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If you are considering breastfeeding your new baby, congratulations! For many new families, breastfeeding proves to be a wonderful parenting experience. To increase the chances of success, try some of the following suggestions.

Breastfeed your newborn early and frequently. The newborn is typically in an alert state that lasts one to four hours after birth. This provides a great opportunity for the first feeding. During the first few days, offer the breast every one-and-a-half to three hours during the day and let the baby wake you at night. Look for baby's feeding cues, such as rooting and sucking, and offer the breast before the baby demands to be fed by crying.

Most babies in the first few weeks will breastfeed at least eight to 12 times per 24 hours. Offer both breasts at each feeding starting with the side that you left off on. Expect your baby to nurse for up to 15 minutes on each side. Do not be concerned if the baby does not always nurse from the second breast. Early and frequent breastfeeding helps to establish a good milk supply and helps prevent newborn jaundice.

Once your milk comes in, you will know that your baby is getting enough breastmilk if there are six to eight wet diapers per 24 hours and baby seems content after most feedings.

Don’t panic if the baby is losing weight. It is not unusual for newborns to lose up to eight percent of their birth weight. Your early visits with your baby's health care provider will provide reassurance that baby has regained to birth weight by two weeks of age. Within the first few months, expect a weight gain of five to eight ounces per week. Adequate weight gain and plenty of wet diapers are signs that the baby is getting plenty of nourishing breastmilk.

Proper positioning of your baby is key to preventing soreness. Breastfeeding should not be painful! By properly positioning your infant at the breast, soreness can almost always be prevented. A good breastfeeding book will offer illustrations showing how to properly position the infant at the breast. If soreness persists despite proper positioning, call a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding expert for help. Sometimes a simple suggestion can make all the difference in the world.

Take a breastfeeding class towards the end of your pregnancy. Some babies seem to catch on right away to breastfeeding, while others need a little coaching. A prenatal breastfeeding class provides an opportunity to learn some important points for getting through the first few weeks.

In addition, it is helpful to listen to the questions that other expectant parents have. Mary Washington Hospital offers two such classes each month. Call 540-741-1404 or 800-722-2788 for more information.

If you have questions, ask! You will receive breastfeeding assistance when you deliver at the hospital. Most mothers will continue to have breastfeeding questions as the baby grows .The Fredericksburg area has many resources available for breastfeeding mothers.

You may contact your health care provider, the Rappahannock Area Breastfeeding Task Force, La Leche League, or go to a Mothers and Babies Support Group. By asking questions and receiving help early, your breastfeeding experience is likely to become a treasured memory of time spent with your baby.

Originally published in Fredericksburg Parent and Family Magazine January/February 2000

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Village Fathers

Village Fathers is a fatherhood education program and support group sponsored by Healthy Families Rappahannock Area. Its goal is to help fathers improve their parenting skills by promoting healthy and positive attitudes towards fatherhood and parenting.

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