Relax: Breastfeeding is not going to be the easiest thing you have ever done in life.  It takes time, patience and persistence.  In the first few days of life, you and your baby are spending time getting to know each other.  Both of you are learning how to do something new.  I find that a lot of moms are very stressed about making breastfeeding work and this hinders success.  There are many people who can help you while at the hospital and even after discharge.  WakeMed hosts a wonderful breastfeeding preparedness class designed specifically for pregnant women who are planning to breastfeed.

Water, Water, Water:  I cannot stress this fact enough.  If you are not hydrated enough, your body is not going to have the fluid necessary to produce breast milk.  A good rule of thumb is that you will need six 8 ounce glasses of water a day for you and and additional 2 ounces of water for every 1 ounce of breastmilk you produce.

Nurse frequently:  I recommend nursing at least every 3 hours in the first few days of life.  This will help to stimulate production of breastmilk.  The amount of milk you produce is directly related to the amount of time the baby spends at the breast.  There are a few medications that can help if you are worried that you are not producing enough, but nursing frequently is the best way to increase production.  Conversely, some patients have trouble with too much supply, which can be addressed with various techniques and a few medications. 

Get a good latch:  The pigmented area of the breast (the areola) should be completely in the baby’s mouth.  A common mistake is that  only the very small portion of the nipple is in the baby’s mouth and this can cause a great deal of discomfort for the nipples.

Pump:  For those of you who need to go back to work after your maternity leave and even those who don’t, breast pumping is an option.  If you choose to pump, your baby can still get all the benefits of breastmilk and someone else can help with the feeding.  Pumped breastmilk can also be frozen and then thawed for use later.  You can even donate your breastmilk to the WakeMed milk bank if you have more than your baby needs.  This donated milk is then used for our smallest babies fighting to gain weight in the Neonatal ICU.