It is recommended that your baby be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Though breastfeeding is a natural process, you will need some guidance the first time. You need to hold the baby properly, make sure that he/she latches on and feed him/her whenever he/she is hungry. Your own diet is also important because your body needs more nutrition to produce milk and whatever you eat will be passed to your baby by the breast milk. Finally, a few common problems may arise during breastfeeding like cracked nipples. You need to know the basic steps to overcome these problems.

The first milk comes within an hour or two of the delivery of the baby. This is yellowish in color, thick and creamy. It is called colostrum and is rich in a number of substances which will help to build up the immune system of the baby. You will be helped in nursing your baby in the hospital. The first rule is to accept help. Learn the proper technique of breastfeeding from the caregivers so that you can take care of your child at home.

Related: Running out of Breast milk? Learn how to increase your milk!

When to start breastfeeding and how frequently to feed?

The following points must be remembered about the time schedule of breastfeeding:

  • WHO recommends that you start nursing within an hour of giving birth. According to a study in 2006, this can reduce neonatal mortality by as much as 22%.
  • Colostrum, the first milk, is necessary for your child to adjust to the outside environment.
  • You will produce more milk if you nurse more. A baby should be fed 8 to 12 times a day. You should feed him/her on demand. For this, you need to learn to recognize the early signs of hunger like rooting or thumb sucking.
  • Baby should be nursed for at least 15 minutes from each breast. It is common for babies to fall asleep half way. You can gently tickle his/her feet to wake him/her up to continue the feed.

How to initiate breastfeeding?

Since you will probably start nursing at the hospital, learn the correct technique from the caregivers. Here are a few steps to help you initiate nursing:

  1. Hold your baby against your chest and support the baby below the shoulders. You may find it easier to use a nursing pillow to rest your arm as you hold the baby because he/she is bound to get heavier as he/she suckles.
  2. Turn the head of the baby towards you and offer your breast. Most babies will latch on by themselves. Otherwise, you may need to help a little.
  3. The mouth of the baby should cover the entire areola and your nipple should be far within the mouth of the baby.
  4. The latching may require some practice. Make sure that the nose of the baby is clear and he/she can breathe easily.
  5. Once the latching is done properly, the baby will start to suckle. A few babies may not take to the breast straight away, but will turn to it after some practice.

Eating habits of the mother during breastfeeding

Your own nutrition is very important while you are breastfeeding. There are two reasons for this. Your body needs sufficient nutrients to keep producing more and more milk. Your child will be growing and will be demanding more milk and your body must be able to produce it. The second reason is whatever you eat is going to affect the taste and quality of your milk.

  1. Drink around 20 glasses of water per day.
  2. Calcium is essential. So, you should eat plenty of calcium rich foods. Ask your doctor whether you need to take any calcium supplements
  3. Fresh fruits and veggies are recommended.
  4. You may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements.
  5. You should not take caffeine, nicotine or alcohol if you are breastfeeding. These are passed directly to the breast milk and then to your baby. Chocolates are also a no-no as they contain caffeine.
  6. Foods like raw broccoli, citrus fruits, cucumber and cabbage can cause gas in your baby. So, you should avoid them.
  7. If the father of the baby has food allergies, the baby may have inherited them. It is advisable to avoid those foods as well.

Breastfeeding past the pain

Since breastfeeding is a new experience for you, you may feel some soreness of the nipples. This is temporary and will soon pass. However, in some cases, nipples may become cracked and painful. You can try the following:

  • Adjust the position of your baby and see if the latching is proper. Incorrect latching is one of the most common causes of nipple pain.
  • You can use some balm or nipple butter if your nipple is cracked.
  • Rubbing a little of your own breast milk over the affected area also gives relief.