4. Nurse whenever he wants: We can’t emphasize this enough: It’s really important to nurse your baby as often as he wants—at least eight times a day, including at night. Doing so not only ensures your baby is well fed and helps your body establish a good milk supply, but it also keeps your baby in sync with your morphing breasts. “Feeding frequently helps your baby keep latching well as your breasts change in those early days after birth,” Neifert says. Though this may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, Criso suggests limiting the length of your baby’s feedings for the first three days, until your full milk comes in and your nipples become more accustomed to nursing. “Babies suck to eat, and also suck to soothe,” she explains. “This is fine, but until your nipples are used to it, this can set you up for cracked or bleeding nipples, especially if your latch is not perfect.”
Here’s a brief overview of the plan Criso recommends; for more detailed information, watch her Simply Breastfeeding DVD, available at mybabyexperts.com.
Day 1: Nurse the baby whenever and as often as he wants, but limit each session to five minutes on each breast (a total of 10 minutes of active sucking). If the baby still wants to suck after those 10 minutes have passed, let him use your finger.
Day 2: Increase the time to seven minutes on each breast (a total of 14 minutes), as often as the baby wants.
Day 3: Nurse 10 minutes per side (a total of 20 minutes of active sucking) as often as he wants.
Day 4 and beyond: Continue to nurse your baby whenever and as often as he wants, but do not put any limits on the length of time. “Allowing your baby to nurse as often as he wants, and for as long as he wants, helps to establish and maintain an ample milk supply,” Criso explains. “Once your full milk comes in, the baby will fill up fairly quickly and won’t continue to suck if he’s not hungry.”
5. Have a sleepover: Having your baby stay in your hospital room with you, rather than in the nursery, lets you breastfeed often; it also allows you to get to know his feeding cues. “You want to be able to recognize when your baby is ready to nurse so he doesn’t have to resort to crying,” Neifert explains. “If he gets too hungry and frantic, that could make for a very difficult feeding session.” Plus, you want to nurse as much as possible while still in the hospital, where help is available. “Before you leave the hospital, the baby needs to be able to latch on and breastfeed well,” she adds. “That comes from multiple opportunities to get it right.”
6. Be a switch hitter: It’s important to nurse from each breast at every feeding so both get adequate stimulation and drainage. “Plus, babies take more milk when they nurse on both sides,” Neifert says. But how do you know when to switch? “The best way to know is when the rhythmic sucking and swallowing slows down, or the baby releases the breast,” Neifert says. “That indicates that the rate of milk flow is diminishing and it’s time to move to the other side.” Remove your baby by inserting a finger in his mouth to release the suction, burp him, then offer the other breast. Try alternating the first breast at each feeding.
Our No. 1 tip Getting the right latch is the most important part of breastfeeding. To see step-by-step photos and instructions, visit fitpregnancy.com/breastfeeding/latch.