Friday, January 8, 2010

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby reduces your lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancer by perhaps fifty percent. So breastfeeding is great for you. Breast milk is designed for human babies the way that cow's milk is designed for calves. So it does make sense that breastfeeding is good for your baby. The colostrum ( the precursor to actual milk ) is full of immunities that your baby needs and when the baby sucks hard those first few days of life to get out that golden goodness, it encourages your milk to shift into production mode.

Not only does the nutrition and immunities from breast milk promote your baby's health but just the physical act of suckling is important for the baby's development: jaws and tongue that are essential for later speech. The skin to skin contact is vital to your baby's first developmental task which is establishing safety and security. It feels very comforting for a newborn to put it's face next to your warm breast as opposed to a plastic milk recepticle.

It is not easy however to always establish breastfeeding. In the first few weeks it can be very uncomfortable. Nipples need to toughen up and just air-drying or using a hair-dryer can speed up the process. You can start to air-dry your nipples way before the baby is born. Make sure that the baby is latched-on correctly. The brown aureola should be in the baby's mouth. Not just the tip of the nipple. And when it's time to take baby off the breast, break the suction created by inserting a finger into the baby's mouth to break the seal. Never pull the baby off the breast.

It's important to hydrate really well. You cannot produce the milk if you don't have the fluids necessary to do so. Dehydration and breastfeeding are in direct opposition to the process. And nutrition is just as important as when you were pregnant. For you and for the baby.

After you deliver, make sure to request a visit from one of the lactation specialists at your facility. They can teach you all you should know about latching and suckling and they will provide you with a plan so that you know how often to feed and how to make you feel secure about whether the baby is getting enough.

The La Leche League is a lay organization that has chapters all over. Google them up and you can contact them for help. The lactation consultants at the hospital will talk to you 24/7 and will even make an appointment to have you come back to the hospital for more help. There are private lactation consultants available. Some will even come to your home. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a great resource guide published by La Leche, available at every book store and Amazon too.

I always say give it your best effort, if you want to breastfeed. Ask for support. Now there are mom's chat groups on-line available for cyberspace sharing. Your pediatrician's office may have a lactation consultant on staff. In fact, it's a great question when you go to a practice's meet and greet. Your obstetrician's office should have a nurse who helps with questions about breastfeeding and they are the people to contact if you think you might have mastitis. That's a breast infection that can be treated with antibiotics and the baby can continue to nurse while you are being treated. Symptoms include a fever and flu-like symptoms.
It is possible to breastfeed while you are taking many medications, including antidepressants. Just check with your pediatrician about their preferences for you.

If after you have given it that best effort and you still have reservations about breastfeeding: you just don't like it or you are too uncomfortable or you just have "had it" then remember that you did your best and put a bottle in that baby's mouth. Feed your baby, one way or another.