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Breastfeeding Basics

What every new mom needs to know about baby's first feeding, latching on, and letting down.

Baby to Breast: Latching On continued...

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.

The answer, she says, is simply a lack of exposure to the process itself. "A generation or two ago, little girls watched their mother's breastfeed, sisters watched each other -- and women generally had a support system as well as role models they could emulate," says Wenk.

Today, she says, many women don't have any experience on which to draw -- so it's not uncommon for some to feel awkward or even uncomfortable.

The good news is that with just a little bit of knowledge and a tiny bit of patience, you can quickly and easily master the art of breastfeeding, while increasing your comfort level at the same time.

Breastfeeding Right After Baby's Birth

While you may be feeling more than a bit exhausted after labor and delivery, experts say it's best to begin breastfeeding your baby within 30 minutes after birth, if possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises placing baby in direct skin-to-skin contact with the mother immediately after birth to encourage breastfeeding right away. Why? Here are four key reasons:

  1. Babies are born with very little immunity -- so they need the antibodies present in your milk to gain key protection from disease. And the sooner that protection can begin, says Wenk, the better off your baby will begin.

  2. Experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, point out that the yellow, watery premilk (called "colostrum") produced during the first few days of feeding is packed full of protective nutrients. It can also help develop your baby's digestive system. This helps your baby avoid gas and cramping later on.

  3. Huotari says that feeding your baby shortly after birth will help keep the baby's blood sugar level stable.

  4. Babies who feed at the mother's breast soon after birth generally have an easier time adapting to the latching-on process when regular feedings begin.

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