Breast feeding is the most natural and simple means of feeding your baby in the early months. It also gives the baby some protection from disease and aids the mother's recovery from childbirth (the uterus often contracts with nursing). Before nursing you may want to rinse the nipples with plain water avoiding soap or alcohol. Sometimes you may need to encourage your baby to nurse by gently stroking his cheek with the nipple; he will turn his head to hunt for it. Colostrum is present right after birth and is sufficient nourishment for the newborn until the milk comes in, usually the third day after birth. Many newborns nurse frequently the first several days after birth, but once the breast milk is established, most babies will nurse on a two to four hour schedule. Babies should be allowed to nurse as long as they want to up to 40 minutes per feeding.
If the nipples are painful, sometimes air exposure or an application of breast cream such as hydrous lanolin may be helpful. If this doesn't help, please contact our office or your obstetrician's office since the baby's nursing technique may be leading to sore nipples. Breast fed infants may occasionally be given a bottle containing breast milk, formula or water so that they will learn early to accept a bottle should it ever become necessary. It is a good idea to wait at least two weeks before giving a bottle; sometimes early use of the bottle interferes with establishing breast feeding. Breast milk can be expressed and refrigerated in clean bottles for up to three days and frozen for up to six months. Breast feeding mothers should eat a well balanced diet and drink lots of water. Avoid alcohol or excessive caffeine chocolate, and for some mothers, spicy foods. Any medication taken while breast feeding should be approved by a doctor. When to wean off the breast is an individual matter. If weaning occurs before 12 months we recommend offering an infant formula. Beyond 12 months of age, we suggest the baby be weaned to whole milk. Some parents may wish to avoid the bottle entirely and wean the baby to a cup at 9 to 12 months of age.