To promote good breastfeeding skills for mother and baby, it is important that early nursing be done in as comfortable an environment as possible. Preferably, mother and baby should have skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, because this stimulates “rooting” behavior that is instinctive to the baby and encourages her to seek out the breast. Like any other mammal, a newborn baby responds physiologically to immediate close contact with their mother.
Women should not supplement with formula, waiting on their milk to “come in”. When a woman has a baby, her breasts produce a thin milk full of colostrum and antibodies that the baby needs for optimum health. The first produced milk may appear thin, watery, bluish or (most likely) yellowish in color. Despite its appearance, it provides all the nutrients that new babies need until the higher-fat breast milk comes in fully. Many doctors and nurses are not well educated about this colostrum-rich, “first milk”, and will tell mothers that they must wait for their milk to “come in”. The World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics fully contradict this opinion and recommend that women breastfeed their babies exclusively from birth to at least six months of age. In fact, WHO promotes extended breastfeeding (along with solid foods) for two years so that a child can receive the maximum health benefits that breast milk provides.
During the first few days after delivery, mother and baby should ideally spend some quiet time together to bond and discover what nursing positions work best for them. Positioning a baby properly, in a way that is comfortable and functional for mother and baby, is essential to good breastfeeding. Bottles and pacifiers should not be used. Any type of artificial nipple can lead to nipple confusion, which will require an affected baby to be “re-trained” to the breast. In the event of some medical problem that prevents breastfeeding, there are bottle alternatives that will not cause the baby to become confused.
The best possible measure a new mother can take to ensure that she is breastfeeding correctly is to enlist the help of a board-certified lactation consultant, preferably an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). However, in some areas it may be difficult to find professional breastfeeding help. A local breastfeeding support group can be quite helpful for new mothers, as well as other breastfeeding groups online that connect mothers with information and a supportive virtual community.
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