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Breastfeeding Basics: 10 Tips You Need to Know Before Giving Birth

Breastfeeding Basics: 10 Tips You Need to Know Before Giving Birth

by Shannon Dean

Like many new skills facing first-time mothers, breastfeeding is a learned ability that gets much easier with practice. Here are a few time-tested tips to make the transition easier.

Start Preparing Well Before Your Due Date

Educate yourself and consider attended classes offered by your hospital or birthing center months before delivery. Attending a meeting while pregnant answers many important questions and makes women feel comfortable talking about expectations with certified professionals and other pregnant moms who have the same questions that you have.

Some Discomfort is Normal, But Help is Available

While your breasts may initially feel tender, they shouldn’t be consistently painful. Initial nipple discomfort is usually normal, but severe, ongoing soreness may indicate a problem. Most problems can be fixed quickly, so moms needn’t endure pain. Local hospitals offer consultation with a lactation consultant.

Find Ways to Lighten Your Load

Newborns typically nurse 8 to 12 times per day. Plus, experts recommend feeding your baby on cue at any sign of hunger. A nursing sling can be a great way to keep your baby close and allow you freedom, privacy, and mobility. Learning to nurse lying down can also help with nighttime feedings so you and baby can quickly return to sleep.

Avoid Assumptions

Many new mothers think that babies who want to nurse frequently aren’t getting enough milk, but this is rarely true. As long as your baby is producing at least 6-8 wet diapers and 2-3 daily bowel movements for the first few weeks after your milk comes in, he’s likely getting the nutrients he needs. Babies nurse for comfort as well as hunger. Frequent watery, mustard-colored bowel movements are normal are are not considered diarrhea. Consult an expert for reassurance if something doesn’t feel right.

Listen to Your Body’s Cues of Hunger, Thirst, and Fatigue

Although your body has to work hard to produce milk, eating when hungry and drinking when thirsty will likely provide your body with enough fuel. Rest while your baby rests whenever possible.

Accept Help

Although many new moms are uncomfortable asking for or receiving help, Harrington urges parents to overcome those reservations. Don’t be shy about addressing specific needs with requests like, “It would be wonderful if you could fold laundry.” Involving partners and family members in your baby’s care makes them feel included. When loved ones rock, bathe and sing to your baby, this teaches him that love and comfort do not always come from food.

Seek Out Reassurance From Supportive Experts

If you ever have doubts, seek advice from those knowledgeable about (and supportive of) breastfeeding. Advisors who assure you they “couldn’t breastfeed either” or that formula-fed babies are “easier” are not helpful when it’s likely you’re doing just fine.

Don’t Compare Your Experiences to Others

Keep in mind that babies, like adults, are all different. If a friend’s baby is emptying the breast very quickly and sleeping through the night, this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you or your baby if your experience is different.

Know That You Can Continue Nursing When You Return to Work

Many moms avoid breastfeeding because they assume that they must stop once maternity leave ends. However, with planning and a hospital-grade breast pump, there is no need to stop. It helps to delay the introduction of artificial nipples until after your milk supply and nursing relationship are well-established. Breastfeeding moms can introduce a bottle with breast milk to established nursers between one and three months of age, which is when babies are more adaptive to a bottle. By using a breast pump and nursing outside of brines hours, you can still maintain a healthy nursing relationship.

See Also

Further Reading

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
By Diane Wiessinger and Diana West


The Nursing Mother’s Companion
By Kathleen Huggins


Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers
By Nancy Mohrbacher and Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

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