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When it's time for you to have your baby, your body will work extra hard to do this. Nurses and a doctor or midwife will help you. Your partner or labor coach can also help. Your body will do most of the work naturally, by having contractions. The muscles of your uterus squeeze in a powerful way. In your childbirth classes, you'll learn how to breathe during contractions. These special ways of breathing will help you get through the pain. For most women, labor takes about 6 to 12 hours for the first child. It takes about 4 to 8 hours for later births. Labor happens in three stages.
Stage 1 During the first stage, contractions help open the entrance to the birth canal. Each contraction lasts up to 90 seconds. The contractions can be as much as 15 minutes apart. You'll have time to rest between them. Most women spend the early part of labor at home. Once labor begins, don't eat much solid food. You can eat light foods for energy. Fruit juices, clear soup, and gelatin are all good choices. As the first stage of labor passes, the amount of time between the contractions becomes shorter. When the contractions are five minutes apart, it's time to call your doctor or nurse. You'll probably have to go to the hospital. When you're in the hospital, you can ask to be given medicine if the pain is too much. Important: If your labor begins three weeks or more before your baby is due, go to the hospital right away. The doctor may try to stop the contractions to give the baby more time to keep growing inside you.
Stage 2 The contractions will become even stronger and closer together during this stage. They'll come about every 2 to 5 minutes and can last about 60 to 90 seconds. The contractions will hurt more during this stage. It may feel as if you need to have a bowel movement. But don't try to push until the doctor tells you it's time. If your cervix isn't open, your baby isn't ready to come out. After your cervix is open all the way, pushing will help the baby move down the birth canal. Your baby's birth is the last part of Stage 2 -and it's usually the fastest part. Your baby's head will begin to show. Sometimes the doctor makes a small cut in the opening of the birth canal. This give the baby more room. You'll give some long, strong pushes. The doctor or nurse will help your baby come out. The doctor will clean out your baby's nose and mouth. Then he will clamp the umbilical cord. Baby will take it's first breath and may cry. The doctor may put the baby on your stomach or in your arms. Don't worry if your baby doesn't look human at first. Baby may look a little blue and be covered in blood. Baby's head may look squashed but should return to a normal shape and eventually look human.
Stage 3 Labor isn't over when your baby is born. A few more contractions are needed to push out the placenta, or afterbirth. Usually it comes out a few minutes after the baby is born. Your nurses will check you carefully for many hours after delivery. They will push hard on your belly to make sure your uterus is shrinking back to normal. They will also check to see how much you're bleeding. Your uterus will go back to its normal size in about six weeks. If you breastfeed, it will happen even faster.
Breast milk (human milk) is the best food for your baby. Here is information that you need to know to begin breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a very special, natural way to nourish and protect your baby. Another name for breastfeeding is nursing. There are many important ways it helps both you and your baby.
Good for baby
Human milk contains all the food a baby needs during baby's first six months of life. In fact, a baby won't need any other type of food during that time. How inexpensive is that? Human milk is easy for baby to digest and helps protect against infections. Babies can be allergic to artificial baby milk (formula) or other milks but are never allergic to mother's milk.
Breastfeeding also gives comfort to your baby, and it helps him to feel more secure and loved.
Good for you
Breastfeeding lets you feel close to your baby. Because it takes lots of energy for your body to produce milk, breastfeeding helps you lose weight. It helps return your uterus to normal. Also, if you breastfeed, you don't have to wash bottles (unless you pump your breast milk) or go to the kitchen in the middle of the night to prepare a bottle of articial baby milk.
Here are answers to a number of questions future mothers most often ask about breastfeeding.
Is breastfeeding easy?
Breastfeeding may be the natural simple way to feed a new born but it isn't necessarily easy. In our society where the artificial baby milk industry has taken it upon itself to dominate the newborn nutrition market, breastfeeding knowledge isn't as commonplace as it should be. Sometimes it takes a little while for a mother and her baby to feel comfortable breastfeeding. You and your baby need time to get to know each other. That's why it's good to start nursing when you're still in the hospital. A nurse or lactation consultant can help you get off to a good start. They can show you what to do if you have a problem.
What's the best way to begin breastfeeding?
Let the doctors and hospital staff know that you wish to breastfeed your baby. Many artificial baby milk companies have taken steps to ensure that nearly all newborns have access to formula, so be sure the hospital staff knows you wish to breastfeed. That way, they can help you begin nursing while you're still in the delivery room.
Mothers have found that keeping their babies with them in their hospital rooms makes breastfeeding easier, as they can see right away that their babies want to nurse. If baby is making sucking sounds or trying to bring baby's hands to face, these are signs that baby is ready to feed. ( Crying is a late sign that baby wants to nurse).
Tell the nurse not feed your baby formula or othe liquids. If the medical staff gives baby a bottle with artificial baby milk, baby may not be hungry enough when you try to feed her. Then baby may not be as interested in breastfeeding.
It's best to feed your baby any time baby is hungry. Babies know how much they need. Nursing soon after your baby is born will help your milk come in faster. Most babies are ready to nurse within the first hour after birth.
Do I need anything special if I'm going to breastfeed my baby?
One good thing about breastfeeding is that you don't need any bottles, artificial baby milk, or other special items. If you decide to pump your milk then you will need some equipment. The most important thing to you need for nursing is a comfortable chair with arms. Rest your feet on a stool and put a pillow on your lap to help raise your baby to your breast. You might also want to get a few nursing bras. These bras have special flaps that fold down to make nursing easier.
If your breasts leak in between feeding, you can buy nursing pads to put inside your bra. The pads keep your clothes from getting wet.
Does breastfeeding hurt?
Nursing your baby should not be painful. For the first few days, your nipples may be tender. Don't give up. In a few days, they will feel better. To soothe them, you can put on some cream after feeding or you can use your breastmilk as an all natural cream. Ask your doctor what you can use. Also, let your nipples air dry after you breastfeed. Only water is needed to wash the nipples and breasts. Soap can make the skin dry out and make nipples hurt more.
If your nipples are still sore after a few days, your baby might not be sucking the way he should.
Newborns need to nurse every 2 to 3 hours, and nursing frequently keeps your breasts from getting too full, which can be uncomfortable. If your breasts do become too full, the baby may not be able to latch on properly. A nurse or lactation consultant can show you how to let a little milk out. Later on, if you're uncomfortable between feedings, put cold packs on your breasts to ease the discomfort. In a few days, your body will start to make just the right amount of milk. Call your doctor if your breast has red streaks or if you have a fever.
Will I have milk right away?
You'll be able to feed your baby right away. The first milk that comes from your breasts is called colostrum. It's thick and yellow and very good for a newborn baby. In a few days, your milk will come in.
Your baby may not seem to be very interested in eating for the first few days. Don't worry. This is normal. Soon he should begin to nurse regularly.
How can I be sure that I'll have enough milk
Don't worry. Every time you nurse, your body makes more milk. If your baby nurses a lot, your body wil lmake a lot of milk. That's why it's important to feed your baby every time she's hungry.
Do I have to eat any special foods
Just continue to eat the same kinds of healthy meals you ate when you were pregnant. Drink lots of liquids. Every time you sit down to nurse your baby, set out a glass of water next to you so you remember to drink.
How can baby's father help?
Dad can bring the baby to you when it's time for a feeding. A father can feel close to his baby by helping with other things, too. He can burp, bathe, calm, play with baby, and change diapers. You can handle the feeding, he can handle the pooping. Let him know you want his help. When a father pitches in, he gets to know his baby better and learns to love baby even more.
What if I have trouble nursing?
Many people can help you. Ask. Other mothers who have previously breastfed or are currently breastfeeding can give you some good advice on what has worked for them. A group called La Leche League helps mother with breastfeeding. If you call their toll free number, 1 800 525 3243, they will answer your questions. Their website, www.laleche.org, also provides helpful information. They can also help find other nursing mothers for you to talk to. You can also ask your doctor for the name of a lactation consultant. When you breastfeed your baby, you're giving baby a healthy start in life. You should be proud.
When should I stop nursing?
The longer you nurse, the more your baby will benefit. Most doctors think that babies should nurse for at least 12 months. But for some women, that isn't always possible. Even a few months of breastfeeding is good for you and your baby. Your doctor can help you figure out what's best.
If you must be away from your baby, you can provide expressed breast milk. A lactation consultant or La Leche League leader can help you get a breat pump and can show you how to use it.
Babies should drink breast milk or iron-fortified artificial baby milk in the first year. If you decide to stop nursing, never give baby cow's milk during this time. If you aren't sure which artificial baby milk to use, ask your baby's doctor. Talk to your doctor about how to switch your baby from breast milk to artificial baby milk. It will be better for both of you if you make the change slowly, over a period of a few weeks, rather than all at once.