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, although there is a normal adjustment phase in the beginning when moms feel sore in their nipples. After the first week or so, that shouldn’t happen anymore. This is due to the nipples getting used to the stretching as the baby is taking in breast tissue. If you’re feeling a pinching or clamping sensation, it is often because the baby is not latching correctly. If you are having this problem, reach out to your doctor or to a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding support group to have the feeding and latching assessed.
When should I use a pacifier?
Any artificial nipple is not recommended until breastfeeding is well established. Typically, it takes most mothers and babies about two weeks to get breastfeeding well established, meaning that the baby is latching on well, there are no concerns or no discomforts with latch, and the baby is growing and thriving. At that point we usually say that it would be safe to introduce a pacifier or an artificial nipple if necessary. Pacifier use after the first few weeks may help reduce your baby’s risk of sudden infant death, but if your baby doesn’t want the pacifier, do not force it.
Sometimes moms go back to work or school earlier and the baby does need to be introduced to a bottle. Most babies will be able to figure this out when the time comes so you do not have to worry about giving a bottle immediately after birth to get the baby used to that. We suggest that you hold off as long as possible before giving a bottle with its artificial nipple.
How should I care for the health of my baby’s future teeth?
Taking care of your baby’s mouth and teeth is important to keep your baby healthy. Clean your baby’s gums with a clean, damp cloth twice a day. Begin using a baby toothbrush with a smear of fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) once your baby gets their first tooth. Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle. Clean your baby’s pacifier with soap and water, never in your own mouth. Do not dip the pacifier in any sweet foods or liquids. Take your baby to the dentist within the first year.