Top tips for successful breastfeeding and preventing mastitis and other breastfeeding problems
Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth
Most babies are alert and eager to feed within an hour or so of being born, and early skin-to-skin contact is great for bonding. Let your birth team know that you plan to breastfeed so they can assist you after the birth.
Besides helping both of you adjust to breastfeeding, frequent feeding in the early days helps your milk to come in faster. Feeding regularly, and at the first signs your baby is hungry, will help prevent the build-up of milk in your breasts. Restricted milk flow or a blocked duct in the breast can cause mastitis.
Ask for help and support
Ask for help from your doctor, midwife, nurse, or lactation consultant – even during your hospital stay - to make sure your baby is latching on and feeding correctly. Women who ask for help and/or have support and encouragement from family and friends to breastfeed will usually be more successful. Having an early grasp on breastfeeding, and seeking help, can help prevent mastitis and other potential breastfeeding problems.
Breastfeed on demand
Feed as often, and for as long, as your baby wants, both day and night. This may be every 1 to 3 hours at first. Leaving long gaps between feedings may lead to a build-up of milk in your breast, which can cause breast pain. See our tips for the first days of breastfeeding.
Don’t cut feedings short
Let your baby completely empty one breast before switching to the other if they’re still hungry. Your baby will release your nipple when they have had enough. When you feed next, start with your other breast (one trick is to use a rubber band on your wrist to remind you which side to feed your baby next!).
Ensure mom’s health
To support successful breastfeeding, it’s important to ensure that you are getting the right nutrients, adequate hydration, and good rest. Eat regularly, including protein-rich foods, whole grains, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You also may need to eat more than usual (approximately an additional 330-400 calories extra per day) in order maintain enough energy to breastfeed. Experts also recommend continuing to take your prenatal multivitamin for nutritional support for as long as breastfeeding continues. Learn more about a healthy diet for nursing mothers.
Avoid pressure on your breasts
Excess pressure on your breasts may slow or stop milk flow and lead to plugged ducts, which can lead to mastitis. Some things that cause pressure and are associated with plugged ducts are:
- sleeping on one side or on your stomach
- carrying a heavy purse or baby sling on one side
- wearing an underwired, ill-fitting, or too-tight bra
Look out for early mastitis warning signs
Check your breasts regularly for any early signs of mastitis. Signs of mastitis may include:
- sore or damaged nipples
- very heavy, swollen breasts
- lumps on the nipple that could mean a blocked duct
If you have any of these symptoms, try to get as much rest as possible, continue to breastfeed regularly from the affected breast, and gently massage any lumps. Warm compresses applied to the tender area may also help. Speak to your healthcare provider if you are feeling ill or symptoms are not gone by the next day.
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