The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, World Health Organization and UNICEF all advise and support breastfeeding as the optimal way to feed newborns and infants.
Only you can decide whether you want to breastfeed. Whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during pregnancy. Whatever you decide, we’ll support your decision. If you have breastfeeding questions, a Board Certified Lactation Consultant is on staff to provide education and breastfeeding support.
Many parents have questions and concerns, such as, “If I breastfeed, how can my partner help in parenting?” or, “Can I breastfeed even though I plan to return to work?” or, “If I breastfeed, won’t it tie me down and make it hard for me to feed in public?”
Nationally, more than 75 percent of families leave the hospital breastfeeding. The Birthplace at SGMC strongly supports breastfeeding. If you plan to go back to working full-time within a few weeks after birth, you can still breastfeed your baby.
Breastfeeding is a natural way to begin the bonding process with your infant. Breast milk contains hundreds of nutrients, growth factors, hormones and antibodies, many of them so special that they are found nowhere else in nature and cannot be manufactured. Only about 40% of the natural components of breast milk are included in infant formula. Breast milk is the perfect food for human infants and contains everything a baby needs to grow and stay healthy.
It is possible to breastfeed and be a working mother, maintain your modesty in public, actively involve your partner in parenting, and get your figure back.
You’ll save money, including the cost of formula and equipment.
Parents often wonder what it is like to breastfeed. It is important to know that your breasts are perfectly prepared to make milk as a result of the changes that occur during pregnancy. Babies born at term have practiced sucking on their fingers and fists and have swallowed amniotic fluid before they are born. Still, in the beginning, both mother and baby will work together to learn how to breastfeed. For some babies, it is easy. For others, it is a struggle at first. Some common challenges include temporary breast tenderness, concerns about whether the baby is getting enough to eat, and dealing with advice that is often confusing and contradictory. Your nurse will help you while you are in the hospital. If you need more specialized support, the lactation consultant can answer your questions and help you overcome any problems that may arise.
If you choose to formula-feed, we will support you in your choice and we will help you with all the questions and concerns you have about feeding your baby. If you are “on the fence” with your decision, you might just try breastfeeding. You and your baby have much to gain by trying to breastfeed, and it is easier to stop nursing than to wish you had begun. No matter what you decide, we are happy to assist you.
Offer your baby the breast for the first time as soon after birth as possible
You should feed your baby whenever your baby shows ANY of these signs or “feeding cues”:
- Light sleep cycle
- Rapid eye movements when eyes are closed
- Moving while asleep
- Making small sounds (not crying)
- Fingers or fists to mouth
- Opening and closing mouth
- Making sucking sounds
- Quiet alert state
The first milk you produce, called colostrum, is important for your baby’s health. Colostrum gives the baby water, some sugar, the necessary minerals and many important antibodies that will help protect your baby. Only small amounts are made but it is all your baby needs for the first 2 – 3 days.
Because breast milk is rapidly digested, your baby will need to nurse very frequently in the early weeks. This means that breastfed babies need to be fed 8 -12 times a day. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you will make.
Babies need to nurse on cue, which means whenever your baby shows signs of hunger: putting hands to mouth, sucking on hands or blanket or making sucking sounds while waking up. Your milk will come in larger volume on the third to fifth day after birth. Nursing often will help decrease painful breast engorgement (breast fullness).
Start with the breast you did not nurse on last, or only nursed on for a short time during the last feeding. Let the baby nurse as long as he or she wants. The baby may nurse for 10 to 20 minutes or more on one or both breasts in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. This is highly individual, as some babies will nurse longer, some shorter .
- Your baby should be nursing 8-12 times in 24 hours during the first several weeks. Babies who sleep all the time are probably not getting enough milk.
- Your baby needs plenty of diaper changes.
- You may or may not feel the let-down reflex, a tingling in the breast as the milk comes down or leaks from the breast.
- When babies go through “growth spurts,” they want to nurse more frequently for a few days. These spurts occur around the ages of 1-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 4 – 6 months, but any time can be normal for your baby. This is nature’s way of increasing your milk supply to meet your baby’s needs.
- You will hear or see your baby swallowing your breast milk.
- Feedings may last about 10 – 30 minutes at each breast.
- You should feel tugging, not pain, when baby sucks.
- At least one breast should soften well at each feeding.
- Baby should be content and relaxed when he finishes nursing.
- Baby will gain weight if eating frequently enough.
- During a feeding a baby sometimes swallows air that needs to be expelled to make baby more comfortable.
Some breastfed babies never seem to need burping, while others will swallow air when the breast is very full or milk comes out quickly.
Burping is one technique to try with a fussy baby. Try burping your baby by placing him/her on your shoulder and gently patting his/her back.
Burp your baby when he/she has finished nursing. If there is no burp after a few moments, there may be no burp coming for the moment.
Three methods of burping:
- Holding infant upright on shoulder
- Holding infant in sitting position on feeder’s lap with chin and chest supported on one hand
- Laying infant across feeder’s lap on abdomen, then patting or stroking the infant’s back with the other hand
Babies cry for many reasons. Baby may have a wet diaper, have an air bubble in his/her stomach, be in an uncomfortable position, be bored or lonely.
If baby cries, but is not showing feeding cues, try wrapping him/her in a soft blanket; rocking and holding him/her close to you may relieve his/her discomfort.
Many babies have a late-afternoon or evening fussy time which makes mothers doubt they have enough milk. The breasts don’t seem as full as in the morning, but there is always milk in the breast. Bottle-fed babies have fussy times too.
Supplemental feedings (extra bottle feedings) in the early weeks of life interfere with establishing a good milk supply. Breastfeeding works on a supply-and-demand basis.
Breasts in the first few weeks need stimulation to establish your milk supply. The more your baby nurses at your breast, the faster your more mature milk will come in larger quantities. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that routine supplements (water, sugar water or formula) should not be given to the breastfeeding infant. The healthy full-term infant does not need any supplements. Studies show that they decrease the chances of breastfeeding successfully.
Offering formula will result in baby demanding less breast milk during the day, and therefore your breasts will produce less milk. If you supplement with bottle feedings, your breasts do not get the stimulation they need to make milk. Formula also increases the time between feedings because it takes longer to digest.
It is important to breastfeed frequently and to feed your baby as often as he or she wants to be fed. If not, your breasts may become hard and painfully engorged with milk – signaling your body to stop making milk.
The way babies use their tongue, palate and facial muscles to nurse is different from the way they use them to suck on a rubber nipple. Because of the different sucking techniques used for breast and bottle, some babies may refuse the breast after bottle feedings. For the first 3-4 weeks, bottles should be avoided to give the baby a chance to develop his sucking skills at the breast. After this time, bottles may be offered if parents wish to do so.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using formula when breast milk is unavailable. If you are considering formula, you should discuss this with your pediatrician; but generally it is best to limit supplementary formula.
Cow’s milk formula can set up a potential allergic response.
Call your baby’s doctor.
Call SGMC’s Lactation Consultant at (229) 259-4274.