Breastfeeding is a wonderful choice to make for the baby. Healthier, cheaper, and the ultimate bonding experience, breastfeeding has been in the public eye recently for all the ways it can help moms and their little ones.
Fed is best, and it is okay if mom chooses not to breastfeed or can't. However, first-time moms who choose to nurse should know what they are getting into before they start. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that moms nurse exclusively for the first six months and that they continue the nursing relationship at least through the first year of life and beyond if possible.
While this is ideal, it's not always easy. There are bumps in the road and exhausting days and nights, but the mom who truly wants to commit to breastfeeding is best equipped by knowing all she can about this endeavor before going into it. Starting early, seeking support, and staying the course are all key, as well as knowing when the baby might benefit from supplementation or when mom is too strained to go on with nursing. It's important not to forget what can go right and wrong during the nursing relationship and to take it one step at a time.
20 Natural Doesn’t Mean Easy
We hear a lot about breastfeeding being the natural choice because the milk comes from mom's body and is specifically made for the baby. What new moms tend to forget is natural is not another word for easy. Sure, breastfeeding is a biologically natural process for most women, but that doesn't mean it's one that happens without complications.
Women who breastfeed can stumble on problems almost immediately or further into the journey, from not producing enough milk to developing majorly blocked ducts. It's worth fighting through the challenges if mom wants to keep breastfeeding, but it's important to remember that breastfeeding can be very challenging, natural or not.
19 There Are Long Night Hours
Sleep deprivation is a reality for most new moms whether they breastfeed or not. It's for sure for women who breastfeed because babies need to eat every couple of hours, including at night. An infant's stomach is tiny, and he or she will process breastmilk and excrete waste quickly, requiring more food to feel full and satisfied.
Those long, late nights are worth it, but mom needs to understand that realistically getting eight straight hours of sleep is out for the foreseeable future. Even if mom gets her partner to offer the baby breastmilk in a bottle at night, she will still likely need to get up and pump so her breasts don't become engorged and her supply stays strong.
18 Help is Available
Being the only source of food for the baby can feel isolating and demanding, and mom may think that, if breastfeeding doesn't come easily, she has nowhere to turn for help. That's not true. There is help and support for nursing moms, and mom just needs to know who to reach out to when things get tough.
A lactation specialist should come see mom at the hospital to make sure the baby is latching properly and mom's milk is coming in on schedule. Mom can call her lactation specialist once she arrives home, or she can reach out to breastfeeding support groups like La Leche for questions about nursing. Don't give up because you think help isn't available.
17 It’s Legal in Public
Though women often complain of receiving rude comments or looks when they breastfeed in public, even sometimes being asked to leave public establishments, breastfeeding in public is legal in many countries. In fact, there have been nurse ins- which are like sit ins but where women join to nurse their children- at places that have kicked women out for nursing publicly. These acts of solidarity have helped make the issue more known.
Breastfeeding is not something to hide, and anyone who associates it with anything inappropriate has a problem. Women shouldn't be forced to sit in dirty bathroom stalls because others are uncomfortable with breastfeeding. Legally, they don't have to in most countries.
16 It's Not Supposed to Hurt
It's true that nursing can be uncomfortable. Milk coming in is often painful, and if a child is not latching properly it can really leave mom in pain. However, once milk is in and the latch is solid, pain should not be a part of breastfeeding. Discomfort to some extent is normal, but not pain.
Pain is a sign that something is wrong and can mean mom has mastitis or some other infection. It may mean a child's latch is still not right. If the latch is wrong, it can cause pain for mom and not enough sustenance for the baby. Mom does not need to settle for painful nursing experiences because those are not the norm.
15 It’s a Bonding Mechanism
An incredible side effect of nursing is the bonding experience. Every mom will bond with her baby whether or not she nurses, but women who nurse have their bodies flooded with oxytocin (the cuddle drug) when they breastfeed. This can leave them feeling relaxed, in love with the baby, and calm.
Many women don't realize how much oxytocin is positively affecting them until the weaning process takes place and those oxytocin surges aren't as strong. It can be odd to suddenly have that euphoric feeling just disappear when the milk dries up. Enjoy the surges while they last, and remember all those precious cuddles during breastfeeding time.
14 It Delays Aunt Flo
Breastfeeding is a great way to keep Aunt Flo at bay. A mom who breastfeeds exclusively doesn't usually ovulate, and that means she won't have to deal with a period while also wearing breast pads. However, it doesn't mean she can't get pregnant.
Mom will eventually ovulate again, and since ovulation happens before menstruation starts, mom won't particularly know when she's ovulating. That means she can get pregnant before she's even had a period. Using another form of birth control until mom is ready to get pregnant again is a good idea, because no Aunt Flo doesn't mean no chance of pregnancy.
13 It’s About Supply and Demand
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process, which means if mom doesn't feel like she's making enough milk, nursing more may be the key. Many doctors and lactation specialists will tell mom to let the baby nurse on demand instead of creating a strict schedule for this reason. The baby will be fed often enough if he takes the lead, and mom will produce the amount of food needed because her body will respond to the demand.
There are times that mom may feel the need to pump extra milk to try to increase her demand, and that's a good trick to get more milk flowing. Just keep nursing when the baby is hungry, and more milk should keep coming in at meal times.
12 Milk Leaks Everywhere
While the milk is supposed to be sustenance for the baby, much of it is wasted from leaking. When the baby cries, mom's body will respond by bringing milk to the breasts for food. When someone else's baby cries, the breasts will respond the same way. Even a shower can bring milk down, leaking all over mom.
Investing in breast pads, either boxes of disposables or cloth ones that can be washed, is a must for the mom who wants to nurse. This will at least keep all the leaking milk off of mom's clothes, though she will likely feel she smells of breastmilk all the time.
11 Nursing Can Be A Sedative
New moms don't need an excuse to be tired and ready to fall asleep anywhere. That's the reality of having a baby. However, the breastfeeding mom should know that nursing can act as its own sedative, not only leaving the baby sleepy, but also making mom feel she can't keep her eyes open.
This is normal, but it is important that mom is careful when nursing. Falling asleep while nursing can lead to mom moving around while sleeping with the baby nearby. Exercise caution.
10 Nip Confusion Is Real
If mom wants to start the breastfeeding relationship off the right way, she needs to be aware of nipple confusion. This occurs when a baby is trying to learn to suck onto more than one thing, such as mom's breast, a bottle nipple, and a pacifier nipple. Most lactation specialists recommend only introducing the breast in those early days so the baby will learn how to latch properly to that and bring milk in for food.
Introducing a bottle or pacifier too early can affect the nursing relationship because bringing breastmilk or formula from a bottle into the mouth is easier than bringing it down from the breast. Some babies get addicted to the easy comfort of the bottle or pacifier and lose their motive to work to get food from the breast. They become confused trying to switch back and forth between different nips.
9 There Are Different Holds
Breastfeeding can be done in many different positions using a variety of holds. This means mom can use the standard side hold or try a football hold or side lying position. Babies sometimes prefer one hold over another, and different positions keep mom's arms from getting too tired from holding one way.
It's important that, no matter what hold mom uses, she switches breasts and lets the little one finish eating on both sides. This will ensure the baby gets both the thinner milk that comes out first and the hindmilk, which is richer and full of fat, that comes out at the end of the feed. Switching sides also keeps both breasts producing.
8 Babies Can Still Be Hungry
Breastfeeding does not always ensure a baby will get all the food he or she needs, or that they can't still be hungry. If the latch isn't secure or if mom is not producing enough milk, the baby may cry or become lethargic due to hunger. This is why pediatricians check the baby frequently to make sure growth is taking place.
If mom keeps the baby on a strict feeding schedule, controlling how often and how long the baby can feed, this can also lead to a hungry child. It's important to let the baby lead when it comes to eating, feeding them on demand as long as he wants so he can get full and develop properly.
7 Complications Can Happen
There are infections and problems mom needs to watch for as she nurses. Mastitis, an infection that involves fever, blocked milk ducts, and a load of pain, happens to many nursing moms and usually has to be treated with antibiotics. The breast that is affected will turn red and will be hot to the touch, though mom can keep nursing with mastitis unless she is put on a medication that can't pass from her milk to the baby.
Thrush can also be a problem for mom and her little one. Thrush is an infection that the baby can have in the mouth while mom struggles with this overgrowth of candida on her breasts. Treatment is necessary, and thrush can be very uncomfortable.
6 Supplement Cautiously
Supplementing with formula while breastfeeding is sometimes absolutely necessary, and mom should not worry or be ashamed if she needs to supplement. Supplementing with formula doesn't mean mom has to give up breastfeeding, and she can find a mix of both that work for her and the baby.
Supplementing can put some kids off of breastfeeding due to nipple confusion, but many babies switch back and forth between the breast and the bottle without a problem. As long as mom knows it's possible her little one might stop wanting to nurse after the ease of the bottle, it won't be a surprise if this happens. Fed is best, and as long as the baby is being fed, all is well.
5 It's The Best Form Of Prevention
SIDS is the fear of most new moms for the first year of their babies' lives. It strikes without warning and simply stops a child's life, usually while he or she sleeps. Because so little is known about why this happens, it's a constant stressor for parents. Despite how little is know, one thing is certain: breastfeeding reduces the chances of it occurring.
Babies who are breastfed have their risk decreased by up to 50 percent. Breastfeeding exclusively is the best bet for prevention, but any amount of breastmilk helps. Though breastfeeding can be exhausting, this is a major benefit of doing it.
4 Babies Eat Often
It's not hard to look at a baby and see that their little body is so much smaller than an adult's, or even a toddler's. A baby's stomach is tiny, and a baby can process breastmilk efficiently, moving it through the system with waste hitting the diaper very quickly.
That's why babies eat so often, and this is especially true for breastfed babies. Mom may feel like she is never getting a break and is simply a 24-hour buffet, and she's not wrong. Babies need to eat often because they are so small and their stomachs both fill and empty quickly. That's why it's important for the baby to take the lead at meal time, eating as often and as long as he or she wants.
3 What Mom Eats Affects the Baby
It's easy to understand how and why what mom eats affects her baby when she is pregnant. It's important for mom to remember that just because the baby is on the outside of her body doesn't mean what she eats still doesn't affect him. If mom nurses, she needs to watch what goes in her body because it will be consumed by her baby via milk.
Spicy foods, dairy, and a handful of other foods can cause stomach distress for little ones. If a child has a food allergy, mom may have to cut that food from her diet while nursing so her child won't suffer. Obviously, smoking and consuming alcohol are bad ideas while nursing as well.
2 Staying Hydrated is Key
Nursing takes a lot from mom's body. There are benefits to mom, such as a lowered risk of breast cancer and no Aunt Flo for a while, but breastfeeding is demanding, and mom needs to make sure she is taking care of her body while she is giving so much over to her little one.
One way to do this is to stay hydrated. Drinking water and other fluids regularly will ensure that mom doesn't get dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to exhaustion and dizziness, and mom will not feel like taking care of her little one if she is not taking care of herself. Keep a water bottle close by and fill it often.
1 Mom Will Need Extra Calories
The mom who chooses to breastfeed doesn't have to give up the extra calories she consumed during pregnancy just yet. She will need to continue to consume a bit more than the average amount of calories a day to make up for what she is handing over to the baby during nursing sessions. Plus, breastfeeding women are often extremely hungry.
For some women, breastfeeding is the key to losing the pregnancy pounds, and for others it isn't. That's not the point. Mom needs to make sure she is eating healthy, balanced meals to take care of herself while breastfeeding her baby, regardless of what the number on the scale says.