4. Be prepared: Your baby will nurse. And nurse. And nurse. "I hear over and over from new moms how unprepared they were for how often their babies nursed and how long each session took," says Wendy Haldeman, M.N., R.N., I.B.C.L.C., co-owner of The Pump Station in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif. "Yes, nursing takes time, but this is when you're building the milk supply that will carry you through for as long as you're going to nurse your baby.
"There's also a window of opportunity in the first seven to 10 days when your body is primed to start making milk," Haldeman adds. "Babies know this, which is why they feed so often in the beginning." And we do mean often: Most newborns nurse at least every two hours around the clock, with each session taking about 30 minutes.
5. Master the latch. Getting your baby to latch on to your breast correctly is perhaps the most important part of breastfeeding. "A good latch means less nipple trauma for you and more milk for your baby," Haldeman says. Make sure your baby takes the entire nipple and at least 11/2 inches of your areola—the dark area surrounding the nipple—in his mouth. (For step-by-step photos and instructions, visit fitpregnancy.com/latch.)
6. Line up help before you need it. Many women need some sort of hands-on help (or simple reassurance) during the first few days of breastfeeding. If your hospital doesn't have lactation consultants on staff, you'll need to line one up before you deliver so you have someone to call in a pinch. Even if your hospital does staff lactation consultants, they may not be on hand just when you need them, or they may not be available 24/7. To find an expert in your area, call the International Lactation Consultant Association at 919-861-5577 or visit ilca.org.
7. Know your milk. Many women are surprised—even concerned—to find that they produce very little milk in the beginning. In fact, for the first few days, your body doesn't produce milk per se—it produces colostrum, the thin, watery precursor to milk that is brimming with anti-infective properties. Your baby may only be getting a tablespoon or two of colostrum at the beginning, Valentine says, and your milk may not fully come in for five days. (If it doesn't come in by two or three days post-delivery, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to make sure the baby's doing OK.)
8. Get on baby time. For at least the first two weeks at home with the baby, make sure you're with the baby. That means either designating someone else to handle the household duties or ignoring them altogether. If your husband or partner can't handle it all, call in the troops: mom, dad, sister, mother-in-law, neighbor. People will be happy to help—just make sure they're taking over the household, and not the baby, duties. "You need to concentrate on your baby: feeding him, holding him, getting to know him," Tiller says. "Too often, people come to help, and they end up taking the baby while mom makes dinner."
Let the outside world fall away and focus on your new baby. This time goes faster than you can possibly imagine.