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Breastfeeding Basics

What every new mom needs to know about baby's first feeding, latching on, and letting down.
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Baby to Breast: Latching On continued...

So, how do you know if your baby is properly "latched on?" First, if your baby's lips are puckered inward, or if you can see their gums, the "latch" may not be complete.

If your baby is feeding properly, you should hear only a low-pitched swallowing noise -- not a sucking or smacking noise -- and you may see the jaw motioning back and forth, a sign that a successful feeding is taking place.

  "What many new mothers don't realize is that breastfeeding is really a very quiet and relaxing time. If your baby is latched on properly they eat very quietly," says Pat Sterna, IBCLC, a lactation counselor from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

And while it's natural to feel a "tugging" sensation during feeding, if your breasts actually hurt, the latch may be insufficient as well.

If you need to start over, gently insert your finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to break the connection to your body, then reposition your breast and your baby, and try again.

"It can take several tries, particularly the first few times, for both baby and mom to find the most comfortable and correct position," Wenk tells WebMD.

  In addition, if it seems as if your baby is having difficulty breathing during nursing, the nose may be too close to your breast. To relieve this problem, simply press down on the flesh of your breast closest to your baby's nose to provide more breathing space.

Ask any expert, and they'll tell you that breastfeeding is the most natural of a woman's mothering instincts -- an almost indescribable urge, some say, to both nurture and nourish your new born child.

  But as any experienced mom can tell you, the moves and motions of feeding a newborn might feel anything but normal or natural, at least in the beginning. Mother Nature may be sending breastfeeding signals your way, but when it comes to knowing exactly what to do, you could find yourself at a complete loss.

"Lots of women wonder why, if breastfeeding is such a normal, natural thing, the skills don't just magically appear," says Jan Wenk, IBCLC, certified lactation counselor at NYU Medical Center in New York City.

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