Introducing your baby to the breast can be a deceptively difficult thing for many mothers. Whether you have been experiencing a low flow, your milk seems to disagree with you baby or due to prematurity your baby was introduced to the bottle before the breast, some mothers have a difficult time convincing their little one to give breastfeeding a try. There are a few little tips I have for moms to help babies overcome their mammary shyness. Of course there are times when nothing can convince a baby to take to the breast, (or the breast to produce milk) but thanks to all of the wonderful advances in formula, babies who are not breast fed are still able to grow and develop just fine. For those moms who want to, and are able to, breast feed but are hitting a rough spot at the very beginning, I wish you luck and I hope my tips can help.
1. Offer your baby breast milk in a bottle if they initially reject the breast.
If your newborn rejects the breast on your first try, don't automatically give up and substitute formula. Pump every 2 hours for 15 minutes at minimum, holding your baby skin-to-skin to stimulate flow, and add as much of your own milk to the feeds as possible. Having your baby on you while pumping helps associate the smell of milk with you, an association that is important to have in place if you want to avoid future rejections.
2. Moisten a small clean cloth with breast milk and wipe out your baby's mouth after feeds.
Even if your baby is being supplemented with formula, you want the lingering taste in their mouth to be your breast milk. Leaving the cloth near your baby between feeds will also familiarize your baby with the smell, and reinforce a positive association.
3. Experiment with different nursing positions.
For many babies, especially premature babies, the problem of reflux is very real, but undiagnosed. The most common nursing holds for babies are completely horizontal, this can cause a great deal of discomfort in a baby with reflux, the signs of which (arching of the back, tightly closing the mouth, crying out in short high pitched cries and gagging) can look very much like breast rejection to a new mother. Bottle feeding naturally lends itself to an incline, and when new mothers see that their baby willingly takes the bottle, they can easily come to the conclusion that their baby would rather have it than the breast. Sometimes this is in fact the case, but just to be sure, I recommend that moms do try an inclined nursing position before deciding on primarily using the bottle.
4. Use a nipple-shield to reintroduce the breast to your baby.
If your baby has had a few feedings by bottle because they just weren't taking to the breast right away, or because your milk supply took a little longer to kick in, don't just try to give them your breast without the plastic barrier. The nipple shield helps regulate your milk flow to more closely resemble a bottles, and the texture is consistent with a bottle nipple, these elements, along with the fact that a nipple shield makes extracting the milk from your breast a little bit easier, makes the nipple shield a great way to gradually reintroduce the breast. After your baby is consistently nursing with the nipple shield in place, you can start removing it toward the end of the nursing, and letting your baby try recreational bare skin nursing for a while. As soon as your baby takes the nipple bare with no resistance, you can begin trying the feedings without the nipple shield at all.
5. Use your pinkie as a pacifier until your baby is using the breast for feeds.
The warm real feel of skin is just not able to be completely duplicated by pacifier producers, and the comfort provided by pacifier use can cause resistance to the texture of your nipple. Using your finger both will trigger your own chemistry to produce more milk, and give your baby a realistic association of texture with comfort. Make sure your fingernails and any hang nails are trimmed off as far as they'll go, and use an emery board to round off any hard edges for safety. Keep your finger very clean, wash it between every use. Place the pad of your pinkie (or larger finger if your baby seems unsatisfied with the pinkie), on the roof of your baby's mouth, nail-side down, against the tongue. Every baby I've tried this with over the years has found it very soothing, and I recommend it often. Since you may want your baby to be soothed without your needing to stand there with your finger in their mouth eventually, as soon as your baby is taking all feeds from the breast feel free to substitute an actual pacifier for your finger.
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