Your infant has just entered the world a few hours ago. Heís opening his eyes, rooting about, pushing his fists to his mouth, and seeking the comfort of the breast.
Itís only natural that your baby would have the immediate instinct of wanting to nurse. In the beginning, it may be difficult for Baby to learn to latch on, but his instincts are there.
The first few hours after birth are a window of opportunity for Mom to bring Baby close to her skin and give her baby a chance to try nursing. It is within the first two hours after birth that an infant is most eager to suck.
Why is nursing the first few hours so important?
Well, one important reason nursing the first few hours is so important, is Momís production of colostrum, which is the first foods your baby will receive from you (as opposed to mature breastmilk). Colostrum is a clear, yellowish substance that is often termed ďliquid goldĒ, which has many antibiotic and beneficial features for your baby. This colostrum seals your babyís intestines to protect him from harmful bacteria. The high protein colostrum diet stimulates your babyís first bowel movement (the meconium) as well and decreases the incidence of jaundice.
Besides receiving a beneficial high protein, low fat meal straight from Mom, Baby will also learn to latch onto the breast correctly within a few days of giving birth, especially if Mom is persistent and available to feed regularly.
No doubt if you give birth in a hospital, your baby may very well be offered sugar water or a pacifier. The hospital staff mean well, but if you plan to nurse your baby regularly, getting your baby off to a good start the first few days are crucial. You can ask your nurses not to offer a pacifier to your baby, and explain that you will be happy to nurse whenever your baby gets fussy. Pacifiers have been associated with problems such as ear infections and early weaning. In addition, using pacifiers interferes with Momís milk supply. For the first few weeks, especially, it is important to keep Baby in practice with learning to nurse.
Sugar water, on the other hand, may be given for necessary and medical reasons, such as for a baby who has low sugar levels, or one who has undergone much stress during labor and delivery. But if there are no medical reasons for offering sugar water, ask the nurses to bring your baby to you for feedings regularly.
Here are a few steps that may be helpful when beginning a breastfeeding session:
1.) Be sure you are comfortable. Relax your body and muscles. Now, bring your baby to you (donít lean into your baby!)
2.) With your opposite hand support your breast with your thumb on top and your fingers below the areola.
3.) Make sure Babyís mouth is opened wide, and that his lower gum is below the base of the areola. You donít want Baby to accidentally bite down on the tip of your nipple. That could hurt and send you both in tears!
4.) Compress your breasts gently, inserting as much milk into your infantís mouth as possible
5.) When your baby has indicated that heís full, or perhaps has fallen asleep, itís time to end the feeding. If baby has not come off the breast by himself, you will need to break the suction by placing your finger into the corner of his mouth until you feel the release.
No doubt you may find your nipples to be cracked or sore in the beginning, especially if Babyís latch wasnít positioned correctly. It is recommended to leave your bra flaps down and allow your nipples to air dry right after a nursing session. There are also ointments and creams made especially for these predicaments.
You may also find that your breasts are leaking milk throughout the day. My recommendation would be to nurse as frequently as your baby requires, especially since breast milk is digested so quickly. Others would rather express their milk manually or by using a breast pump, in order to store milk for family members to help out with feedings. Yet another solution, though temporary, is to wear nursing pads in your bra, to keep the milk from leaking through your clothing. Remember, though, that your milk is flowing regularly as a normal part of the nursing process, and that your natural let-down reflex is sometimes an indication of an upcoming feeding time. Before you begin pumping, you may want to check the clock to be sure itís not time to feed Baby again.
For more details on breastfeeding and breast care, you can contact your local local La Leche League. They can help with securing equipment, materials, and advice about breastfeeding.
Demetria Zinga is the founder and owner of Faith Media, a technology and consulting firm which specializes in web design and hosting, graphics and print designs, internet marketing, and e-training. She is also the founder of Christian Ladies Connect, an interactive ezine, blog, and podcast for Christian women.