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Breastfeeding basics


The moment a pregnancy test turns positive, every new mother dreams of the day she will welcome this precious new life into the world and brings with it the joys (and fears) of parenthood. An important question to start thinking about is how do you plan to feed your baby? Will you breastfeed or opt for high-quality formula? In honor of World Breastfeeding Month, we hope these tips will help you make the decision to breastfeed.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that breast milk contains antibodies, hormones, and essential nutrients for healthy growth. Breast milk is a great option when deciding how your baby will be fed, but what can a new mother really expect those first few days postpartum? Negativity abounds on the internet in terms of breastfeeding horror stories, but it's hard to decipher between fact and fiction? What can parents do to set themselves up for a successful breastfeeding relationship?

Linda Jackson, Perinatal Education and Lactation Services Coordinator for Methodist Dallas Medical Centerencourages new mothers choosing to breastfeed to keep these five tips in mind as they begin to tread these instinctual, yet unfamiliar waters:

  • Skin-to-skin is the first step to success.

Following a typical vaginal birth the baby will be placed directly onto the mother's chest to begin skin-to-skin contact. This produces oxytocin in the mother's brain, encouraging milk production as well as relaxing the mother's body. However, immediate skin-to-skin contact is not available in all birthing situations. Any and all skin-to-skin time is beneficial and aids in creating a strong bond. The first few days after delivery, place your baby naked on your chest to prompt nursing. This will encourage your sleepy newborn to wake and eat when they feel the need.

  • Trust your instincts.

Linda says one of the biggest obstacles to overcome can be a new mother not believing in herself and her own abilities. No matter how challenging it can be at first, remember, a woman's body was designed to breastfeed and keeping positive thoughts at the forefront of the mother's mind can make all the difference.

  • Research and use the resources offered by the hospital.

Before delivery, discuss feeding options with your doctor and other trusted healthcare professionals, such as lactation support services through your hospital. Don't hesitate to ask for direction as you make important decisions in the future care of your baby. Three out of four Methodist Health System Hospitals are designated Texas Ten Step facilities and Methodist Dallas was the first hospital in Dallas County designated as a Baby Friendly Hospital, an World Health Organization initiative that promotes breastfeeding. The Texas Ten Step Program is a collaborative effort developed by the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Hospital Association that provides policy development and education for hospitals to give mothers the in-hospital support they need to establish solid breastfeeding practices. These facilities also offer continuing lactation support once mothers are discharged. Each Methodist hospital offers a lactation help line to encourage and answer questions. If breastfeeding hurts or is painfully uncomfortable, do not hesitate to ask for help. Your hospital is a part of your support system and we are here to help you and your baby thrive.

  • Good positioning and latch are the key to maintaining

Any breastfeeding mom will get free lactation consultations in the hospital. That hands-on help will be worth your weight in "liquid gold", so don't hesitate to ask any question. Latching is not always easy, so the lactation consultants will work with you and your baby to find the best latch. Once a latch is consistently achieved without assistance, read baby's hunger cues (e.g. smacking or licking lips, opening and closing mouth, sucking on a finger when offered) to know when to feed. Applying the skills learned from those first few days will help maintain your breastfeeding relationship until both you and your baby decide to wean.

  • Above all else: surround yourself with support.

Surrounding yourself with positive people when it comes to breastfeeding and caring for your baby is one of the most important components of breastfeeding, according to Linda. It truly takes a village and a successful breastfeeding relationship is a team effort. Bring your partner to breastfeeding class, educate those closest to you about your feeding choices and what they can do to help meet your goals.

Someday soon you will meet this tiny member of your family. As you embark on this new phase of parenthood, know that with the right support, help, and planning, you and your baby will have a thriving feeding relationship together.

All four Methodist hospitals offer childbirth and breastfeeding classes to help you feel prepared for when your baby arrives. Click here to see the schedule of classes.