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The First Weeks of Breastfeeding

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If my own experience is typical of others, you no doubt felt frightened and insecure upon first arriving home after delivery. I brought my fifth baby home at twenty-eight hours, which was considered "early discharge" at the time, but is routine by today's standards. Despite being a fully trained pediatrician and an experienced mother, I recall becoming worried and upset several hours later. My baby was beginning to look jaundiced and I realized he hadn't urinated since earlier that morning. Why had I insisted on leaving the hospital so early? I was tired and overwhelmed with four other excited children between two and seven years of age. I could have used a word of encouragement and a second opinion from an experienced nurse right about that time. Suddenly, I wished I had stayed in the hospital longer or could check myself back in.

Fortunately, my baby awoke a short time later, nursed well, and wet his diaper. I decided he didn't look very jaundiced after all, and I could tell my milk was starting to increase. While my own anxiety quickly subsided, I tried to put myself in the place of less experienced parents who might face a more prolonged period of insecurity after leaving the hospital. This chapter is devoted to giving you the information you need to remain confident about breastfeeding once you're on your own at home and to set the stage for the long-term success you desire and deserve.

Home Alone with Your Breastfed Infant
Your first days and weeks at home with your new baby are a precious, yet precarious, time. You'll probably alternate between feeling confident and overwhelmed, overjoyed and anxious, exhilarated and exhausted. Initially, learning to care for and getting to know your baby is a full-time job. Breastfeeding will consume the most hours in your day, and will be the most intimate and, if all goes well, the most satisfying aspect of new motherhood. Getting breastfeeding off on the right foot is one of the most important things you can do to smooth your adjustment to new parenthood.

Make Nursing Convenient and Comfortable
At first, most of your nursings will probably occur in a few specially chosen locations around the house, such as your bed, the living room sofa, or a rocker in the baby's nursery. While you and your infant are learning the art of breastfeeding, a convenient and comfortable location is important. For first-time mothers, privacy may be a priority, while those with small children often prefer a central location. Eventually, you'll find you can nurse with ease almost anywhere. In the beginning, however, the setting for your nursing stations, or nursing nooks, can make a big difference. Plan to have several pillows and cushions, as well as a footstool, on hand.

To simplify your duties during the first few weeks, keep a supply of clean diapers, infant wipes, and extra infant clothing on a table nearby, so you can feed and change your baby without having to leave your nursing corner. You also will want to stock your area with some enjoyable reading materials for leisurely nursings. (Yes, you eventually will be able to breastfeed without feeling like you need a third hand.) If you have older children, fill a basket or box with a few favorite toys and storybooks to occupy them in your presence while you nurse. Finally, keep a tall glass of water or a filled sports bottle handy to allow you to sip fluids while you breastfeed.

Despite all the effort that went into the preparation of your baby's nursery, she'll probably be more content in a bassinet at your bedside during the early weeks at home. Night feedings will be less disruptive if you can just reach over and bring your baby into bed to nurse. I found a large overstuffed reading pillow with armrests to be a godsend. I kept the cushion propped against my headboard and just sat up in bed and leaned back against it while I nursed in the middle of the night, half-asleep. With a stack of diapers on the nightstand, I could change my baby, often without getting out of bed, and return him or her to the bassinet with minimal fanfare.



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From Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding by Marianne R. Neifert. Copyright © 1998 by Marianne R. Neifert. Used by arrangement with Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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