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Elena Donovan Mauer

4 Things To Do Right Away To Make Breastfeeding Easier

Even if you took a breastfeeding class, you're still in uncharted territory. So now that baby’s here, the key to making it less overwhelming is getting off on the right foot.

Take off your shirt

“Get lots of  skin-to-skin contact with baby,” says Gina Ciagne, a certified lactation consultant and VP of Healthcare Relations for Lansinoh. “This helps you establish your connection with baby, regulates his or her body temperature and helps him or her get acquainted with the outside world.”

We’re not saying you have to be topless for the next few days, but it is important to have baby close to his or her food source as much as possible. So a bedside bassinet is a good idea for setting up lines for clear communication. “Feed early and often,” says Ciagne. “Those early feedings are baby’s immune boosters. Keeping baby in the room with you helps you learn his or her hunger cry, and frequent feedings teach your body how much milk to make and how often baby needs it.”

Lean back (seriously)

Even if you’ve studied the most common breastfeeding positions, you might not know that the best one for new moms is often the “laid-back” position, according to Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, author of Breastfeeding Made Simple and creator of the Breastfeeding Solutions app. “Babies know what to do when mom’s in a semi-reclined position—they’re like a GPS, easily finding the milk,” she says. “And it’s easier for them to get latched more deeply, which can prevent soreness and pain.”

So sit in the recliner or use a ton of throw pillows to prop yourself in a comfortable position, or if you’re still in the hospital, make use of the bed’s oh-so-upscale reclining feature, and lie back but not completely flat. Then hold baby tummy-down toward you to nurse. “Some of the other positions make early breastfeeding much more difficult than it needs to be,” says Mohrbacher. “They create a gap between mom and baby, which can cause a lot of problems.”

Don’t even look at the clock

Yep, you read that right. Thought you were supposed to time each and every feeding and write down detailed notes about how it went? That will just stress you out in the beginning, Mohrbacher says. All you should really do for now is make a tally mark for each time he or she’s fed and for each dirty diaper, she notes. “As long as baby’s feeding 8 to 10 times a day and has at least three or four poops the size of a quarter or larger, baby’s getting enough milk.” Young babies tend to  cluster feed in the beginning, so don’t worry about spacing out his or her feeding every three hours. Your baby might sleep four to five hours in a row and then want to nurse once an hour for the next four hours—just go with it. Notice his or her hunger cues—if baby’s sucking on his or her hands, smacking his or her lips or looking for your boob, feed him or her, and don’t get worked up about how long (or short) it’s been since the last feeding.

Have a check-in

Even if it seems to be going okay, use that “call nurse” button at the hospital, have a lactation consultation or call a friend who breastfed to come in and check on you. One of the hardest things in the early days is getting the latch right, and if you do it repeatedly incorrectly, you could have some serious pain (ouch!) and baby might not learn to nurse efficiently. “Don’t be afraid to ask a question,” says Ciagne. “A simple issue can easily turn complex.”

PHOTO: Monashee Alonso / Getty Images