This is the first article in a three-part series on breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding offers many benefits for you and your baby. Your breast milk is designed to meet the nutritional needs of your baby and lower your child’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and many types of infections and allergies. Breast milk also protects your child from health problems, such as asthma, eczema, obesity and diabetes. Another benefit of breastfeeding is the money you’ll save from buying formula which can easily add up to $150 per month.
Women who breastfeed also recover from childbirth more quickly and easily. Breastfeeding reduces your risk of ovarian and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, postpartum depression and osteoporosis. And don’t forget, breastfeeding burns calories—as much as 500 calories a day—to help you lose that pregnancy weight faster.
As a certified lactation counselor, there are some key things I tell moms who want to breastfeed. Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby arrives. During your prenatal care visits, tell your doctor or midwife about your plans to breastfeed and ask him/her any questions you might have. Talk to other nursing moms, read books and enroll in a breastfeeding class. Your class instructor will show you how to get ready for a feeding, teach you different breastfeeding positions, and explain proper latching techniques.
You may also want to purchase items, such as breast pads, nursing pillow and nursing bras to make breastfeeding more comfortable and convenient. If you are planning to return to work after your baby is born, decide if you will use a breast pump and what type.
Breastfeeding takes time and patience to learn. In the hospital, we are here to help and support you with breastfeeding. The first hour after delivery provides an excellent opportunity to start breastfeeding. Ask your nurse to help place your baby skin-to-skin with you. Your nurse can help guide your baby to your breast as you observe your baby rooting and instinctively attempting to feed. I recommend keeping the baby in the room with you while in the hospital. When your baby is close by, you will start to recognize hunger cues—smacking or licking lips, opening and closing mouth, and sucking on lips or fingers—sooner and breastfeed more frequently. In the event your baby requires extra care or you are separated, your nurse can show you how to use a breast pump so you may still feed your baby with breastmilk.
On average, it takes two weeks for moms to get comfortable and feel established with breastfeeding. If you are still having trouble with breastfeeding, you can contact any of our certified lactation counselors at HFM. We also have other breastfeeding resources in the community available through Lakeshore Family Resources and the Manitowoc County Health Department/WIC Clinic.
Breastfeeding takes time and patience to learn but you will get better at it with practice. You are not alone, so don’t give up.
Most importantly, take the opportunity to cuddle with your baby and enjoy the moment. Keep calm and latch on.
Charity Romero, RN is a certified lactation counselor at HFM Women’s and Children’s Center. For more information about lactation support services at HFM, call (920) 320-2264.