By Pure Matters
Breast milk is nature's nearly perfect food. It not only contains all the nutrients that your baby needs, but studies show that it also helps protect your infant against infections -- especially in the first year. And mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of some health problems, including breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Plus, there are no bottles to prepare or wash and no formula to buy. And you have a ready supply of milk all the time. To make breastfeeding even easier for you and your baby, try these tips.
Do a little prep. You're less likely to get sore, cracked nipples if you prepare in advance by rubbing your nipples with a terry cloth to "toughen" them. And when you lather up, skip your nipples -- soap dries them up and washes away an oil that helps your baby smell the nipple.
Set your milk supply. Get your baby used to nursing and establish your milk supply by breastfeeding exclusively for the first six weeks. Hold off on bottles.
Get comfortable. Be sure your baby's mouth is open wide before putting her to your breast; she should latch onto the areola (the darker area around your nipple). You should see more areola above her top lip than below her bottom lip. Treat yourself and your baby to a horseshoe-shaped nursing pillow to make your sessions more comfortable.
Switch it up. Leave the baby on your breast as long as he is swallowing every suck or two. If you see him drifting off to sleep or if he lets go of the breast, burp him and switch sides. Let him nurse on the second side as long as he wants -- until he falls asleep or lets go again. Newborn feeding usually lasts at least 20 to 30 minutes and occurs 8 to 12 times each 24 hours in the early weeks.
Stay alert for plugged ducts. Binding clothes, your own anatomy, fatigue, or prolonged periods without nursing can cause clogged milk ducts. This can cause areas of the breast to get hot, red, and sometimes hard or swollen. A plugged duct can lead to an infection if ignored. In most cases, you can treat this problem by applying hot compresses to the reddened area, and by expressing milk manually and allowing the baby to nurse.
Did you know that less than an hour after birth, a full-term baby is physically able to nurse? Your baby knows what to do -- now you do too.