Saturday, April 02, 2005

Breastfeeding Your Baby

Most pediatricians recommend that mothers try to breastfeed their babies. Breast milk has many wonderful nutrients that are almost impossible to reproduce in formula, and breast milk offers a baby disease fighting antibodies. Breastfed babies also show a reduced incidence of allergies.

New mothers can attest to the fact, however, that breastfeeding isn't as easy as it may sound. Sure, Mother Nature is suppose to kick in and work her magic, so that all a new mom has to do is offer her breast to the baby, and everything after that is a breeze. Not in the real world! Successful breastfeeding can be painful in the beginning, and it takes work. But new moms should remember that any amount of time they breastfeed is a good thing.

The world wide average for breastfeeding a child is approximately two years. In the United States, most pediatricians suggest that a mom should try to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months. Obviously, the amount of time a mom breastfeeds her baby is an individual choice.

If you are going to breastfeed, you need to understand a few things. When your baby is born, you won't immediately have milk. Instead, you'll have a sticky substance called colostrum, which is chocked full of nutrients. Until your milk comes in, this is what will sustain your baby.

If at all possible, plan on placing your newborn to your breast immediately after birth. Although he may not be interested or want to nurse for very long, this will be your first opportunity to bond with your baby. Once the excitement of his birth has died down somewhat, you can spend more time perfecting your nursing technique.

After two or three days, your milk supply will typically come in full force. All of a sudden, your breasts, which were already larger due to your pregnancy, will seem to triple in size! If you don't get some relief soon, your breasts will actually resemble footballs! While this enhanced size may intrigue your husband, it won't be too comfortable for you!

Many of the magazines you read will tell you that if your nipples are sore, then you are doing something wrong. This isn't necessarily true. After all, how often do you have someone suck so powerfully on your breasts that you have to break the suction? It's no wonder you are sore! This is when you will have to tough it out for the first few weeks. Take heart, though, because your nipples will begin to toughen up, and after you've been nursing for three or four months, you'll be able to walk around the house with your baby latched on and barely feel a thing.

Until then, you will want to try to prevent cracked nipples, engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis, a very painful infection of the breasts. Your baby will probably want to nurse every two to three hours, and she may nurse for as much as twenty minutes on each breast. It is important that she takes the nipple and the areola surrounding the nipple into her mouth. If she doesn't get enough of your breast in her mouth, you will experience extreme soreness. To get her to latch on correctly, tickle her check with your nipple or a finger, and when she opens wide, quickly pull her head to your breast. If it doesn't feel as if she has latched on correctly, gently place a finger in the side of her mouth to break the suction, and do the same procedure again. Once she has finished nursing, apply a lanolin based ointment to your nipples and the surrounding areola to keep them soft and supple.

Try to begin nursing with the opposite breast each time you nurse. If you can't remember which breast you should start with, you might want to place a safety pin on your bra. In the first few months that you are nursing, you may find that you leak milk unexpectedly and in the most embarrassing places. It is a good idea to purchase nursing pads to place in your bra. There are several varieties, including disposable and washable ones.

Remember, nursing should be a wonderful, bonding experience for you and your baby. Only you should decided on how long you want to nurse, and you shouldn't let anyone else question your decision. If you try breastfeeding and it just doesn't work for you, don't worry about it. Formulas today are fortified to give babies a healthy start, and you can bond just as closely with your baby by holding him close as you give him a bottle. If you do choose to breastfeed, however, hang in there! It will get easier!

By Susie McGee

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