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Breastfeeding 101: A guide for new and expectant moms

Paoli Hospital February 14, 2014 General Wellness

baby laying on mother's chestFor new moms, or expectant mothers who have made the decision to breastfeed, the opportunity to bond with baby can be an exciting one. But for some mothers, it can also be a confusing and exhausting time trying to navigate the ‘how-to’s’ of breastfeeding.

Below, Donna Sinnott, board-certified lactation consultant at Paoli Hospital, answers some common questions for mothers who have made the decision to breastfeed.

How often should I breastfeed?

Encourage your baby to breastfeed eight to 12 times in 24 hours or every three hours, counting from the start of a feed to the start of the next feed. Shorter, more frequent feeds are sometimes more beneficial for mom and baby during the first few days. The frequency of feedings will change as your baby grows and his or her tiny belly can hold more milk.

How long should a breastfeeding last?

Typically, in the beginning, babies will nurse between five and 30 minutes on each breast. Allow them to nurse on the first breast, but offer the second side as baby’s choice. If the baby is full, begin the next feeding on that second side. For twins, hold one baby in each arm and nurse one baby on one breast per feeding for 10-40 minutes or longer.

How do I know if my baby has latched?

Once your baby has latched, you will feel pulling, suction, and pressure. For many new moms, breastfeeding can be uncomfortable for the first few days, but it shouldn’t be painful. Watch for your baby’s cheeks to puff out and look for their jaw to open wide, pause slightly, and then close. You should become more comfortable once baby begins suckling. When you breastfeed in the hospital, a lactation consultant or staff nurse will help you and check your latch and positioning.

How much should I be drinking?

Drink fluids when you’re thirsty, just as you would if you weren’t breastfeeding. You should plan to drink large glasses of water or liquid after every breastfeeding or pumping session. If you would like one glass of wine or beer, breastfeed the baby first. Avoid having more than one alcoholic drink or caffeinated beverage while you are breastfeeding, and make sure there are at least two hours before your next feeding to give your body a chance to clear the alcohol.

What should I do if breastfeeding hurts?

If this is your first time breastfeeding, you may experience sore nipples or breasts. Sore nipples or breast pain are signs that you shouldn’t ignore. If problems arise while you are in the hospital or at home, talk to a lactation consultant, who can help answer your questions about breastfeeding, and will be able to suggest products like nursing pillows or breast pumps so breastfeeding can be easier for you. Some insurance carriers even cover lactation consultations or breast pumps once you are home.

Main Line Health offers lactation support services for breastfeeding women at all four of its hospitals, including prenatal nipple exams, breastfeeding classes and post-discharge phone support. Visit our website to learn more about our lactation and breastfeeding services.