Getting Started with Breastfeeding
1. Why is Breastfeeding Important?
- Provides crucial nutrients for baby's growth and development.
- Strengthens the infant's immune system and lowers risks of many illnesses.
- For mothers, burns calories and helps uterus shrink faster postpartum.
2. What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding offers invaluable health advantages for both infant and mother. Here are some of the top reasons why breast milk is recognized as the optimal source of nutrition for babies.
- Powerful Immunity Boost for Baby:Breast milk is packed with antibodies, compounds and "good" bacteria that cultivate a robust microbiome and support the immune system. Human milk significantly decreases risks of infectious diseases, allergies and conditions like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Strong Bonding Experience:The intimate skin-to-skin contact and response to baby's cues during nursing foster a powerful emotional connection. This special bonding time also has developmental perks like facilitating jaw, gum and teeth growth.
- Unparalleled Convenience:Breastfeeding requires no preparation-milk is always fresh, the right temperature and perfectly tailored to baby's needs for digestion. Not having to sterilize or measure formula also saves time and money.
- Healthy Growth and Development: In addition to immunity support, breastfeeding may help reduce obesity risks and supports brain development with essential nutrients.Suckling also aids sensory development through smell, taste and touch.
- Postpartum Recovery Perks for Mom: Oxytocin released during nursing boosts mood while breastfeeding assists uterus recovery and child-spacing through lactational amenorrhea. Human milk production also burns considerable calories, aiding weight loss goals. Long-term, nursing lowers disease risks like some cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis. For mothers, the health legacy of breastfeeding is truly remarkable.
With extensive benefits physically, emotionally and nutritionally, breast milk uniquely supplies all a growing baby requires for development. For mom, nursing offers invaluable rewards as well.
3. When should I start breastfeeding after giving birth?
Experts recommend beginning breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, when the sucking instinct is strongest. Skin-to-skin contact right away helps baby latch properly. Keep in mind that most mothers do not produce colostrum or mature breast milk immediately after delivery.
However, you can still allow your newborn to suckle at the breast to stimulate your milk production system. The suckling motion releases hormones that boost breastmilk generation. Be aware that the early suckling may cause nipple soreness or cracking as your baby learns to latch properly in those first days.
4. How often and for how long should I breastfeed?
On demand is best! Aim for 8-12 feedings per day, whenever your baby shows signs of hunger like rooting or sucking fingers. Newborns need to feed every 2-3 hours. Each session should last 10-15 minutes per breast.
Read more here: Breast Pumping Guide: When And How Long To Pump Breast Milk?
5. How do I get a proper latch?
Make sure baby's mouth is open wide and their tongue is down. Bring them onto the breast chin first, aiming the nipple to the roof of their mouth. The latch shouldn't cause you ongoing pain. Ask your nurse or lactation consultant to check positioning.
6. How can I tell if my baby is eating enough?
Count wet and dirty diapers. Young infants should have 1 wet and 1 dirty diaper for each day of life. Listen for gulping and swallowing during feeds. Weight checks by your pediatrician can also provide reassurance.
7. My nipples are sore. What can I do?
Soreness early on is normal but serious pain is not. Make sure baby is latched deeply onto the breast. Try different holds if needed. Apply lanolin cream after feeds and consider gel pads. If it persists, see a lactation consultant to evaluate the latch.
8. How do I deal with low milk supply?
Nurse on demand to increase supply, at least 8-12 times a day. Massage breasts before nursing to facilitate letdown. Stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet. Avoid pacifiers and bottles until supply is established. Skin-to-skin contact and warm compresses can also help.
9. Help, my breasts are rock hard! What is this?
Engorgement is common around days 3-5 as your milk comes in. Apply warm compresses before nursing, massage gently to soften the area. Use reverse pressure softening to reduce swelling. Cold compresses and cabbage leaves may provide relief as well.
10. I have a fever and breast pain. Could it be mastitis?
Flu-like symptoms plus a hard, red, painful breast area may signal mastitis. This breast tissue infection requires prompt medical treatment. Continue breastfeeding and massage the area. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.
Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle
11. What foods should I eat while breastfeeding?
Focus on a balanced diet with extra calories, protein, calcium and vitamins. Some foods to include are oatmeal, salmon, eggs, yogurt, nuts and leafy greens. Stay hydrated by drinking water and milk. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods if they upset baby's tummy.
Read more here: The Complete Breastfeeding Guide for New Moms
12. Is exercise safe? How intense can I be?
Light exercise like walking is encouraged starting 6-8 weeks postpartum. Listen to your body and don't overexert. Drink plenty of fluids. More intense workouts can resume after 3-6 months once supply is well established.
Medications and Supplements
13. How Long Should a Mother Breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced for at least the first year. The World Health Organization also recommends breastfeeding until 2 years or beyond.
14. Can I take medications while breastfeeding?
Many medications are safe but always check with your doctor first. Recommended options include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, allergy meds and some antibiotics. Be cautious with cold medicines, aspirin and herbal supplements.
Read more here: Medicines and breastfeeding | HealthDirect
15. What vitamins should I take?
A prenatal vitamin with iron, vitamin D, folic acid, and calcium is ideal while breastfeeding. Fish oil and vitamin B12 may also be recommended. Check with your provider about optimal doses for lactation support.
Weaning from Breastfeeding
16. When should I start weaning my baby?
Experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months, and continuing with complementary foods until at least age one. When you and your baby are ready, weaning can start after age one. Gradual weaning over weeks or months is best.
17. What's the best way to stop milk supply?
Start by dropping one feeding per day and substitute a bottle. Slowly decrease pumping sessions as well. Use a tight sports bra to relieve engorgement. Cold compresses, cabbage leaves and OTC pain relievers can provide symptom relief as your body adjusts.
We hope these breastfeeding FAQs have helped answer some of your most pressing questions as you embark on your nursing journey. While breastfeeding has its challenges, the health benefits make it worthwhile. Don't hesitate to reach out to lactation consultants or other moms for continued support. With determination and the right information, you can reach your personal breastfeeding goals!