Valuable Strategies for Breastfeeding Success

The benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother are well known. In fact, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is recommended by several health organizations, including Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society. Around the six month mark they recommend introducing complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for two years and beyond. Nursing your baby may be natural, but it can also be downright difficult. According to Statistics Canada, among the 89% of women who begin breastfeeding, only 26% of them continue for 6 months or more. There are however, a few strategies to help you increase your chances of breastfeeding successfully.

Enlist help. If you are planning on breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to meet with a nursing expert or lactation consultant beforehand. She can share tips and help you practice nursing with a breastfeeding education doll. Be sure to bring along your partner. You’ll need them to know the ins and outs of nursing when you are feeling overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. When the time comes to deliver your baby, let the hospital staff know your plans to breastfeed. Ask to keep your baby in the room with you if possible. Doing so helps you bond with your baby and learn feeding cues. All of which are super helpful in establishing breastfeeding.

Try feeding your baby within the first hour after birth. Many babies are too difficult to rouse two hours later. Although it may seem as though you are producing very little milk at first (maybe just a few drops of colostrum), keep in mind that a newborn’s stomach is only the size of a marble.

Don’t hesitate to get help. If, despite being told your latch looks great, you are experiencing pain or your gut says something is wrong, speak up. Although some discomfort is normal at first, you should not feel pain. Nor should the discomfort continue after a minute or two of feeding. Seeking help right away could save you weeks of pain and suffering.

Watch your baby not the clock. Breastfeeding works on supply and demand; you will produce as much milk as your baby needs. It is typical for a newborn to nurse every two to three hours. Newborns also have several growth spurts throughout the first few months of life. During a growth spurt, your baby will want to nurse more frequently for a few days. If your baby seems hungry, even though two or three hours haven’t passed, feed him! Your milk supply will increase to accommodate the growth spurt.

Avoid formula, bottles, and pacifiers at first. Even if you aren’t sure how long you will breastfeed, give it your all from the get-go. Remember that breastfeeding works on supply and demand, so if you supplement with formula, your body will decrease the amount of milk it is producing. Similarly, the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends holding off on the pacifier for the first month because pacifiers can suppress hunger cues and decrease the amount of time at the breast. Introducing a bottle of pumped milk or a pacifier, once milk supply is well established shouldn’t pose any problems.

Nadia Chartrand, B.Sc.N, PHCNP

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