Breastfeeding: A Complete Guide For New Mothers

When you find out that you are pregnant, you'll immediately start a parenting plan and whether or not to breastfeed. Breastfeeding your child can be incredibly rewarding for both you and your baby. However, the decision to breastfeed is incredibly personal, and you shouldn't feel any pressure one way or the other when making the choice.

Unfortunately, some women will not be able to, and they should not feel shame because of it. If you cannot breastfeed for whatever reason, don't worry, you have options. If you can breastfeed and want to do it, you probably have a lot of questions you would like answered before you get started. For instance, if you are pumping your breast milk, there are specific storage guidelines that you should follow. Also, there are things you can do if you are not producing enough milk, having problems getting your baby to latch and other tips for breastfeeding.

Learning to breastfeed may seem intimidating at first, but it's not, and you will be incredibly happy that you decided to do it.

Breastfeeding and its Benefits

You may have heard the saying," breastfeeding is the best feeding," or something like that at some point during your pregnancy. There is a reason that people say that. Breastfeeding comes with a lot of benefits for both mother and child.

On average, mothers who breastfeed their babies return to their pre-pregnancy weight before mothers who do not. Also, women who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, decreased postpartum bleeding, and their uterus' return to normal size quicker than women who do not breastfeed.

For babies, the benefits are even more pronounced. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) breastfed children are at a reduced risk for respiratory tract infection. They are protected against necrotizing enterocolitis, diarrhea, and urinary tract infection. Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, late-onset sepsis in preterm infants, lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease and many more ailments. Finally, the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by a third for breastfed babies/.

Breastfeeding FAQS

Below are some of the answers to the most commonly asked questions about breastfeeding.

How long should my child be breastfed?

How should I store my breast milk?

How long is breast milk good for?

How do I thaw frozen breast milk?

What if I don't make enough milk?

Is donated breast milk safe?

How can I find help with breastfeeding?

Successful Breastfeeding Steps

Breastfeeding for the first time may seem difficult. However, as soon as you learn how to position your baby and get them to latch on correctly, it will be smooth sailing. The following are the steps for successful breastfeeding.

STEP ONE

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The first thing you are going to want to do is to get comfortable. I found the most comfortable position for me was sitting up, leaning back slightly with pillows supporting my elbows. But you can do whatever feels most comfortable to you. Then, put your baby in the right position. The video below demonstrates the best positions for breastfeeding:

STEP TWO

The next step is latching your baby onto your nipple. You will want to brush your nipple on your baby's lips, first. Once they feel your nipple, they will open their mouth and try to latch on. You want to make sure their mouth is open as wide as possible as you will want your whole nipple and most of your areola in their mouth.

Make sure your baby looks like they have a fish mouth while latched on. If their bottom lip in pursed inward, use your finger to pull out the lip, so they are in the correct position. Below is a video to show you how to make sure your baby is latching on correctly.

STEP THREE

Once your baby has latched on properly, the feeding will begin. As we mentioned, you want to make sure you empty each breast every time you nurse. The best way to do this is to allow your baby to nurse however long they want on your first breast and then switch them to the second breast. There is no specific amount of time that your baby will nurse so relax and settle in.

You can check to see if your breasts are empty enough by squeezing your nipple. Your breasts will never be truly empty. However, if you press and nothing comes out, or it takes a minute to get something out, you are good to go.

​How to Pump

Pumping your breast milk is great for a number of reasons. First of all, there are going to be times when you are not around your baby. Pumping ensures that there is a supply of your milk around when you are not. Also, pumping your breasts is a great way to encourage milk production and empty full breasts. Finally, pumping allows your partner to feed your baby and bond with them while also giving you a break.

There are two types of breast pumps, manual and electric pumps. It is important to know how to use them properly.

Manual pumps

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To use a manual pump, put the breast shield (phalange) that is supplied with your pump over your nipple. Next, extract the milk by pulling the plunger or using the squeeze mechanism. It may take up to 45 minutes to pump both of your breasts.

Electric pumps

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You will find that using an electric pump is a lot like using a manual pump, but you do not have to squeeze or pull anything. To use the electric pump you put the breast shield over your nipple and turn the machine on. It will take about fifteen minutes to pump both of your breasts.

Breastfeeding Challenges

Although breastfeeding is a great thing for both you and your baby, it does not come without its challenges. Sore nipples, engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and infections are all things that you may have to deal with. Fortunately, there are solutions to all of them!

Sore nipples

Sore nipples are a common problem for women who breastfeed. If you notice that your nipples are sore, it may be a sign that your baby is not latching on correctly. Remember, you want your baby to be sucking on both your nipple and your areola, not just the nipple. If they are so painful that you are having a hard time continuing feedings, find a lactation specialist. The lactation specialist will make sure that you have your baby latched on correctly.

Do not wear bras or clothes that are too tight. Clothing that is tight will put pressure on your nipples and cause discomfort. You can also use purified lanolin ointment or cream that is made for breastfeeding. You will also want to make sure your nipples are completely dry before dressing. Finally, do not use harsh soaps to clean yourself.

Engorgement

Engorgement can happen when you are not nursing your baby long enough to empty your breasts. The milk builds up and causes your breasts to become hard and sore. That generally happens in the first few days of birth, but it can happen at any time. Also, it is common if you have had breast augmentation as the implants take up a lot of room.

Engorgement may cause breast swelling, tenderness, redness, throbbing, fever and even infections. To prevent your breasts from becoming engorged try to breastfeed within two hours after giving birth. If you notice one or both of your breasts becoming engorged, frequently breastfeed on the side that is full to help remove the milk.

You can also use a pump to release some of the milk or express your breasts manually. You can apply cold compresses to your breasts to help relieve the pain during feedings. The following video shows you how to use reverse pressure to soften the engorged breast:

Plugged milk ducts

If your milk is not draining properly, you may get a plugged milk duct. Like engorged breasts, this can be very painful. You can use warm compresses on the sore area. Massaging your breast may also help give you some relief. Finally, make sure you feed your baby on the side that has the plugged milk duct. The frequent feedings will help drain and unclog the duct.

Infections

There are two types of infections women who are breastfeeding usually experience: Mastitis and a fungal infection. Mastitis happens when there is a lump in your breast. Signs of the infection include pain, yellowish discharge, nausea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms. You can treat it the same way you treat a plugged milk duct, but if it is not better in a couple of days see your doctor. Your doctor will probably write you a prescription.

The other infection that frequently happens is a fungal infection called a yeast infection or thrush. The infection is an overgrowth of the Candida organism and thrives on milk. Causes of the infection can include thrush in your baby's mouth, cracked nipples and taking antibiotics or steroids.

You will need to see a doctor to get medicine to get rid of the infection. You will have to rub the medicine on your breast several times a day for about a week. Also, follow any instructions your doctor gives you so that you do not spread the infection.

​Breastfeeding in Public

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There are going to be times when you are in public, and your baby wants to eat. When that happens, it is important to know your rights. All fifty states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have laws that allow breastfeeding in public. Finally, twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. Seventeen states allow breastfeeding mothers to be exempt from jury duty.

Good Luck!

Breastfeeding is great for both you and your baby. Not only has breastfeeding been proven to be a great way to bond with your new baby, but it also has a plethora of other health benefits. On average, breastfed babies have been shown to be healthier than babies who are not breastfed. Additionally, mothers benefit from nursing their babies as well. You may experience some difficulty, but there are always solutions to those problems. Whether or not you decide to breastfeed is up to you. If, for some reason, you can't breastfeed but want your child to benefit from breast milk, speak to a doctor. There are options like milk banks and donor milk.

Remember, if you decide to breastfeed yourself, make sure you are taking care of yourself. Rest as much as you can. I know that seems like an impossible task with a newborn, but don't be afraid to ask for help. Also, make sure you are eating well, staying hydrated, and staying calm. Nervous mommies make for nervous babies, so relax, find a comfortable position and start feeding your tiny human.

Congratulations!

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