Learning to breastfeed

Suzie asked about breastfeeding:

How long did it take for you to get the hang of breastfeeding? I’ve heard it can be very difficult for some mothers/babies.

How frequently does a newborn feed throughout the night? 

Let me first say that I am totally sold on breastfeeding. Most can do it with support. (it is much harder if you have inverted nipples, I on the other hand had grapes!) I did love to breastfeed, but I also made use of the bottle for a few of our children. I nursed for anywhere from 6 to 15 months. Naomi had it all: breast, pacifier and blankie. I put the twins on the bottle at six months after feeling more like a cow than a mum. There are some important points regarding this.

When beginning to breast feed, make sure the baby gets as much of the breast into her/his little greedy mouth. Get as much of the areola as you can into the mouth. This will help prevent cracked nipples. Sometimes I found that leaning over my baby to put the breast in was helpful. In the beginning I would let your nipples “air dry” for a while. Too much moisture will not allow a cracked nipple to heal. There are also creams available for this and  I would buy this  before having the baby (someone should ask about breast infections). Small babies need to nurse frequently, probably every 2 hours. Once your milk comes in, babies should be able to go about 3 hours in between feedings. And NO baby should be on the breast for an hour. Make sure you break the suction with your finger with your newborn when you change sides. It is pretty amazing how strong those itsy bitsy lips are!

If your baby is always wanting to nurse, I would go for the pacifier. We used to call them soothers. I’m not sure who it is soothing, the babe or the mum! Some kids just like to suck. I’m sorry but I am not a walking pacifier. If your baby is gaining weight, (this IS important) and has plenty of wet diapers, your child is doing just fine. Anyone who tells you that babies are not smart has not had one. It takes no time at all for them to out smart you. That sweet, beautiful, innocent baby can turn your life up side down and you will think you will never be able to get to the bathroom to pee again (or poop) let alone do things you might have done before. SO take my advice and go for a schedule. I don’t care what kind, but put your baby on some sort of schedule. Eventually, you will want the little darling to be sleeping through the night so that you can function during the day. It is my experience that children do best with routine. I started having babies right around the hippie days and people were into having your children in bed with you and nursing whenever and some did it till they went to school! It never worked for me or for my kids.

If you are going back to work soon after delivery then I would make sure that my baby could use a pacifier and take a bottle while they were still very new (around a month old). Also, get a good breast pump. Breast milk is going to be the cheapest even with an expensive breast pump. Forget the fancy toys, just get the breast pump on the list. Also, get your parents and in- laws familiar with you breastfeeding. I have never understood why women should have to go into hiding to breastfeed. Absurd!

About Catherine

Catherine is a mum who lives in Chesapeake, Virginia; she and her husband, Robb, have ten children, and have operated a family medical practice for thirty years. This blog is a place she shares thoughts and answers questions -- especially from other moms, but from anyone! -- about pregnancy and child-rearing, marriage, sickness and health, and lots of other things.
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