One of the many challenges that a new mom has to face after childbirth is getting used to breastfeeding. Even though it's the most natural process, breastfeeding is no easy feat. No matter how much you have searched and read about it – or prepared for it, breastfeeding can throw several surprises at you.

But remember that breastfeeding is a new experience for both the mom and baby. So, the early weeks can be a bit of a struggle. But once you get the hang of it, it gets simpler. Some may have to struggle to get the right feeding position, while others may find the latching on a painful process. Let's address these concern here to help make breastfeeding a better experience – for both mom and baby.

When is the right time to start breastfeeding?

Immediately! You can start breastfeeding the moment your baby is in your arms. After child birth, the mammary gland secretes a special milk, also called the first milk or colostrums. This is loaded with antibodies and all essential nutrients that help babies fight infections.

How often should you feed your baby?

It is normal for babies to feel hungry every three hours. Yet, there are several babies who may require feeding at shorter intervals than this. The general rule is to feed the baby on demand. This may go up to 8-12 times a day. However, these changes as and when baby goes through growth spurts – which is around 3-6 weeks and again at 3 months and 6 months.

What's the best position for breastfeeding?

There are many ways you could hold your baby while breastfeeding. You can choose what works for both of you. But do keep in mind, whatever position you decide, it should be easy on both you and the baby, without hurting or training the baby.

The cradle and football positions are quite common. In the former, the baby head is in the crook of your elbow while your forearm supports baby's back, the palm supports the bottom. The latter is a good position for mothers recovering from a caesarean. Here, the baby is tucked under your arm like a football and the head rests in the palm.

You can also consider feeding your baby while lying down.

Should I follow a special diet?

A breastfeeding mother needs all the extra calcium she can get along with a well-balanced, nutritional diet. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products like milk and cheese, bread, meat and whole grain cereals. It's also important to drink lots of fluids to keep up the energy levels.

Apart from dairy products – foods like broccoli, sesame seeds and kale good sources of calcium.

It is common for a breastfeeding mother to feel hungry often. So there is no harm in snacking regularly, as long as you're making healthy choices. Typically a breastfeeding mother needs about 300-500 calories more than usual. So it is important to keep this count as a drop in calories that could affect your milk supply.

Is there anything that should I avoid?

If you're smoking, nursing is a good reason to give up. Smoking can hamper milk production and the chemicals in the cigarettes can get into the milk through the milk ducts.

How can I increase milk supply?

Most new moms are worried about less or no milk. This is a misconception as only a small percentage of mothers are unable to produce any milk at all.

Milk production works on demand and supply. The more the baby sucks and the more you feed, the more milk is produced. So, one of the best ways to increase milk supply is to feed more often.

Then, there are certain foods like garlic, fennel, spinach and carrot which are known to improve milk production. You can include these in your everyday diet.

How do you treat sore nipples?

Sore nipples are a bane of breastfeeding mothers. This happens when the baby does not latch properly. When this happens, ease the suction by inserting your finger in the corner of your baby's upper lip.

To soothe a sore breast, you could apply olive or coconut oil in the affected area after feeding the baby.

How long should I breastfeed my baby?

Babies have to be exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months. Beyond that the nutritional value of the breast milk decreases.

A few things to keep in mind while breastfeeding

Do not go by hearsay that breastfeeding is painful. If your baby has latched on properly and is in the right position, nursing does not hurt.

Avoid using formulated creams to treat sore nipples. The chemicals in these can affect your baby and result in allergies. Instead use natural remedies like coconut or olive oil.

Do not threaten your breast into the baby's mouth, instead, bring your baby forward and direct it to the breast.