Doctors and mothers agree, breastfeeding is the best start you can give your baby. Not only does breastfeeding provide the close contact and bonding that newborns need, it also provides them with vital antibodies which prevent illness. Breastfeeding is increasing in popularity once more, and is something thousands of women do- there’s nothing more natural. People are now encouraged to breastfeed rather than discouraged as they may have been in the 70’s or 80’s, and babies are doing all the better for it.

So what kinds of things do you need to know about breastfeeding? There are lots of interesting facts, and even tips, I’ve learned both from first-hand experience as a mom, and from reading books and websites. The most important thing you need to know is if you’re committed to breastfeeding your baby or not. If you are, you will find it very rewarding even if at times it can be difficult.

The most challenging time of breastfeeding is probably in the beginning; especially if this is your first baby. Most hospitals have lactation coaches that can show you how to properly position your baby, and how their mouth should be placed not just on the nipple, but covering the entire areola. This prevents soreness, and will allow you to feed your baby comfortably. The toughest days for me were when the milk came in and I had to deal with engorgement. My breasts were the size of grapefruits and they hurt a lot. Worse yet, they were so over-full that my son couldn’t latch on and drink. In cases like this, have a breast pump handy; you can express milk and either feed it to them in a bottle, or freeze it for later. Once your breasts are softer again, your baby will be able to latch on and nurse.

The first week is also difficult because breastfeeding causes your uterus to contract. This is a natural occurrence which helps to stop bleeding and shrink your uterus back to size. It is also a very uncomfortable feeling. During this time, you will probably want to take some Tylenol for pain. Tough through it; it’ll only last a week or so- the benefits are worth it to your baby.

Also in the early days, your baby and you are not fully trained, or have the routine down yet. Be patient and don’t give up. My little guy wanted to suck his fingers instead of the breast, and he got really angry if I pulled his fingers away. Soon he realized fingers did not equal food, and he nursed like a champ. I nursed him for eight months total, four with breast milk alone and the other four a mix of cereals, formula, and breast milk. As a result, the first year he barely even got a cold.

Breast milk is the best food, but it needs to be given in frequent doses. Many parents advocate nursing on-demand, and that is what I do. Basically, whenever my son would eat, I would feed him. As a result, he grew into a healthy, active baby with just the right amount of chub. The milk consists of a fore-milk which is more watery, like a drink, and the hind-milk, which is a little hardier, like a meal. It is important to let your baby nurse long enough, and for them to empty a breast-when they are big enough; that way they get the full meal and you don’t get clogged milk ducts.

Breastfeeding on the go is easier than ever now. You can bring a pump with you – either a hand pump, or one of those battery operated ones that come in a duffel – or you can just find someplace private, maybe your car, toss a light blanket over your shoulder, and nurse right there. I’ve nursed my baby lots of times away from home, it’s really not a big deal. Breast milk is great because it’s always there, it’s all-natural, and there’s no preparation. Enjoy breastfeeding your baby, it’s a great time to bond.