The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Many women approach breastfeeding with an all-or-nothing attitude, assuming that they’ll breastfeed exclusively and that it will be an effortless, even blissful experience. After all, why shouldn’t something so natural be easy? The good news is, for many women, nursing is trouble-free. But as any lactation consultant will tell you, breastfeeding also is a learned art, one that requires education, practice and plenty of support. With that in mind, we asked several leading lactation consultants to give us their best breastfeeding tips. Here are the eight things they believe every nursing mom should know and do.
1. Enlist your partner’s help early on. Breastfeeding may be something only you can do for your baby, but it’s much easier to accomplish when you have the full support of your husband or partner. What can he do to help? Plenty. During pregnancy, he can reinforce your committment to nurse. In those overwhelming first weeks, when your primary goals are to rest, care for your baby and establish a good milk supply, after you give birth, he can prepare the meals, take over errands and household chores, deal with phone calls and visitors, and make sure that you’re eating and drinking enough. Emotional support is important then, too. If you’re feeling exhausted and discouraged early on, your partner’s encouragement and positive attitude may make all the difference.
2. Take a breastfeeding 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 class on breastfeeding—and bring your partner, too. These courses typically are offered through La Leche League International or local hospitals and can help you learn what to expect. They may even help you prevent common problems, such as engorgement. Once your baby is home,
you might want to consider joining a breastfeeding-support group. These informal meetings are an excellent way to connect with other new mothers and share helpful tips and advice.
3. Put your baby to your breast as soon as possible. Immediately after birth is the best time to introduce your newborn to your breasts, as babies have an alert phase that lasts for an hour or two after they’re born. “Newborns are primed for learning things at that point—that ‘light bulb’ is constantly going on,” says Patty Janes, a lactation consultant and childbirth educator at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. While your baby may not latch on and suck, he may start to lick or nuzzle you while you hold him close.