Ann Grauer, CD(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, a board-certified lactation consultant near Milwaukee, shares her advice for preventing and fixing breastfeeding mistakes.
Unless there is a medical reason for your baby to be separated from you, keep her close; it's one of the best ways to facilitate breastfeeding. "Right after birth, have baby placed on your chest," suggests Grauer. "Then, snuggle and check him out. He's just been through the most amazing thing, and he needs your heartbeat and voice to feel safe. The same will be true in the first few weeks. Until birth, he was snuggled 24 hours a day. If you only hold him 12 hours, it's been cut in half. Try to see it from the baby's point of view. And you can't spoil him!"
Your baby's mouth should be open wide so she can take in not just your nipple but as much of your areola, too. If your baby doesn't latch on correctly, she won't get all of the milk she needs, and you may end up with sore or cracked nipples. "Tickle the area between baby's nose and lips with your nipple," explains Grauer. "This causes baby to open really wide. Then move him onto the breast quickly. You'll be surprised what a difference it makes."
Remember, you need to learn how to breastfeed, and so does your baby. If it doesn't go as planned right away, don't stress.
"Moms worry -- that's our job," says Grauer. "However, baby needs you to be calm. Slow, deep breaths -- remember those from childbirth class?-- will help you. When baby gets upset, you need to stay calm. He's not in trouble; he's not in danger. He's just frustrated. The calmer you are, the easier it will be to calm him down."
Gone are the days of needing to learn and practice the "ideal" positions for breastfeeding. While certain positions -- such as the cradle or football hold -- may be beneficial for many moms, Grauer says learning positioning is one less thing new moms need to worry about. "That's all a concept that's been thrust upon us," she says. "Get comfy where you are and then lay baby on top of you, with his head underneath your chin and tummy against you. Baby will move toward a breast, and then you both will find the position that works for you."
When you were pregnant, chances are you may have heard horror stories about labor from other moms, and the same goes for breastfeeding. If you're surrounded by negativity, seek out positive support; it may be just what you need to get nursing off to a good start.
"If you don't have close friends or family who had a great experience breastfeeding, reach out to your childbirth educator to find a quality new moms' group -- even a nursing moms' group," Grauer suggests. "Mom-to-mom support is huge after you bring your baby home."
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