4. ‘Room in’ with your baby as much as you can. Having your baby stay in your room rather than in the hospital nursery is not only wonderful for your baby, it’s great for you, too. “Rooming in allows you to learn your baby’s feeding cues,” says Wendy Haldeman, co-founder of The Pump Station in Santa Monica, Calif. “It’s a very important time to get to know one another.” In addition, studies show that new moms actually sleep better when their babies are in the room with them.
5. Let your baby nurse as often and as long as he wants. 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 showing the rooting reflex? (If you stroke his cheek with your finger, he opens his mouth and “roots” around for your nipple.) These are all cues that he wants to breastfeed. As for how long he should nurse, sometimes your baby will be very hungry and nurse at length; other times, he’ll just want a light snack. Trust your baby 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. Seek out support. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it’s essential to set up a reliable support system when you’re nursing. In fact, it’s best to line up professional help while you’re still pregnant. Here are some options:
> Lactation consultant Certified lactation consultants provide a wealth of support and practical information. Contact La Leche League International (www.lalecheleague.org), the International Lactation Consultant Association (www.ilca.org), Medela’s Breastfeeding National Network (www.medela.com), your pediatrician or a local hospital to locate one near you.
> Pediatrician It’s important to find a pediatrician who is supportive of breastfeeding. When you meet with a potential doctor, ask questions such as: How long should I exclusively breastfeed? If I’m having difficulties, what do you recommend? How long is breastfeeding beneficial? If you get a sense that the pediatrician is not pro-breastfeeding, keep looking.
> Friends and family “It’s important to have someone who can tell you, ‘Yes, I experienced that, too, and you’ll get through it,’ rather than having someone say, ‘Are you sure the baby’s getting enough to eat?’” Janes says.
7. Set small, realistic goals. It’s wonderful to assume that you will breastfeed exclusively for six months, as experts advise. But even the most committed nursing mom can run into problems. And six months may seem like an eternity if you end up with cracked nipples and engorgement (common consequences of not getting the proper latch; see box at left). By breaking up that goal into shorter periods of time, you’re more likely to hang in there even if you do encounter difficulties early on. Six weeks is a good starting goal.