Breastfeeding has many benefits for mother and baby, such as increasing connection, reducing colic and strengthening the baby’s immune system. In addition, breast milk is considered the best and most economical option for feeding from birth, as it is always available and contains all the important nutrients for the baby’s growth and development.
Breastfeeding should be continued for at least 6 months of life, although it can be extended up to 2 years of age or as long as the baby and mother wish. See the benefits of breastfeeding.
While it may seem like a simple process, breastfeeding often raises questions and can even become frustrating. There are also several problems that can arise along the way, such as cracked nipples, which can make the mother more discouraged. Therefore, ideally, all mothers should have access to a support network of family, friends and health professionals, who will help in the process and clarify any doubts.
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This essential guide brings together the most important steps to breastfeeding correctly, as well as some tips that will help you avoid the most common problems:
Step 1: Realize when baby is hungry
There are some signs that help the mother realize that the baby is hungry and needs to suck. The most common ones are:
- The baby seeks to bite any object that touches the mouth region. So if the mother puts her finger near the baby’s mouth, he should turn his face and try to put his finger in his mouth if he is hungry;
- The baby looks for the nipple, especially when it is in the mother’s lap;
- Baby sucks fingers or holds hand in mouth
- The baby is restless or cries and his cries are strong and loud.
Despite these signs, there are babies who are so calm that they wait to be fed. Therefore, it is important not to leave the baby without food for more than 3-4 hours, putting him on the breast even if he does not show these signs.
Breastfeeding should be done within this range during the day, but if the baby is gaining adequate weight, it will not be necessary to wake him up every 3 hours to feed during the night. In this case, the mother can only breastfeed once during the night until the baby is 7 months old.
Step 2: Adopt a comfortable position
Before putting the baby to the breast, the mother must adopt a comfortable position. The environment should be calm, preferably without noise, and the mother should keep her back straight and support it well to avoid back and neck pain.
Some of the positions that the mother can adopt to breastfeed are:
- Lie on your side, with the baby also lying on your side, facing the breast;
- Sitting in a high chair with the back straight and supported, holding the baby with both arms or with the baby under one arm or with the baby sitting on one of the legs;
- Stand up straight, keeping your back straight.
Whatever the position, it is important that the mother feels comfortable and the baby must have his body facing the mother and his mouth and nose at the same height as the breast. Discover the best positions to breastfeed your baby.
Step 3: Put the baby to the breast
After being in a comfortable position, the mother must position the baby to breastfeed and must be careful when positioning the baby. First, the woman should touch the nipple to the baby’s upper lip or nose, making him open his mouth wide. Then, the baby should be moved so that he grabs the nipple and areola of the breast, instead of bringing the breast to the baby.
In the first days after childbirth, you should offer both breasts to the baby, spending about 10 to 15 minutes on each breast to stimulate milk production. After the letdown of milk, around the 3rd day, you should let the baby suck until the breast is empty and only then offer the other breast. In the next feeding, the baby should start with the last offered breast, so that it empties completely, stimulating the production of more milk. Check out other tips to increase breast milk production.
Step 4: observe if the baby is breastfeeding well
To see if the baby is able to breastfeed correctly, the mother must observe some signs during the feeding. These are:
- The baby’s chin touches the breast and the nose is free to breathe;
- The baby’s belly is against the mother’s belly;
- The baby’s mouth is wide open and the lower lip is turned out, like a small fish;
- The baby bites part or all of the areola of the breast and not just the nipple;
- The baby is calm and you can hear the noise of him swallowing the milk.
The way the baby takes the breast during breastfeeding directly influences the amount of milk that the baby ingests and, consequently, promotes weight gain. In addition, if the baby is not latching on correctly, there is also an increased risk of cracks appearing in the nipples, which causes pain and clogging of the duct, resulting in a lot of discomfort during breastfeeding. Fissures in the nipples are one of the main factors in the abandonment of breastfeeding.
Step 5: Identify if the baby has breastfed enough
To identify whether the baby has suckled enough, the mother should check whether the breast that the baby has suckled is emptier, becoming slightly softer than before. Another option to confirm that the breast has emptied is to press close to the nipple to check if milk is still coming out. If the milk does not come out in large quantities, leaving only small drops, this indicates that the baby suckled well and was able to empty the breast.
Other signs that may indicate that the baby is satisfied and has a full tummy are slower suction at the end of the feeding, when the baby spontaneously lets go of the breast or when the baby becomes more relaxed and sleeps on the breast. However, the fact that the baby falls asleep does not always mean that he has breastfed enough, as there are babies who get drowsy during the feeding. Therefore, it is always important for the mother to check whether or not the baby has emptied the breast.
Step 6: Remove the baby from the breast
To remove the baby from the breast, without running the risk of getting hurt, the mother should place her little finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth while he is still breastfeeding, to break the suction vacuum and make the baby let go of the nipple. . Then just remove the baby from the breast.
Step 7: burp the baby
Finally, after the baby is breastfed, it is very important to burp him so that he eliminates the air he swallowed during the feeding and does not sputter. For this, the mother can place the baby on her lap, in a vertical position, leaning on her shoulder and gently pat her on the back. It may be helpful to place a diaper over your shoulder to protect your clothing, as it is common for a little milk to come out when your baby burps.
What is the best time to breastfeed
As for breastfeeding schedules, ideally it should be done on demand, that is, whenever the baby wants. Initially, the baby may need to breastfeed every 1h 30 or 2h during the day and every 3 to 4 hours at night.
Gradually its gastric capacity will increase and it will be possible to hold a greater amount of milk, increasing the time between feedings.
When to stop breastfeeding
Knowing when to stop breastfeeding is a common question for virtually all mothers. The World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding be exclusive until the baby is 6 months old and that it lasts until at least 2 years of age. The mother can stop breastfeeding after this date or wait until the baby decides not to breastfeed anymore.
From 6 months onwards, milk no longer provides the sufficient amount of energy that the baby needs to develop and it is at this stage that new foods are introduced. Around 2 years of age, in addition to the baby already eating practically everything an adult eats, he will also be able to find comfort in situations other than the mother’s breast, which for him initially represents a safe haven.
Important precautions during breastfeeding
The mother should be careful during the breastfeeding period and have healthy lifestyle habits, such as:
- Eat properly, avoiding spicy foods so as not to interfere with the taste of the milk. See what the mother’s diet should be like during pregnancy;
- Avoid alcohol consumption, as it can pass on to the baby, harming its renal system;
- Do not smoke;
- Do moderate physical exercises;
- Wear comfortable clothes and bras that don’t squeeze your breasts;
- Avoid taking medicine.
If the woman becomes ill and has to take some type of medication, she should ask the doctor if she can continue breastfeeding, as there are several medications that are secreted in the milk and that can harm the baby’s development.