Ask the Lactation Expert: Getting Off to a Good Start in the Hospital

After your baby is born:

  • Do lots of skin-to-skin cuddling with your baby. Cuddle your naked or diapered baby on your bare chest. Cover the baby with blankets. When baby is skin to skin with you, his body temperature will be perfectly regulated and he may become interested in breastfeeding more readily. Use skin-to-skin cuddling as soon after the birth as possible, and do it often during your hospital stay.
  • Try to breastfeed within one hour or so after the birth. Babies are very receptive to learning how to breastfeeding during their first hour. Getting your child on the breast early also helps stabilize her temperature and blood sugar. Low temperature and low blood sugar are common reasons health-care providers may want to offer supplemental formula.
  • Delay your baby's first bath and your shower until after you breastfeed. Baby will use his sense of smell to identify you and to find the breasts. He will also associate the smell of the amniotic fluid left on his body with Mom and breastfeeding. When you take your first shower, don't use scented soap and don't soap from your neck to your belly button until breastfeeding is well established.
  • Avoid the use of pacifiers and bottles for a few weeks. When baby drinks from a bottle or uses a pacifier, she may suck differently and have greater difficulty learning how to breastfeed properly. Milk supply is stimulated by sucking and by how much milk is taken from the breast. If your baby is taking bottles and pacifiers, the stimulation to your milk supply is reduced and you may produce less milk.
  • Breastfeed often. Your baby should breastfeed at least every two to three hours from the start of one feeding to the start of the next, or sooner. Allow your baby to cluster feed. Frequent feedings ensure an ample milk supply and reduce the risk of many problems.
  • Get professional help early for any complications. If you have sore nipples, difficulty with latching or any breastfeeding concerns, get professional help as soon as possible. Breastfeeding problems are easier to manage when identified and corrected early on.
  • Make sure your baby is positioned and latched well. Ask an experienced professional to show you how to position and latch baby for breastfeeding during your hospital stay. Also ask your nurse or lactation consultant to watch and make sure you're able to position and latch comfortably, effectively and independently.
  • Rest between each of your baby's feedings. Let your nurse know you're going to nap so she can make sure you're not bothered unnecessarily.
  • Limit visitors. Visitors to the hospital should be limited to immediate family to ensure you're getting enough rest. Visits should be kept short, and visitors should leave the room when health-care professionals arrive to tend to you or baby. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask for your nurse's help if you need her.
  • Understand that breastfeeding is a learned process. Like learning any physical skill, breastfeeding can seem difficult at first, but if you stick with it and receive the right help from experienced professionals, it gets easier.
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