According to the FDA, the following advice should help make breastfeeding a pleasant experience for a mother and her baby.
1. Get an early start
Nursing should begin within an hour after delivery if possible, when an infant is awake and the sucking instinct is strong. Even though you are not producing milk yet, your breasts contain colostrum, a thin fluid containing antibodies to disease. It is not uncommon to feel uterine cramping when you start to breastfeed. This cramping lessens with time.
2. Proper positioning
The baby's mouth should be wide open with the nipple as far back into his or her mouth as possible. The newborn’s mouth needs to surround as much of the dark area around your nipple as he/she can. This minimizes breast soreness. There are many resources such as nurses, lactation consultants and clinical specialists, to help you find a comfortable nursing position.
3. Nurse on demand
Newborns need to nurse frequently, at least every two hours, and not on any strict schedule. This will stimulate your breasts to produce plenty of milk. Later, the baby will settle into a more predictable routine. Because breast milk is more easily digested than formula, breastfed babies often eat more frequently than bottle fed babies.
4. No supplements
Nursing babies don't need sugar water or formula supplements. These may interfere with their appetite for nursing, which can lead to a diminished milk supply. The more the baby nurses, the more milk the mother will produce.
5. Delay artificial nipples
It's best to wait a week or two before introducing a pacifier, so that the baby doesn't get confused. Artificial nipples require a different sucking action than real ones. Sucking a bottle could also confuse some babies in the early days. They, too, are learning how to breast feed.
6. Air dry
In the early postpartum period or until your nipples toughen, you should air dry them after nursing to prevent cracking, which can lead to infection. If your nipples do crack, you can coat them with breast milk or other natural moisturizers to help them heal; vitamin E oil and lanolin are commonly used, although some babies may have allergic reactions to them. Proper positioning at the breast can help prevent sore nipples. The baby may not have the nipple far enough back in his or her mouth if the mother's nipples become very sore.
7. Watch for infection
Symptoms of breast infection include fever, painful lumps and redness in the breast. These require immediate medical attention.
8. Expect engorgement
A new mother usually produces lots of milk, making her breasts big, hard and painful for a few days. To relieve this engorgement, you should feed the baby frequently and on demand until your body adjusts and produces only what the baby needs. In the meantime, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers, and apply ice or cold compresses to your breasts to relieve the discomfort.
9. Eat right, get rest
To produce plenty of good milk, the nursing mother needs a balanced diet that includes 500 extra calories a day and six to eight glasses of water in addition to other fluids. You should rest as much as possible to prevent breast infections, which are aggravated by fatigue.
10. Take proper care of your breasts
During pregnancy, you can toughen your nipples for breastfeeding by rubbing a towel briskly over your nipples for a few seconds following your shower or bath. Also, be sure to wear a bra that provides support. Your breasts will get larger with breastfeeding so before delivery, buy a couple of nursing bras that allow room for growth.
Wash your breasts with warm water only. Soaps, lotions, and alcohol are not necessary, may be drying and irritating, and should not be used. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for 6-12 months. The only acceptable alternative to breast milk is infant formula. Solid foods can be introduced when the baby is 4-6 months old, but a baby should drink breast milk or formula, not cow's milk, for a full year (difficult to digest and does not provide adequate nutrition for a developing baby).