Breastfeeding for Beginners

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As a first-time mother, breastfeeding your baby is something you’ll have to learn to do quickly. Here are a few steps to guide you.

Step 1. Know why breastfeeding is important.
Breast milk provides an infant with the nutrients and antibodies she needs to stay healthy and resistant against infections. Breastfeeding is also an essential part to a baby’s emotional and mental development, as it subconsciously yet powerfully impresses on the baby the security of her mother’s love.

There are health benefits for mothers, too. You’ll get emotional fulfillment from caring for your baby in this way. Your mood is also bolstered by prolactin and oxytocin, calm-inducing hormones which are released into your bloodstream each time you breastfeed your child. (Oxytocin also helps trigger the reduction of the uterus back to normal size after birth.) Breastfeeding is also associated with lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid athritis, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol in women. It can even delay the return of the menstrual period, providing a natural means of contraception.

Step 2. Keep yourself healthy and fit.
A breastfeeding mother needs to be physically fit, well-rested, and well-nourished. Do at least one 30-minute to one-hour walk each day. Caring for your baby means sleepless nights, so try your best to learn how to catnap and grab as much sleep as you can. Consult your doctor on how to avoid getting sick and consuming medicines that may affect your baby’s milk. Part of keeping healthy means eating nutritious food that will help you nurse, and adding 400 to 500 extra calories per day (on top of the 1,500 to 2,000 calories per day) to your diet.

Step 3. Learn how to breastfeed your baby properly.
Use a comfortable chair or a bed with pillows to help prop you up to a half sitting position. Breastfeeding a child lasts at least 30 to 45 minutes, so you’ll have to be seated or lying comfortably. Place a glass of water, juice, or milk for yourself at a side table, in case you get thirsty. Have a soft towel or napkin ready to wipe your breasts and your baby’s mouth and face after feeding.

To breastfeed your baby, cradle her gently at your breasts. Her face, head, and body must all be aligned comfortably to face your breasts. Gently place one of your nipples into your baby’s mouth. Her lips must be open wide and turned out enough to cover most of your breast’s areola as possible, and her nose and chin must be resting lightly against your breast. By instinct, your baby should be suckling milk deeply and in a rhythmic fashion, pausing to swallow or rest from time to time.

Step 4. Learn how to express and store your breast milk.
In case you do become too busy to nurse your child directly at your breasts, there are special pumps that you can buy and use to help express the precious milk from your breasts, which you can then store in the freezer. When it’s time to feed baby, you can thaw the milk, place it in a baby-feeding bottle that your child can suck from. While you’re busy working, someone else (your spouse, partner, or sitter) can do the feeding for you.