Breastfeeding begins very soon after your child is born. Often, the first feeding is right after birth, if you feel up to it. For the first several days, your body produces a yellowish or cream-colored liquid known as colostrum. This thick form of milk is especially suited for the newborn, as it contains high concentrations of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and proteins. The latter include the kind of protein that your newborn needs to digest for its nutritional value as well as proteins called immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that help protect the child against infection. The high concentration of nutrients compared with water helps keep the child from losing too much weight, despite her tiny stomach capacity. As the infant consumes more volume per feeding, your body will produce higher volumes of colostrum, which then will transform into what’s called transitional milk, featuring more water as well as a sugar called lactose. After about two weeks of producing transitional milk, your breasts will start putting out mature milk, containing 90 percent water and more sugar compared with transitional milk.
First Time Breastfeeding Tips
- Turn your baby toward you, keeping her chest against your own. Touch the baby’s upper lip to your nipple. When the baby’s mouth opens wide, draw her closer against your breast, holding your breast for support. Make sure that the baby’s mouth is covering the areola, the darker area surrounding the nipple.
- It may be difficult for the child to stay on your nipple, but this is normal. You need to be patient for a few days. Ask a nurse for help or get lactation consulting, if your child is not latching on at all. You may experience pain and heaviness in your breasts once the milk production kicks in, but it is manageable with a little help from the doctor.
- After giving birth to a premature infant, you cannot nurse immediately, but you can start pumping your breast milk and bottle feeding the child.
- You need to nurse frequently, the more you nurse (or pump), the more milk you will produce. It is said that nursing almost 9 to 12 times in 24 hours is good. This will keep your baby satisfied and provide adequate nutrition.
- It can take a while for mothers to get comfortable and sometimes it may take 30-40 minutes, or more, before your baby nurses. Make sure that you are in a cozy and comfy spot when you are nursing, as you will have to remain in that one place for a while.
- A nursing pillow can be helpful, as it will also support the baby and improve positioning. Always keep in mind that your newborn and you both need to be in a comfortable position, the child held close to your chest to facilitate proper nursing.
- To learn about the various nursing positions, read here.
When to stop?
Be in touch with your doctor and decide together when to stop breastfeeding. Generally, women breastfeed for 6-8 months, sometimes more (see here about women who breastfeed for much longer). At this point, the child makes enough of its own immunoglobulins to defend against infections, but women often nurse their babies for a year, as it provides good nutrition without the cost of infant formula.