Before you begin breastfeeding, it's a good idea to read up on the subject. Turning to reliable and reputable resources will not only give you an idea of what to expect during the first few weeks, but will also give you an appreciation of the bond that's created between you and your baby during breastfeeding.
Feed on demand
Offer your breast as soon as you start to see signs that your baby wants to nurse. At first this may feel awkward but as you get to know your baby's behaviour and needs, you'll quickly gain confidence. Babies want to nurse when they're thirsty, hungry, or need comforting. The signs include searching with their mouths or sucking on their fists. Watching for signs when your baby is fully awake and calm will also help since this is the best time to nurse.
Ignore the rules
How long should I breastfeed? Should I offer both breasts at every feeding? How much milk is my baby getting? How much time do I allow between each feeding? Although great questions, they all have the same answer: It depends. There are no right answers to these questions because just as every baby is different, every breastfeeding experience is different as well. To ensure that your baby is getting enough milk, simply observe the signs that indicate that your baby is satisfied. Signs of a satisfied baby include a healthy weight gain (for breastfed infants this typically means 4-7oz each week), a baby that seems to be satisfied and settled after nursing, and at least 5 or more wet diapers each day (after the 5th day of life).
Stress can have a negative impact on the hormones that play an important role in the production of milk. For this reason relaxing, even if only for short periods, is crucial to healthy lactation. Rest when you can and if problems or difficulties arise, try to remain calm and seek support.
Seek support whenever you need it
It's perfectly normal to have questions or concerns while breastfeeding and one should never hesitate to seek support during this important time. If you are experiencing challenges then get help early rather than waiting! Great resources include local breastfeeding support groups, and a friend who has breastfed her own children. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are experts in the field of lactation and are the gold standard for care. You can find an IBCLC in your area through the Canadian Lactation Consultant Association and the International Lactation Consultant Association. You can also search the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners site to verify your caregiver is a licensed lactation consultant (IBCLC).
Although natural, breastfeeding is a learning process and even the most prepared of mothers will have questions or need reassurance at times.
Eat a balanced diet and make sure to stay hydrated
Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy, expending an approximate 500 calories a day. As well, your need to drink water increases significantly since your body requires it for the production of breast milk.
Night feedings are important
Although exhausting, night feedings are crucial to your baby's development. Prolactin levels are higher during the night. Feeding during these wee hours takes advantage of this surge in prolactin – helping to maintain a healthy milk supply.
Take care of yourself
Naps shouldn't be viewed as a luxury, but rather a well deserved and efficient way to rest and recover from interrupted nights. As well, take the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather when you can. Walks with your baby are a great way to stay active and wonderful for the morale!
Providing you with guidance for a successful breastfeeding experience is done with the best of intentions. As you'll experience, sometimes breastfeeding will come easy and other times it will be frustrating. Listen to your inner voice as you take care of your baby. A large part of learning how to be a mother is instinctive. So have confidence. As all new mothers come to realize, parenting is in large part a process of trial and error. Keeping your decisions in line with your values will ensure that you're comfortable with your choices.
Take joy in the little things
Appreciate every moment and remember that even difficult periods come to pass oftentimes faster than we realize. The arrival of your baby and the breastfeeding experience is sure to provide you with precious moments every single day!