Although you can't breastfeed your baby, dads should learn more about breastfeeding so that you can be supportive of your child's breastfeeding mom.
Breast Milk Is Best for Your Baby
Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It is the only food your baby needs during her first six months. A baby is not ready for other foods, except formula, during the first few months of life.
A breastfed baby usually doesn't need water. However, you may give her water if the weather is hot and your home is not air-conditioned. Don't add sugar or honey to the water. Don't give flavored drinks or soda pop to your baby. Don't give fruit juice to a newborn baby.
Breast milk is best for your baby's health. Breastfed babies don't get sick as often, and they usually don't have as many allergies. They may even be smarter! Also, breastfeeding seems to protect mothers from certain types of health problems.
Mothers often find that breast milk is the easiest way to feed their babies. Also, there is no cost.
You don't have to wash and sterilize bottles and nipples when you breastfeed. This leaves more time for other things. Breastfeeding your baby can even help you lose some of the weight you gained when you were pregnant. Breastfeeding can be a pleasing experience for baby and mom.
Breastfeeding Is Natural
Babies need to eat often - every 90 minutes to two hours. Feed your baby when she begins to show signs of hunger, such as rooting or sucking on her lips, fingers or fist. Try to feed her before she cries. Feeding your baby often won't spoil her. It will help you learn to become more aware of your baby's needs.
Don't limit feeding times. Babies need different amounts of food at different times of the day, just as grown people do.
Relax! Take your time. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk you will have. Do not give your baby formula or water. If you do, you will make less milk. If you think you do not have enough milk, nurse more often and nurse longer.
To learn more about breastfeeding, you may want to contact your local health department, WIC clinic, hospital, La Leche league or doctor. You can call La Leche league at 1-800-LALECHE, or visit their Web site at www.lalecheleague.org.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it takes a little time for babies and mothers to learn what works best for them. You may have sore nipples when you first start breastfeeding. The pain can be reduced if your baby is held properly when attached to the breast.
Here are some useful tips:
- Hold your baby's tummy to your tummy, baby's chin to your breast. You can do this sitting or lying down. Hold your breast in a "C-hold," with your thumb on top and fingers underneath. Tickle your baby's lips with your nipple until her mouth opens wide. Quickly bring her onto the breast. Allow the tip of your baby's nose and chin to touch the breast.
- Make sure your baby's mouth covers your entire nipple and much of the darker part around the nipple. Your baby's upper and lower lips should be rolled out. If the lips are not rolled out, break the suction by slipping your finger between the baby's gums and your breast. Then latch the baby on again.
- Offer your baby both breasts at each feeding. Your baby will tell you when she is finished by "falling off" the breast.
- After feeding, rub a few drops of breast milk onto your nipples. Let them air dry. Then cover the nipple with nursing pads, a bra or clothing. This will help keep them from getting too dry.
Your nipples may be tender in the first few days of breastfeeding. This is common. By and large, tenderness goes away once the milk begins to flow. If you have a lot of pain, call a breastfeeding counselor or your doctor. Your doctor or counselor can also help if you have cracked or bleeding nipples. If it doesn't feel right, then it probably isn't right.
If you are out with your baby, you can still breastfeed. You may want to take along a receiving blanket or shawl with which to cover up.
If you have to be away from your baby, you can still give her breast milk. You can withdraw or "express" breast milk by hand or with a breast pump into a sterile container. Then someone else can give it to her in a bottle.
It is important for you to have adequate, high-quality nutrition and drink enough water. You should avoid drugs while breastfeeding unless the doctor specifically tells you to take a certain medication even though you are breastfeeding.
It is unusual for a baby to wean entirely on his own during the first year. But it's not unusual for a baby to take occasional nursing breaks. This is different from weaning. Natural weaning happens over several weeks or months. A nursing break is usually abrupt. Both you and the baby will be unhappy when such a break happens. Try to discover why your baby is unhappy nursing.
- Are you wearing a new perfume?
- Are you using a new soap?
- Are you stressed about work?
- Have you started menstruating again?
- Are you eating a new, spicy food?
- Have you started to smoke?
Some of these involve odors that can confuse your baby. They may make your milk taste different and unappealing. Sometimes a sick or teething baby refuses to breastfeed. When your baby feels miserable, not even nursing takes the hurt away.
There are things you can do to help your baby get back to breastfeeding. Rule out a medical reason for the nursing break. If you can identify something that your baby dislikes, try to change the product or behavior. If you can't identify the cause, try giving your baby more attention. Change your nursing position. Offer to nurse when your baby is relaxed or drowsy. Take some deep breaths before you nurse. Be patient. Most babies will return to their regular routine within a few days.
While your baby is on a nursing break, express your breast milk according to her old nursing routine. This will help prevent uncomfortably full breasts. It will also help maintain your milk supply. Offer your baby breast milk from a cup until she is ready to return to nursing. Milk from a cup will not satisfy her need to suck. This may encourage your baby to return to nursing more quickly.
You can express milk with a mechanical breast pump or your hands. It is easiest to learn to do this from a lactation specialist. Check with your doctor to get the name of someone who can help. As you learn, be patient with yourself. Remember breast milk is the best food you can give your baby.
To learn more about breastfeeding, you may want to contact your local health department, WIC clinic, hospital, La Leche League or doctor. You can call La Leche League at 1-800-LALECHE or visit their Web site at www.lalecheleague.org.
For more information about dads and their baby's first year, get The Everything® Father's First Year Book by Vincent Iannelli, MD, which is published by Adams Media and is now available at your favorite bookstore.
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