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Breastfeeding: What moms need to know

Julie Bielenberg is a Denver-based writer who served as managing editor for a regional home and lifestyle publication before starting Tweeter Communications, her editorial services boutique. With a BA in journalism from the University of...

Breastfeeding 101

We've all heard the good, the bad, the uglies, and even, the horrors of breastfeeding. The following is a list of five things a woman should know about breastfeeding, helping moms navigate through one of the most remarkable relationships between a mother and child.

1. Why Breastfeed?

In case you need that extra justification that breastfeeding is a wise choice and not just part of "my mom did so I guess I must" or "breast is best" mantra, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

For Baby:

• Breast milk contains fat, protein, water and sugar that babies require -- the most complete form of nutrition for infants.
• Breastfeeding reduces the risk of many health issues such as allergies, ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory infections, even colds.
• Infants that are breastfed for 6 or more months tend to grow exactly the way they should and gain less unnecessary weight, which can result in being less overweight later in life.
• Infants that are breastfed score slightly higher on IQ tests than those who were formula fed; even more so is the case for pre-mature babies.

For Mom:

• The weight factor -- reason enough! Breastfeeding burns extra calories, making it easier to shed that pregnancy weight.
• By breastfeeding, you lower your risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
• Nursing helps the uterus shrink to its original size and lessens any bleeding a woman may have after giving birth.
• The economic and time factors are incredible -- no need to purchase formulas nor prepare bottles and the baby has instant satisfaction when hungry.
• Breastfeeding helps mothers bond with the baby, as physical contact is essential for newborns.

2.The Boobs

By the time you have given birth, you will have noticed that your breasts, shall we say, have become more attractive to the opposite sex. Soreness, tenderness and even itching can accompany this change. Even after birth your breasts can grow and about 24 to 30 hours after birth, your milk will arrive and be ready for the baby. The first hours and days after birth, starter milk, or colostrum, is present in your breasts. This is extremely high in protein, a wonderful start for the nursing infant.

3. Lactation

Don't be discouraged if breastfeeding takes days or even weeks to get right, it is a practice and does require patience. Help the infant by assisting him or her as the process begins. Place your thumb and fingers around the areola and tickle the baby's lips with your nipple until he or she opens his or her mouth. If it were only this easy! There are a few popular positions for the lactation process: the cradle, the football or side lying -- do whichever works best for the two of you.

Be sure to get the name of a good lactation expert. Visit that person before the baby arrives and make sure to keep his or her number on file in case you need a house visit or another session. Most heath care providers and insurance companies have lactation experts available for moms.

4. Ouch!

Yes, pain can accompany breastfeeding. There are many common side effects of nursing such as bloody nipples, dryness or chaffing, bruising or blanching -- when the nipple turns white after a feeding. Don't think it is just you; many women experience the above problems. Here are some ideas to ease the pain and discomfort.

• Nipple shields, eases the pain and discomfort
• Ointments for post-nursing moisturizing
• A blow dryer to warm the nipples
• Gel pads to provide post-nursing soothing and relief

5. Patience and Understanding

While you might have a set of G-sized boobs, this doesn't mean that you will produce a ton of milk. Don't hesitate to supplement with formula if need be. Many moms will also recommend switching it up with a bottle every now and then, if not, babies might learn to refuse a bottle and you might struggle getting the infant off the boob. Most importantly, know you are not a bad mom if you are unable to breast feed or choose to go straight to formula. Many studies will argue that breastfeeding is best for a baby; you must do what is best for you, as no two women are made the same.


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