Breastfeeding is one way a mother can help build a strong bond with her baby, as well as provide her child with an excellent source of nutrition. While the health benefits for both baby and mother are many—increased metabolism for mom, enhanced immunity to illnesses for baby, and decreased risk of breast and uterine cancer—it is a personal choice and other effective nutrition options (such as formula) are available.
Most women who want to breastfeed are able to do so. This includes working mothers, mothers of premature infants, mothers of multiples and mothers of babies in special situations. If you are unsure if you are able to breastfeed, consult with your physician.
Beginning to Breastfeed
- Wash your hands. As long as you take a daily shower, it is not necessary to wash your breasts before breastfeeding.
- Get into a comfortable position. Have pillows available to help support your back, arm and the baby. It is helpful to use a stool for your feet when nursing in a chair.
- Position your baby at breast level and allow your breasts to fall naturally.
How Often to Breastfeed
While every baby may be different, most babies will nurse every 2-3 hours with one 4-5 hour stretch of sleep during a 24-hour period. Most mothers find that they will nurse their baby 8-12 during the course of a day.
Watch for cues that your baby may be hungry. Light sleep cues, such as yawning, stretching, bringing hands to mouth, sucking and licking, may indicate a good time to nurse. You may also find that your baby will want to nurse more frequently in the afternoon or evening, and may even be a little more fussy during these times.
Length of Feedings
After the first few days of life, most babies will nurse 10-20 minutes at each breast. Try offering your baby both breasts at each feeding. If you notice your baby is slowing his sucking at the first breast, take him off, burp him and continue to feed him on the second.
Every baby may have his own feeding pattern, but it’s important to ensure properly latching so that you know your baby is getting the rich fatty milk that comes as the breast empties.