It's a great idea to breast-feed. Babies who are breast-fed have fewer infections and allergies during the first year of life than babies given formula. Breast milk doesn't cost anything. It is ready anytime. Breast milk is made especially for babies.
It's good to breast-feed soon after the baby is born. If you can, hold your baby close and let your baby nuzzle your breasts. If your baby is eager to feed, he or she will try to nurse. Here are some things to remember:
Nurse your baby whenever your baby cries or seems hungry. Your baby will probably nurse at least every 2 hours or so at first. It's a good idea to nurse at least 10 times a day at first.
During the first week it is important to bring in your full milk supply. You can do this by making sure your baby drinks from both breasts during each feeding. Nurse your baby 10 minutes on the first breast and as long as he wants on the second (at least 10 minutes). Your baby may not always act like he wants to eat from the second breast, but you need to keep working with your baby until he starts eating from the second breast. Remember to change the breast you start with each time.
After your milk supply has come in (by day 8 at the latest) have your baby nurse as long as possible on the first breast. This way your baby gets the rich, high-fat milk that comes at the end of feeding. You can tell your baby has finished on a breast when the sucking slows down and your breast is soft. Then, offer the second breast to your baby if he is interested. Change the breast you start with each time you nurse.
The more you nurse, the more breast milk you make. But because you can't see how much breast milk a baby is drinking, many women worry their baby is not getting enough.
You can be sure that your baby is getting what she needs, if:
It's a good idea to make sure:
Babies do not need extra water. Even when they have a fever or the weather is hot and dry, breast milk provides enough water. Giving extra water to babies before 6 months of age can cause a seizure.
Having swollen breasts often happens between the second and fourth days after birth. It may take a little while for your breasts and your baby's feedings to get in balance. Your breasts may also become swollen if:
The best thing to do is to breast-feed well and often! Check to make sure that your baby is in the right position. It can also help to express a little milk before you start to nurse. Putting wet, warm cloths on the breasts or taking a warm bath or shower can also help. Then the baby can latch on to the breast more easily.
If your baby is only getting breast milk, you should give your baby 400 units of vitamin D every day starting at 2 weeks of age. You can buy pure vitamin D drops, or multivitamin drops that have vitamin D in them at the store. After about 6 months of age, your baby may need fluoride if he is not drinking water or your water supply does not have fluoride added to it. Talk to your healthcare provider about this and other vitamins your baby may need.
If you have questions or worries, call your healthcare provider. You may also want to get the help of a lactation consultant trained to help women who are breast-feeding. Parent support groups such as La Leche League or Nursing Mother's Counsel can also be helpful.