Nursing may be natural, but it’s also downright difficult. While 83 percent of mothers breastfeed soon after birth, only 57 percent are still nursing six months later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s a surprisingly low number considering that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months. The benefits of breastfeeding range from prevention of childhood obesity to decreased risk of infection, SIDS, and allergies.

Pre-Baby Breastfeeding Prep

Line up help. “Consider meeting with a lactation consultant or another nursing expert before you have the baby. She can share tips that will help in the beginning, and you’ll know whom to call if you have a problem. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, or IBCLCs, have had the most intensive training.” – Dee Kassing, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in the St. Louis, Missouri, area

See the real thing. “If you have a friend who’s nursing, ask if you can watch. If not, attend a La Leche League meeting or another breastfeeding support group where you can see moms feeding their babies.” – Jessica Claire, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in Los Angeles

Create a space for breastfeeding. Before Baby arrives, create a “nursing station”— an area with a comfortable chair, a breastfeeding pillow, and a side table for snacks, water, nursing pads, burp cloths, your phone, and a good book. You’ll spend a lot of time there!

How to Get a Deep Latch

Position yourselves nose to nipple, belly to belly. “Make sure that your baby’s stomach is touching yours, so she doesn’t have to turn her head to latch. And point your nipple at her nose, not at her mouth, so she’ll lift her head up, open her mouth wide, and latch on deeply.” – Jacobsen

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Encourage a mouthful. “If you’re breastfeeding sitting upright, bring your baby to your breast once his mouth is completely open. Press between his shoulders firmly to bring him to you, while you support your breast. Your nipple will fill the roof of his mouth. If it still hurts after the first few sucks, de-latch and reposition.” – Brown

Step Up Your Milk Supply

Look at your baby, not at the scale. “I’ve seen so many moms whose baby looks healthy, nurses well, and meets milestones, but they’ve lost confidence in breastfeeding because their doctor told them that their baby’s weight was not on the charts. If you received a lot of IV fluids during labor, your baby could be artificially ‘heavier’ at birth. If he has low weight gain, but he’s smiling, his linear growth and head circumference and neurological development are notably okay, I’d get a second opinion before giving formula.” – Jay Gordon, M.D., pediatrician in Santa Monica, California

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