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While you may love the idea of pumping some extra milk and letting your partner take over one of those middle-of-the-night feedings, hold off on introducing a bottle (or a pacifier, for that matter) for a month or so.
Giving a bottle too early could cause your baby to reject the breast in favor of the bottle’s faster, easier flow. But don’t wait too long, either. “Babies tend to be open-minded at about 4 weeks of age,” Morton says. “If you wait much longer, you may have trouble getting her to take a bottle.”
Some aspects of breastfeeding can be surprising. Here’s what to expect:
Yellow “milk” Until your milk comes in (usually three to four days postpartum), you’ll produce small amounts of colostrum, a thick, yellowish substance that’s extra-rich in antibodies and easy to digest.
Engorged breasts Just when you thought your boobs couldn’t get any bigger, your milk kicks in, causing them to swell to porn-star proportions. If you’re nursing frequently and effectively, this engorgement—along with any tenderness—should subside in a few days. In the meantime, express some milk by hand or with a pump; or apply a warm compress before nursing to make it easier for your baby to latch on. After nursing, insert ice packs or bags of frozen peas in your bra to minimize swelling; wrap them in damp paper towels or thin dish towels to protect your skin.
Sore nippes Some mild tenderness is common in the first week or so and can be soothed by applying a touch of expressed breast milk or an all-natural ointment such as Simplisse Nipple Cream. But severe pain, bleeding or cracking are signs that your baby isn’t latching on correctly—so get help from a lactation consultant as soon as possible.
Leaking and spraying While inconvenient, this is perfectly normal and indicates that you’re producing plenty of milk. To avoid stains, wear disposable or washable cotton nursing pads and change them often.
New moms who get plenty of support and guidance tend to breastfeed longer than those who don’t. The best time to seek help? Before you need it. While you’re in the hospital, spend some time with the lactation consultant on staff.
If your hospital doesn’t have one, your nurse or pediatrician—even a friend who’s nursed her own kids—may be able to help. After heading home, attend a breastfeeding support group (offered through some hospitals and La Leche League International: llli.org). Or contact the International Lactation Consultant Association (ilca.org) to find a certified lactation consultant in your area.
Experts agree: Breast milk is one of the greatest gifts you can give your baby. It’s brimming with nutrients and antibodies that boost your newborn’s immunity, aid digestion and promote brain development—not to mention the fact that it cuts in half her risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But your baby isn’t the only one who benefits: Breastfeeding reduces your lifetime risk of developing such serious conditions as diabetes, obesity, asthma and cancer—even high blood pressure and heart problems. An added bonus: Breastfeeding incinerates calories, helping you lose those pregnancy pounds faster. So make the commitment now—for both of you.