Our seven simple, proven steps make it easy. Plus, tips from star moms.
Planning on breastfeeding your baby? Good for you! Nothing compares to the health benefits of mother's milk, and few things in life can match the sweet, intimate moments of a woman nursing her child. To help make the experience as effortless as possible, follow these proven steps to breastfeeding success.
1) Get your partner's support.
Breastfeeding may be something only you can do for your baby, but it's much easier to accomplish when you have full buy-in from your husband or partner. What can he do to help? Plenty—especially during those overwhelming first weeks, when your primary goals are to rest, care for your baby and establish a good milk supply.
He can prepare meals, take over errands and household chores, deal with phone calls and visitors, and make sure you're eating and drinking enough. The importance of his support can't be overstated; when you're nursing the baby for the umpteenth time in one night, you need to know he's with you. Any less than full encouragement can derail your commitment.
2) Take a class.
The more you know beforehand, the more prepared you'll feel when your baby arrives. So in addition to reading and talking to other women, take a breastfeedingeducation class—and have your partner attend, too.
These courses, typically offered through La Leche League International (llli.org) or local hospitals, can teach you what to expect and may help you prevent common problems, such as engorgement. Once your baby is home, consider joining a breastfeeding-support group. These handson meetings are a great way to connect with other new moms and share helpful tips and advice. You may even find future playmates for your little one.
3) Hop to it.
Babies are in an alert phase—and primed for learning—for an hour or two after they're born, so try to nurse as soon as possible after delivery. (After that, they often fall into a sleepy phase, which can make it difficult to rouse, much less feed, them.) While your baby may not actually latch on and suck right away, he may start to lick or nuzzle you while you hold him close.
4) "Room in" with your baby.
Having your baby stay in your hospital room with you, rather than in the nursery, is good for both of you. "Rooming in allows you to learn your baby's feeding cues," says Wendy Haldeman, R.N., M.N., I.B.C.L.C., a co-owner of The Pump Station stores in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif. "It's a very important time to be together and get to know one another."
5) Follow your baby's lead.
Your best bet for knowing when to feed your baby is to watch him, not the clock. Is he sucking on his hands, crying or "rooting" around for your nipple? These are all cues that he wants to nurse—which will happen often, at least every two to three hours in the beginning. Don't stress if he doesn't seem to take that much; trust him to get the right amount of milk at each feeding. Of course, if you have any concerns that he isn't eating enough, call your pediatrician.
6) Get the right latch.
The most important part of breastfeeding is getting your baby "docked" correctly; if he doesn't, you risk sore and cracked nipples and a reduced milk supply. So when you breastfeed, make sure he is positioned properly: on his side, with your bellies touching. Also ensure that he takes your entire nipple and a good portion of the areola in his mouth. (For step-by-step photos and instructions, visit fitpregnancy.com/breastfeeding/latch.) If you can't seem to get it right, consult a lactation consultant ASAP; visit ilca.org for a referral.
7) Ditch the chores.
It's inevitable: A baby's arrival turns even the most well-run household upside down. Though it's easy to get overwhelmed by the growing piles of dishes and laundry, tell yourself that it's OK to let things go. Leave the chores to family or friends or hire a postpartum doula to help out.
"We think we need to have the housework done and all the thank-you notes written," says Annette Leary, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., C.C.E., the founder of Orlando Lactation and Childbirth Services in Orlando, Fla. "In reality, all you should be doing those first few weeks is taking care of yourself and your baby." And on those days when you're feeling particularly beleaguered, remind yourself that chores will always be there, but baby time won't.
Check out our Guide to Breastfeeding for everything you need to know about breastfeeding--from buying that first nursing bra to deciding when to wean.