The single most important thing that you can do to assure your success in breastfeeding is to begin preparing during your pregnancy.
Though breastfeeding is natural, it is not instinctive. By attending breastfeeding classes you can begin to learn more about the loving act of feeding your baby at your breast. Mother-to-mother support, as provided by La Leche League can also prove to be invaluable. At these meetings you will share experiences with other nursing mothers and can begin to learn more about the art of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding should be initiated as soon as possible following your baby's birth. Research has shown that in the two hours following the birth, infants are in a state of alertness, which is accompanied by a strong sucking reflex. It is at this time that your baby, eager for the comfort of your arms, will lick or nuzzle your nipple and may even decide to latch on and take her first taste of your milk (colostrum). These early feeds have an imprinting effect and help to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Although breastfeeding without delay is optimal, if circumstances don't allow it, or if you can't persuade your baby to take your breast, don't become discouraged. Many moms whose babies have gotten a delayed start at nursing have gone on to establish a wonderful nursing relationship. Continue to give your baby many opportunities to learn this new skill.
With abbreviated hospital stays being the norm these days, keeping your baby in your room allows you to squeeze in a lot of practice breastfeeding in a short amount of time. Rooming-in has been shown to contribute to breastfeeding success. If you are having difficulties, ask to see the hospital's Lactation Consultant (LC) or ask your OB or Pediatrician to recommend an LC in private practice. While in the hospital, remind the nursing staff that you want your baby to be given no supplementary feeds (formula or water) and no pacifiers. Water and formula are unnecessary and may confuse your baby as she is learning to breastfeed.