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Basics for Nursing Mothers

Learn what you can do to make breast-feeding a more comfortable and positive experience for both you and your baby.

In this article, you will find:

Nursing mothers
Nursing in public

Nursing mothers

Basics for Nursing Mothers

Although nursing is a natural instinct for both mother and baby, it is not unusual to feel clumsy at first. If you are open-minded, your baby can actually teach you how to nurse without much prior knowledge on your part. Just put the baby's little mouth near your nipple and he or she will find a way.

Womanly Wisdom

To relax while nursing, try putting a pillow under the baby or under the arm holding the baby to achieve a more natural and comfortable position while you're sitting up.

Nature makes nursing very instinctual for both mother and child, so you don't really need too many instructions. But there are things you can do to make nursing a more comfortable and positive experience for both you and your baby. We'll take up a lot of the common issues and concerns of moms who are new to nursing, but first, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Relax
  • Find a comfortable chair (rockers do nicely) to nurse in
  • If a little wine helps you relax, some doctors recommend it—but keep it to a small amount because what you drink, the baby drinks.

What If I Don't Have Enough Milk?

Some women do not produce enough milk flow to nurse successfully, while others seem capable of nursing 10 babies. If you're having trouble producing enough, sometimes drinking more fluids helps. Sometimes you just need time for your body to settle into this new trick it's learning to do, and as you and your baby establish a regular feeding schedule your milk will increase. But sometimes nothing seems to help. This does not mean that the woman who can't produce enough milk is a failure as a mother or that her child will be less advantaged than other children will be. Remember, it is good for a baby to be breast-fed but that is by no means the only way to go.

It is common for women to panic at the first signs of a problem with nursing. Most problems correct themselves quickly, so be patient. You will know if nursing is not for you. If you decide not to nurse, your doctor will give you some medicine to prevent your milk from coming in. If your milk has already come in and you decide not to nurse, you can just let the milk dry up on its own. You may feel a bit engorged at first but it will not take long for the hormones to note that baby is not utilizing the milk supply.

Whooo, This Feels Weird

The first time you nurse it will feel strange. When the baby clamps his or her mouth on the nipple it will cause the let-down reflex, when the milk fills the breasts in preparation for the feeding. It is good to have the baby nurse for only a limited time on one breast and then switch to the other. Otherwise your nipples can get sore and you will have uneven milk flow. Some women like to wear a diaper pin or other marker on their blouse or bra to indicate which side they used when they last nursed. That way they can remember to start on the other side the next time.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

Nursing moms should avoid some foods—like chocolate and mayonnaise—because they make the milk taste bad to baby. Other foods can just cause silly problems. One mom had a scare when she ate beets for dinner. When she changed her baby's diaper after nursing later that night, the poop was bright red. Terrified, she raced the child to the hospital, convinced that the baby was hemorrhaging at the very least. Turns out, the beets were the culprit.

Still, no matter what you do, you're bound to have sore nipples. The skin is delicate and your baby's sucking reflex is very strong. But you don't have to let sore nipples cause you to give up on nursing too soon. Eventually they will toughen and nursing will not hurt a bit. It is worth taking the time to get past the initial discomfort. You can relieve some of the irritation with special creams made for lactating mothers. Hot compresses also work wonders. If you develop an infection, however, you may need medical intervention or you may wind up weaning your baby prematurely because breast-feeding is too painful for you. Further tips to avoid infection or pain: Make sure you keep the nipple area clean, and try to avoid engorgement.

You Are (and Produce) What You Eat

Watch what you eat when you are nursing. Do not forget that your nursing infant is essentially eating a predigested version of whatever you have eaten. If you want to give your baby major gas, just go ahead and eat that double chili dog or spicy burrito. On a more serious note, you must be careful about which medicines you take. Do not take any medication without your doctor's approval.

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