Women have nourished their baby through breastfeeding for centuries and in a day when all-natural and organic are the buzz words, there is more pressure than ever to give it a shot.
World Health Organization encourages exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for two years or longer. But that can be intimidating to a new mom. She knows that it is a good idea but she doesn't know how to get there — especially when people tell her how difficult and painful it can be.
Beyond the incredible fact that a woman's body can make milk that sustains her little one and nourishes him as he grows, breastmilk can be magical. There are natural instincts that a mom may not know about until she experiences them, and the body can change the content of the milk to make up for the needs of the baby. Some women struggle with supply, but there are ways that a woman can boost that.
Breastfeeding is about more than nutrition — it's about bonding, about soothing, about health and more. Here are 15 things new moms don't know about breastfeeding.
15 It's Best To Start Early
Lactation experts consider the first hour after a baby's birth to be the golden hour for initiating breastfeeding. The baby has a natural instinct to crawl — long before they really crawl — to his mother's breast. The baby can latch right on with no help from the mom. The skin-to-skin breastfeeding can help the baby maintain his temperature and steady the heart rate and breathing.
Nursing in that first hour can release hormones that can help the mom's uterus to contract and to help with bonding. It also stimulates the milk to come in, which can be a struggle for some moms. At the beginning, the milk is thicker and a golden color — it's called colostrum and it provides the baby's first immunities. Coming in that first hour, it can set the tone for a positive breastfeeding relationship.
We know that it isn't always possible to breastfeed in the first hour, and that is OK. It is still possible to have a successful breastfeeding relationship no matter how it starts.
14 Supplementing Is OK
Sometimes, the first time a mom has any idea that her baby isn't breastfeeding well is when the pediatrician says that the baby isn't gaining weight. All newborns lose weight in their first few days, but it is important for them to gain it back quickly. It is especially important for the baby to feed well at the beginning to help get rid of the bilirubin that can build up and cause jaundice. The only way to flush it out is for the baby to have a lot of dirty and wet diapers, which can only happen if he is eating well. So if things aren't going great in the first week or so, a pediatrician can pressure a mother to supplement with formula for the baby's benefit.
But if a mother gets the word that her baby needs some extra nutrition, that doesn't mean that she is a failure or that she has to give up. Formula can be an aid to help a mom and baby get through the first few weeks and get into the swing of things.
A mom has to be committed to get through the hard times and continue on ahead.
13 Supply And Demand
One of the biggest obstacles that women face in breastfeeding is keeping up with their baby's growth. Some women struggle from the very beginning because it can take several days for the mother's milk to change from colostrum to the regular milk that provides more nutrition. But a mom needs to remember that there are ways to increase her supply.
First of all, there is a correlation between supply and demand. The more a mom breastfeeds, the more milk her body will make. And if she isn't making enough, she can pump some milk each day — the best time to do that is in the morning when the supply is at its greatest — to trigger the body to make more. Women need to remember this trick if they are supplementing with formula because if they don't work to boost their supply, they may never catch up.
Lactation consultants also recommend a bevy of nutritional needs that can help up the supply, and we'll get into that next.
12 Lactation Nutrition
Breastfeeding moms need to remember that they can't go back to their pre-pregnancy diet right away. They need to keep eating extra calories to allow their bodies to produce milk. And one of the most needed parts of a lactation diet has no calories at all — water. Most people don't drink enough water in the first place, much less when their body is trying to make a drink that will nourish their baby. Eight full glasses a day are a must, and a breastfeeding mom needs to keep a glass beside her every time she nurses.
Milk is full of protein, so a lot of the foods that are great for lactation are high in protein as well. Nuts can be great — and some doctors say that a breastfeeding mother who eats nuts can help her baby avoid allergies. Oatmeal is also great, and so are garlic and fennel. Ginger, which many women ate to ward off the nausea during the morning sickness stage, is also a great way to boost the milk supply, and there are lots of recipes for special lactation cookies that contain it is a key ingredient.
11 It Can Hurt — But It Doesn't Have To
Breastfeeding can be very painful for some mothers, but if the pain lasts more than a minute, lactation consultants say that the likely cause is a bad latch. The latch is the way that the baby's mouth is positioned on the nipple. The baby should draw the entire nipple into the mouth and the tongue should be down. A correct latch should involve the entire jaw. If a woman experiences extreme pain she should talk to a lactation consultant — most hospitals and most insurance companies have them — to make sure that the baby is latching on correctly.
During cluster feedings — the seemingly non-stop nursing sessions that happen over and over again during a growth spurt — a mom's nipples can get sore and the skin can get raw, but a special cream can help without harming the baby.
Also, a woman should talk to her doctor if she suspects she has mastitis, which is an infection that can come with a blocked milk duct and cause pain and flu-like symptoms. One of the best ways to cure a blocked duct is to breast feed, so she should continue to nurse through it.
Women also experience sore breasts when their milk comes in a few days after the baby's birth. Engorged breasts are painful, but breastfeeding can actually help.
10 Milk Magic
The amazing thing about breastmilk is that it changes according to the needs of the baby. It is difference consistencies during a single feeding; plus it changes in nutrition and antibodies according to the needs of the baby. Somehow, a woman's body knows exactly what the baby needs and it delivers through her magic milk.
In a typical feeding, the milk starts out thicker and more nutritious but later on it changes into a thicker mixture, called the hindmilk, A mom needs to make sure that she continues a nursing session long enough so a baby can get the benefits of the hindmilk.
And what is really amazing is the way that the milk changes between feedings. It basically acts as medicine for a sick baby, giving the right antibodies at the right time. Doctors say that the baby's saliva can enter into the mammary glands as she nurses, giving the body the signal of what the baby needs. It's amazing what a mom mom's body can do to fulfill the needs of her child.
9 Adoptive Moms Can Breastfeed
It is possible for women to breastfeed even if they weren't recently pregnant. The body can be tricked into producing milk, especially if a woman has been pregnant before. The La Leche League recommends inducing breastmilk by using a breast milk every two to three hours. At first, the mother may not produce any milk, but over time, the body can think that a baby is latched on and if the conditions are right, the milk can come.
There are supplemental systems that can help with the process, but the stimulation can sometimes be enough to induce lactation. Some women believe it will help form a connection to the baby, while bringing the nutrition and positive attributes of breastfeeding, but it is a large commitment for a new mother. La Leche League points out that the mother can nurse as much as her supply will allow while bottle feeding to provide more nutrition as well as connection. It's possible but it is not the only way that a mom can bond with her adopted baby.
8 It Can Save Lives
The World Health Organization says that if every baby was exclusively breastfed for the six months of life and breastfeeding continued until age 2, around 800,000 babies would be saved every year. That number is worldwide, where often a mother's milk is the only source of safe nutrition available, but there are benefits for every baby.
Breastmilk provides nutrition that can help the baby to grow. While some babies have reflux even if they are breastfed, some have sensitivities to formula that can be expensive and hard to manage. Also, breastmilk passes antibodies from the mother to the baby that can't be overlooked. Since vaccines don't come for a few months, the milk can make a difference in keeping a baby healthy. Breastfed babies have fewer hospitalizations and they are known to contract less ear infections and respiratory illnesses. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is amazing news for any mom.
7 Weighty Concern
One of the most serious health issues for children these days is the rise in childhood obesity. But breastfeeding can help set a child up for a healthy childhood. According to research, the bacteria and nutrition that comes from exclusive breastfeeding can protect against weight problems in childhood. The researchers believe that their findings are related to the way the body learns to metabolize food early in life. Breastfed babies and formula-fed babies have differences in the way that their pancreas works, and it can mean a different way the insulin is released. Babies also can figure out they are full easier, which can help them as they grow.
There is still a lot of research that needs to be done to fully understand the correlation of breastfeeding and avoiding childhood obesity — and doctors note that teaching healthy nutrition is important in maintaining healthy weights. But moms shouldn't discount the impact that breastfeeding can have on starting a child's life out with the amazing nutrition of breastfeeding.
6 Mom Has Health Benefits Too
Many moms know that there are benefits to the baby for breastfeeding, but many don't know that it could also help save their lives. From the very beginning it can have amazing benefits. It releases hormones that helps the uterus contract, which can reduce postpartum bleeding and potentially save a woman's life.
Breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of contracting breast cancer and ovarian cancer, which can be some of the deadliest for women. The benefit goes up the longer a woman breastfeeds, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, with the best outcomes coming if a woman has breastfed for more than two years in her lifetime (that can be divided among several babies).
Breastfeeding also can lower the risk of a mother getting type II diabetes and osteoporosis. It also reduces the likelihood or severity of postpartum depression, which is so important in those first few months at home with a new baby.
5 Breastfeeding Body Back
New moms often hear that breastfeeding can be good for getting their body back to its pre-pregnancy shape, but they often wonder if that is a myth or a truth. The answer really depends on the mother, but breastfeeding does help in shrinking the uterus to its original size more quickly. Breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract, so that causes things to return to normal a few weeks ahead of schedule.
But a smaller uterus doesn't necessarily equate to losing the baby weight. It is true that breastfeeding burns calories — about 300 to 500 calories a day on average. But to keep up a good milk supply, a woman needs to eat extra calories, so it can be hard to lose weight. In fact, a lactation consultant will tell a woman that she should not diet while she is nursing.
Some women lose weight and regain their shape naturally through the process while others don't lose the weight until they stop nursing. Some see their breasts change to a shape much different from their pre-pregnancy shape. Things can be different or they can be the same. It all depends on the woman.
4 Birth Control?
Some women don't have their period until a year after their baby's birth, especially if they are breastfeeding. New moms hear that and think that breastfeeding can be birth control, but if she relies on that, she could find herself expecting soon.
Breastfeeding can cause the hormones involved in making milk to suppress the ones that aid in fertility, but that is predicated on frequent feedings and several other factors. Overweight women, for example, often retain their fertility while they are lactating. The tricky part is that a woman won't know when her fertility returns until she has her period — and if she has unprotected sex while ovulating, that period may never return and instead she could become pregnant.
Birth control pills can be problematic to a nursing mother — they can affect milk supply — so some women struggle with how go about family planning while nursing. They should talk to their doctor about the options.
3 Pumping Prowess
Many women who continue breastfeeding past a few months have to pump. That is especially true for working moms. The pump can help them continue to give their baby breastmilk exclusively. For some moms whose baby struggle to latch on, they can exclusively pump and feed the baby their breastmilk out of bottles. For both, a good pump can mean everything.
At first it can be hard to get milk using a breastpump, but technology has allowed most to be designed to follow the suck, swallow, breathe, rhythm of a baby that can give success. A mom should pump as often as her baby eats to keep her supply up, and most states have laws that allow for breaks to make that possible.
Pumping can be very difficult, and it can be harder to keep up the supply. Lactation consultants recommend that pumpers are sure to drink water and they may find it helpful to have a picture of the baby nearby to summon a let down. There are a number of tips that could help in the situation, but a woman must consider her pump to be an aid in extending breastfeeding for her to be successful.
2 All Tied Up
The latch can be everything — it's the way that the baby gets the most food, which in turn helps the supply go up, and a bad latch is the No. 1 reason for pain during breastfeeding. There are lots of ways to improve latch, but sometimes there is a medical reason that can make it difficult for the baby to get the best latch.
Some babies have tongue ties or lip ties that make it hard for them to move their tongue into the correct position. Some babies with ties have no problems pushing through, but for others, a simple little snip to loosen the tie can make all the difference.
Moms who are concerned about their baby's tongue tie or lip tie should talk to the pediatrician. They may be amazed at the change that happens after the quick two-minute procedure.
1 Medicinal Uses
We've talked about the antibodies that breastmilk can pass on and improve the baby's health, but there are other magical medicinal uses that can help baby as well as adults. A little bit of milk can heal everything from bug bites to diaper rash.
If a new mom gets a pimple, she can rub a little milk on it and it will be gone soon. A little squirt can get rid of pink eye or an ear infection and it can soothe eczema. If a mom's nipple cracks, she should take any milk remaining after a nursing session and rub it around. Babies who have cradle cap or baby acne can benefit from a little topical milk. It can even help sunburn.
Many women use their excess milk to make lotions and soaps because the healing properties can mean so much for soothing and moisturizing skin. Breastmilk is definitely magical in its powers of healing, and everyone can benefit from it.