While you may have heard “breast is best,” and that you should breastfeed your baby for at least one year post-childbirth, many new moms don’t realize how challenging this undertaking can be. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Tell others you want to breastfeed
Talking to others about your breastfeeding goals can create a supportive environment at the hospital and at home.
- Let your doctor know you want to breastfeed. Your OB/GYN can provide you with education on the topic and can ensure you start breastfeeding immediately (one hour is ideal) after your baby is born. Talk to your physician about holding the baby skin-to-skin right after delivery, which has been shown to promote latching to breastfeed.
- Inform family members. It may be helpful to let your spouse, children and other relatives know about your breastfeeding plans so they can offer encouragement and support.
- Talk to your employer. You can still breastfeed after returning to work, but you’ll need to pump or hand express your milk. If you are able, let your employer know that you plan on taking breaks to collect breastmilk. Some workplaces set aside private rooms for this purpose.
Meet with a lactation consultant
While you’re in the hospital, your doctor or nurse can provide a referral to a lactation consultant. This health care provider can teach you the following:
- Positions for holding your baby while breastfeeding
- The best way to hold your breast to encourage the baby to latch
- The sensations that indicate milk is flowing
- Signs that your baby is feeding well
Wait to set up a feeding schedule
Feeding your baby early and often is the best way to ensure a full milk supply and a contented baby. It is best to follow your baby’s cues, not the clock, in determining how often to breastfeed. In the first few days, as you establish your milk supply, feed your baby whenever he or she shows signs of hunger. This should occur at least eight times in a 24-hour period. Feeding on demand can boost your milk supply and ensures your little one is getting enough nutrients. Hunger cues include:
- Licking the lips
- Sticking out the tongue
- Sucking on the hands
- Rooting, or moving the head side to side in search of your breast
- Fussing or crying
Sleep in the same room as your baby
Sleeping in the same room as your baby allows you to more readily respond to your little one’s hunger cues. Place the baby in a bassinet near your bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against co-sleeping to reduce sleep-related deaths.
Buy a breast pump (covered by insurance)
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance companies must cover the cost of a breast pump, whether you purchase or rent one. However, plans that were grandfathered in, meaning they existed before the ACA was established in March 2012, are exempt. Be sure to contact your insurance company directly to confirm your pump is covered. Some companies may also require preauthorization from your doctor.
To learn more about breastfeeding, prenatal care and childbirth, visit UCLA BirthPlace.