But all those books have so much information in them! Which one do you read? What do you really need to know right now?
Before you go into labor, or lie down on the gurney to go to the OR, or arrive at the hospital for your induction, before your water breaks and you start making frantic phone calls to your family letting them know the baby's coming, you should have a few vital bits of information stored away so that you can initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible and have some idea of what to expect. When I had my first baby, despite assuming I was going to breastfeed, I found out very quickly that there was a lot I didn't know about this process that was supposed to be "natural" and "normal" and "instinctive." Sure, it's instinctive for baby, but mom actually has to learn a few things. (And, to be honest, the baby has to practice a bit, too!) I was bombarded with advice from people all around me, and, in the end, my son ended up formula-fed. I was shocked at how much I didn't know going in. I want to help you avoid that shock. Thus, this first segment in a series of posts.
First, there are terms and phrases you'll hear in relation to breastfeeding. Here are a few you should know right away.
Latch: The baby's "latch" is the arrangement of the baby's lips, tongue, and gums on your nipple and areola. The quality of his latch affects how efficiently he can remove milk from your breasts and swallow it, as well as how comfortable (or uncomfortable) breastfeeding is for you. If the baby is latched well, he should be taking your nipple far back into his mouth, and his lips should be flared around your areola. He should not be chewing or sucking on the nipple directly, and his tongue should be over his bottom gums. The latch usually should be "asymmetrical," meaning the bottom jaw is farther up on the breast than the upper jaw.
Exclusive Breastfeeding: Exclusive breastfeeding means that nothing is ingested by your baby other than breastmilk - no water, no formula, no juice, no cereals, no foods of any kind. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, at which point solids may be introduced. (This definition allows for the administration of Vitamin D drops, if recommended by your doctor. Some babies may need a Vitamin D supplement, but your pediatrician will discuss this with you.)
Colostrum: Colostrum is a special substance produced by your breasts in late pregnancy and in the first few days after birth. It is a thick, golden substance full of antibodies, concentrated nutrients and proteins, and other substances vital to a newborn’s health. Colostrum is sometimes called “liquid gold” because of the unique beneficial properties it contains and the short period of time in which it is produced. Colostrum is the only food your baby needs in the first few days of life.
Nursing on demand: When you hear the expression “nurse on demand,” this means that you should put your baby to your breast whenever she seems hungry and allow her to nurse for as long as she wants. You will learn your baby’s hunger cues through observation and trial and error. This is the healthiest way to feed a young baby, as it will ensure that the baby is getting enough to eat and will aid in establishing a healthy milk supply so that you can continue producing enough milk for your baby.
Lactation consultant (IBCLC): A lactation consultant is a medical professional who is specially trained to help new mothers (and babies) learn to breastfeed, keep up on the latest research regarding breastfeeding, feeding techniques, and information, do breastfeeding research, provide advice and education to nursing mothers, and diagnose and treat breastfeeding difficulties and issues. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) receive thousands of hours of hands-on and classroom training in order to become breastfeeding experts. A good IBCLC is your best resource for any breastfeeding questions you may have and to help solve any breastfeeding problems you may encounter. Many hospitals now employ IBCLCs who can come to your room in the postpartum ward to help you learn to breastfeed your baby.