There is no advice that can fully prepare a woman for becoming a mother for the first time. Breastfeeding is one skill in particular that requires on the job training. However, there are a few tips that may make things easier for a mom nursing a baby for the first time.
- Attempt to breastfeed as soon as possible after giving birth.
- During the first few feedings the baby will take in colostrum (a thick yellowish fluid that contains antibodies that help support the baby’s immune system).
- Because colostrum is a little thicker than breast milk, the baby may need to suck harder initially.
- Nurse often during the first few days to establish milk flow.
- Know that it may be necessary to wake some babies for feedings or to establish a schedule.
- Coolness (cold showers) may discourage milk production in some moms.
- Applying heat or warmth to breasts may encourage milk production in some moms.
- Hold the baby in the proper position during nursing to prevent soar nipples. The nipple should not rub on any part of the inside of the baby’s mouth when nursing.
- A breastfeeding pillow may aide in positioning the baby for feedings.
- Break the baby’s suction (get the baby to relax his or her mouth/jaw) if it becomes necessary to end a nursing session before the baby stops on his or her own.
- Saliva is used in the breaking down of food, so if left on the breast saliva can make nipples sore. Wiping the breast thoroughly with a damp cloth after feedings and drying them completely will discourage soar nipples. (Do not use a cloth that has harmful soap or detergent on it.)
A key thing to remember is that babies can not read breastfeeding literature. They are unique and they depend on their mothers to be loving and patient until breastfeeding habits are developed. It may take some exploration to figure out what works best.
According to the Innocenti Declaration, breastfeeding provides the following benefits:
- Provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development
- Reduces incidence and severity of infectious diseases
- Lowers infant morbidity and mortality
- Contributes to women’s health by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer by increasing the spacing between pregnancies
- Provides social and economic benefits to the family and the nation
Extended breastfeeding has been the norm in countries throughout the world. The worldwide average weaning age is between 2 and 4 years old, with some cultures practicing breastfeeding for even longer. With so much information becoming available about its benefits, extended breastfeeding has become more likely for mothers in the United States. According to the MayoClinic.org, “Research suggests that the longer breastfeeding continues and the more breastmilk a baby drinks, the better a mother’s health might be.”
Organizations such as La Leche League International are available to answer breastfeeding and parenting questions. Leaders accredited by La Leche League International are available around the world to help breastfeeding mothers. Barb Dehn R.N., M.S., N.P. posts breastfeeding and new mom tips regularly on Nurse Barb’s Daily Dose. New moms should know that there is no shame in asking for help.
The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.