Answers to 6 common breastfeeding questions

While breastfeeding is a natural process, it may not come easily or be possible for all new moms and their babies. In fact, most new moms find it challenging, especially at first.

Although it can be challenging, it is one of the most rewarding things you’ll do as a mother. Be patient as you and your baby learn the process together.

Here are some of the most common breastfeeding concerns that I hear from new moms:

How can I tell if my baby is latched on properly?

If breastfeeding is painful, then your baby isn’t latched on correctly. You should seek help from your doctor or a lactation consultant. Pain can also be a sign of infection.

To help your baby latch on correctly, lightly stroke her mouth with your breast (not your nipple). When her mouth opens wide, pull her forward onto your breast. If your baby goes onto the breast well, she will take a large mouthful of breast tissue.

How often do I feed my baby?

You should breastfeed 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period, usually once every 1.5 to 3 hours. However, it’s normal for term babies to sleep as long as 4 to 5 hours once a day.

Follow your baby’s cues and let him feed whenever he’s hungry. Crying is actually a sign of hunger, so nurse your baby before he becomes so hungry that he’s difficult to calm down.

Hunger signs include:

  • Moving their heads from side to side
  • Opening their mouths
  • Placing their hands or fists to their mouths
  • Puckering their lips as if to suck
  • Nuzzling against their mothers’ breasts
  • Stretching
  • Moving their mouths in the direction of something that’s stroking or touching their cheeks (known as the rooting reflex)

How can I tell if my baby is getting enough?

The best way to tell if your baby is getting enough is if she seems satisfied and is sleepy after feeding. Another indicator is the number of wet and soiled diapers.

During the first week, your baby should have one wet diaper for each day of life. By the first week, your baby should have at least 6 heavy, wet diapers and 2 or 3 bowel movements a day.

When infants under 6 weeks skip a bowel movement, it could be a sign they’re not getting enough at feedings. After 6 weeks, it’s normal for some breastfed babies to have bowel movements only every 2 to 3 days.

How should I hold my baby?

Find a comfortable position for you and your baby. Many moms like the cradle position, with baby lying on his side, his chest to yours, his body tucked in lightly to you and his head slightly tilted so he approaches your breast chin first.

His nose will be in front of your nipple, so he won’t have to turn his head to take your breast. His ear, shoulder and hip should be in a straight line.

Try other nursing positions to find the one that’s best for you and your baby. Use a footstool or pillow to help you get comfortable, relax and enjoy the experience.

Can I give my baby a bottle or pacifier?

If you’re committed to exclusively breastfeeding, don’t give your baby a bottle or pacifier right away to avoid confusing her with different types of nipples. Studies have also linked pacifier use with early weaning from breastfeeding.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends pacifiers at naps and bedtime since they may reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

For breastfed infants, the AAP suggests delaying the pacifier until 1 month of age.

How long should I breastfeed?

Breastfeeding offers many health benefits for both mom and baby, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics and others in the medical community recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life. Beyond that, the AAP encourages breastfeeding until at least 12 months.

For moms, breastfeeding may decrease their risk for breast and other cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. For babies the benefits include an increased ability to fight off infections and a reduced risk for conditions ranging from obesity and allergies to diabetes and certain cancers.

And besides supplying ideal nourishment, breastfeeding also provides a special bonding experience.

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