The best time time to begin breastfeeding a newborn is immediately following delivery so that the baby receives colostrum, a specialized milk containing antibodies and nutrients, and begins to develop a bond with the mother. The baby should be positioned so that his chest faces the mother's chest. To begin, the mother can brush her nipple against the child's upper lip in order to cause him to open his mouth. Once the mouth is open, the infant can be eased onto the breast, endeavoring to get as much as possible of the areola, the darker part around the nipple, into his mouth so that he is latched on. Newborns should nurse eight to 12 times a day, which is every one-and-a-half to three hours.
The mother should learn to recognize the early indications of hunger, such as mouthing or lip puckering and rooting. Breastfeeding a newborn should be initiated before he exhibits the later stage signs of hunger, such as crying. During the first days of life, the infant may need to be gently awakened for a feeding. To ensure he gets enough milk, he should be roused if four hours have elapsed since the last nursing. Frequent feedings not only provide nourishment for the baby, but help increase the production of milk in the mother.
Experts recommend alternating the breasts in feedings throughout the day in order to prevent engorgement and to maintain a steady supply of milk. Newborns may require five- to 15-minute sessions on each breast before satiation is experienced. Some specialists advocate breastfeeding a newborn using only one breast per feeding, and switching breasts with each nursing session in order to ensure the baby receives hindmilk. The baby first receives foremilk, which is more watery and is meant to quench the baby's thirst. As the breast empties, the baby will receive the hindmilk, which is creamier and contains a larger amount of fat.
Breastfeeding a baby can take time, so the mother should select a comfortable location and find a position that doesn't strain her back. If a sitting position is preferred, a nursing pillow might provide support for the baby. Some experimentation may be required in order to find the position that works best for both mother and child. A nurse or lactation consultant might be helpful if the baby has difficulty latching. Breastfeeding should never be painful; discomfort experienced by the mother or sore nipples are a sign that the baby is not latching properly.
Indications that a baby is receiving enough nourishment include contentment after feedings, regular bowel movements, weight gain, and at least four wet diapers per day. Signs that the infant is not eating enough include fussiness, a lack of weight gain, a lack of several stools or wet diapers per day, and a lack of contentment following nursing. A mother should consult a doctor or lactation consultant if any problems persist in breastfeeding a newborn.