newborn baby looking up at her mom

Breastfeeding 101: A Guide for New Moms

A new baby brings so much joy to families. There’s nothing quite like that sweet newborn smell or baby’s first gummy smiles and coos.

As rewarding as being a new mom can be, it’s also exhausting and a lot of hard work. On top of taking care of your newborn, there are conflicting and confusing messages out there about breastfeeding. The benefits of breastfeeding are well-established, but it isn’t for everyone, however, breastfeeding is strongly encouraged. If you’re planning to breastfeed your new baby, here are some tips to help you on your journey.

Breastfeeding Basics

  1. Hold your baby so that breastfeeding is most comfortable for baby and you. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can tell a position has baby well-aligned if you can “draw a straight line that connects the baby’s ear, shoulder and hip on either side of the baby’s body.”
  2. If your baby is having a hard time finding their food source, you can place your nipple in his or her mouth or try rubbing a bit of milk on your nipple to entice him or her to nurse because of the smell of milk.
  3. Make sure baby is latched well. There may be discomfort for new moms, but any pain should not continue throughout the feeding and could indicate a problem. Consult your doctor or a lactation expert if you are concerned about breastfeeding pain.
  4. Check to make sure baby is feeding. Listen for sucking and swallowing sounds to see if your baby is nursing and getting milk.

How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?

You’ll know your baby has had enough to eat because their body language will relax and their eyes may close. Newborns eat frequently and will likely want to nurse every hour to every three hours. If they’re gaining weight after the first week and producing several wet or dirty diapers every day, you should feel confident to continue breastfeeding.

What should I eat while I’m breastfeeding?

Focus on making healthy eating choices to fuel your body to make milk. Breastfeeding burns calories, so you’ll want to consider eating more than you normally would. However, that’s not a license to binge on junk food – stick to fresh fruits and vegetables, foods high in protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these can both be dehydrating – water, and lots of it, is your best bet while nursing. You’ll also want to talk to your doctor about continuing to take your prenatal vitamin throughout the duration of your breastfeeding experience. The United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate program has a helpful tool to guide you in planning for a healthy diet while breastfeeding.

What if breastfeeding just isn’t for me?

There are many valid reasons why breastfeeding doesn’t work for every family. New moms often must return to work before they’ve established a solid breastfeeding routine and pumping isn’t always effective for everyone. A history of trauma might also make breastfeeding uncomfortable for some women. If you can’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, it’s okay.

Feeding your baby from a bottle or using infant formula is a simple substitute and accomplishes the same task with nutritional benefits. Formula feeding infants can offer convenience, flexibility, an increase in time and no restrictions on your diet. Bottle formulas, although they are very good, do not offer all the same benefits as breastfeeding, such as protection against some childhood infections and a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). If you are planning to formula feed, research the different types of formulas available to determine what’s best for your baby.

Are there alternative ways to feed my baby breast milk?
If you are feeding your baby from a bottle, Bronson Hospital’s Mother’s Milk Bank is an HMBANA-accredited milk bank in Michigan. They accept donated breast milk and distribute it. While most of the milk goes to hospitals to feed pre-term infants and those with medical conditions, some milk is available for infants unable to tolerate formula, depending on supply.

For more breastfeeding tips and information, read these blog posts:

Photo credit: tacstef

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