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Getting Started

To get breastfeeding off to a good start, learn all you can about breastfeeding during your pregnancy.

Knowing what to expect and what to do when your baby is born will get you and your baby off to a good start. It’s very helpful to go to breastfeeding classes or breastfeeding support group meetings. These may be available at the WIC office in your area or at a local hospital. A breastfeeding support group, such as the La Leche League, may also be available in your area. Ask your WIC breastfeeding educator or peer counselor for information.

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Before your baby is born

Both before and after your baby’s birth, avoid the use of soaps, lotions, and creams on your nipples and breasts. They are not good for your nipples. The strong odors may confuse your baby.

Check with your health care provider before taking any medications or drugs while you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Avoid using pain medications during labor if possible. Pain medications given during labor can affect a baby’s ability to breastfeed successfully.

Before your baby is born, talk to your doctor, midwife, or labor room nurse. Tell them that you want to be with your baby during the first hour or two after birth. Tell them that you want to hold your baby close to you, skin to skin, after the baby is born. You want to spend time gazing at each other. You also want to talk to your baby and stroke and touch your baby. Ask them not to bathe your baby or do other routine procedures until after your baby has been breastfed.

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Breastfeeding after birth

Breastfeeding in the first hour or two after birth is good for both you and your baby. Your baby’s sucking reflex is strongest during this time. Also during this time, the baby is quiet and alert. This helps the baby to learn to breastfeed well. Early, uninterrupted breastfeeding also helps your baby have his or her first bowel movement faster. This decreases the chance of the baby becoming jaundiced (yellowed). Though your breasts won’t feel full yet, they provide just the right amount of early milk (colostrum) for your baby.

Starting breastfeeding right away helps increase your “mothering hormones” called oxytocin and prolactin. Oxytocin levels are important for milk production.

Early skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding help you to build a strong bond with your baby and establish breastfeeding. Welcoming your baby with skin-to-skin contact keeps your baby calmer, and helps breastfeeding get off to a good start. It makes for a more confident mother. Skin-to-skin contact triggers the baby’s natural instincts to breastfeed. Give your baby frequent skin-to-skin contact both in the hospital and at home.

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Have your baby “room-in” with you 24 hours a day at the hospital. That way you will not miss any of your baby’s small cues that he or she needs to breastfeed. Limit your visitors. Tell your family and friends ahead of time that you need lots of time alone with your baby to learn to breastfeed and to rest. Too many visitors tire you out. It can interfere with breastfeeding. This is a special time just for you and your baby.

Make sure you breastfeed during the night. Breastfeeding during the night is very important for establishing a good milk supply. Newborns tend to group more of their breastfeedings between 9:00 in the evening and 3:00 in the morning. This is normal.

Tell the nurses not to give your baby artificial nipples. This includes both bottle nipples and pacifiers. These can cause your baby to not breastfeed well and you to not make enough milk. Put a crib card in the bassinette that says “no pacifiers or bottles and no formula please!”

Tell the nurses not to give your baby formula unless medically necessary. Giving any formula greatly increases the chance of you and your baby not having success with breastfeeding. Giving any formula also affects your baby’s immune system. It increases the risk of certain diseases, such as diabetes, diarrhea, and asthma.

When you get home with your baby, accept all the help you can get. Have others cook meals, wash dishes, do laundry, etc. Limit visitors.

For the first 40 days or so after your baby is born, you should breastfeed and take care of your baby, and let others take care of you! Stay at home as much as possible. Concentrate on learning to breastfeed. This period of time is referred to as “baby moon” time.

Keep your baby in a bassinette next to your bed and learn to breastfeed lying down. Learning to breastfeed lying down means you get more time to rest! Babies are safer when they sleep in the same room as their mother sleeps in. When your baby is finished breastfeeding, place the baby in a bassinette next to your bed.

Make sure you always put your baby to sleep on his or her back. Make sure everyone in your family knows to do this. Learn about “safer sleep” habits before you have your baby. You can learn about “safer sleep” at The National Institute of Child Health and Development.

Learn to wear your baby in a soft, cloth baby carrier or sling. Babies who are “worn” by their mothers and other family members are happier and calmer, have less colic, and develop better. Avoid leaving your baby sitting in a car seat, baby seat, or baby swing for long periods of time. Babies need to be held in arms a lot! You cannot “spoil” your young baby.

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How dads can help

Some fathers may feel left out if their partner breastfeeds the new baby. But there are many ways you can help your partner care for your baby.

Help with housework and cooking.

Help limit the number of visitors and visiting time. New moms do need plenty of rest!

Bathe and dress your baby. Change his diapers. Sing and talk to your baby. If you see the baby searching for mom’s breast, sucking his fist, or making sucking noises, take him to mom for a feeding. Cuddle and protect her while she feeds the baby.

It takes time for mom to learn how to breastfeed. If your partner is uncomfortable or has pain, it may be because the baby is not latching on correctly or because she is engorged. Many new mothers need help in the beginning. Contact a WIC breastfeeding counselor who can help her stay on track.