You can usually begin breastfeeding your baby within an hour after birth. This provides your baby with colostrum, the first milk your breasts produce. Colostrum contains important factors that help boost the baby's resistance to infection. Breastfeeding also causes your pituitary gland to release oxytocin, a hormone that contracts the uterus and decreases bleeding.
How to Start
Don't be discouraged if it doesn't feel natural to breastfeed at first. It takes some time to find out what will work best for you and your baby. Hold your baby so she can reach the breast easily while nursing. Hold her across your chest, or lie in bed. Your baby should take your nipple fully into her mouth, so her gums cover the areola. She can't suck effectively if your nipple is only slightly drawn into her mouth.
Breastfeeding and Bonding
Breastfeeding is an excellent way to bond with your baby because of the closeness between mother and child established during the feeding process. However, you can bond with your baby in other ways. Studies have shown that carrying your baby close to your body in a slinglike carrier helps the bonding process. It's great because dads can bond this way with baby, too!
Breastfeeding and Allergy Prevention
It's nearly impossible for a baby to become allergic to his mother's breast milk. This is important if there is a history of allergies in your family or your partner's family. The longer a baby breastfeeds, the less likely she is to be exposed to substances that could cause allergic problems.
The greatest disadvantage for many mothers is the fact they are tied to the baby so completely. They must be available when their baby is hungry. Breastfeeding can make other family members feel left out. Mothers who breastfeed must also pay careful attention to their diet, both to get proper nourishment and to avoid foods that pass into their breast milk and cause problems for the baby. Caffeine, alcohol and some medications can pass into breast milk.