Breastfeeding Basics

By JustMommies staff

If you are planning to breastfeed your baby, you are really going to be embarking on a new journey and doing something that mothers all over the world have been doing for centuries. While this isn’t the only option for feeding your baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding as the ideal form of nutrition for newborns. Breastfeeding just needs a little learning and a little perfecting on your part and you’ll be off onto a great relationship with your infant. Make sure you seek out help if you need it, surround yourself with supportive people and get good advice. Elaine Robertson, a board certified lactation consultant, has all the answers to your most common breastfeeding questions.

JustMommies:What are the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding?
Elaine Robertson:There are many benefits to exclusive breastfeeding. Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. It is human milk for human babies. We have to look at the properties in breast milk that are not available anywhere else… anti-infective and anti-bacterial properties. These properties help the baby’s immature immune system and give protection against viral, parasitic and bacterial infection. Although formulas can provide babies with necessary nutrients, we cannot come close to making up the properties found in human milk. Recent studies suggest that IQ is also enhanced from being breastfed. We know that some childhood diseases can be prevented or minimized by the act of breastfeeding as well. For example: there appears to be a decrease in childhood obesity amongst breastfed babies. When a baby is breastfeeding, they only take what they need and stop when they are full. This is a good lesson for life. Bottle-fed babies tend to be encouraged to finish the bottle, because mothers do not want to waste anything.

JustMommies:Are their benefits for the mother?
Elaine Robertson:Absolutely. The bond created by breastfeeding is like no other. It is a special time for both mom and baby. In addition, you don’t have to prepare anything. There are no bottles to mix and sterilize. You don’t have to rush to the store to purchase more formula. Breast milk is always fresh and available. You can go anywhere and your baby goes with you. We also know that most new moms lose weight a lot faster if they are breastfeeding, which is a nice bonus. In addition, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of certain cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer. Always remember the cost of formula... breast milk is free and totally organic.

Tips for Breastfeeding

1. When you are pregnant, get some really good reading under way. Make sure you do the research, understand the material and ask questions.

2. Surround yourself with family and friends that support you.

3. Seek out a mom who is actually breastfeeding her baby. It can be very beneficial just to watch her. See the position of her baby, how she is comfortable and how breastfeeding is working for her.

4. Attend a breastfeeding class at your local hospital or birthing center.

5. Have a good look at yourself. Is there anything about your anatomy (your breasts, your nipples) that may impact breastfeeding? Are your nipples flat? Are they inverted? You can address all these things beforehand with a doctor. Just be aware of your body, because your body changes during pregnancy. These things can impact how your baby latches on.

6. The best advice is to feed your baby early, feed your baby often and keep your baby with you during your hospital stay. Let the nurses know that you wish to nurse your baby and have your baby rooming with you. Seek out the help of the lactation consultant in the hospital setting. They can be invaluable to you in those first hours and days to make sure you are getting that good position, that good latch on and a good understanding of the process. At the hospital, if your baby feels like nursing, you should give it a try. Have the nurse help you position. If your baby is not quite ready, don’t worry. Just hold your baby close. Skin to skin contact is so important.

JustMommies:Does breastfeeding hurt?
Elaine Robertson:Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt with proper help, but many new moms come into it thinking this is something to be expected. Moms may experience some tenderness, but that shouldn’t be translated into major trauma. If you are in pain, your baby is really not latching on properly and you should seek out help.

JustMommies:What are some challenges of breastfeeding?
Elaine Robertson:In the first few days and weeks, you have to learn to adjust. New moms and babies need plenty of patience and persistence to get used to the routine of breastfeeding. Understanding and recognizing your baby’s cues may take some getting used to. Babies come with their own language and if you don’t understand that, it can be very confusing. Time and frequency of feedings is also a factor because breastfed babies need to eat more often than babies who are fed formula because breast milk digests faster. You may find yourself nursing every 2-3 hours in the first few weeks. Some moms may be concerned that nursing will make it difficult for them to work, run errands or travel because of a breastfeeding schedule or the need to pump breast milk during the day. Not to worry, a family member can help out by giving the baby pumped breast milk if mom needs to get back to work. Eventually, it will become easier to work out a schedule to breastfeed and pump. Sore nipples can be a concern. Moms that experience soreness should seek out help from their lactation consultant or doctor, because it is usually a matter of proper latch on technique.

JustMommies:How long should you breastfeed?
Elaine Robertson:The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and then, in addition to solid food, for the remainder of the first year of their baby’s life. However, any amount of breastfeeding that a mom can give is extremely beneficial.

Just Mommies:Risks to not breastfeeding?
Elaine Robertson: Breastfeeding or nursing may not be possible or preferable for all women. Most mothers who choose to use baby formula often cite convenience as a major reason. Infant formula comes in three forms: ready to feed, concentrated liquid and powder. Price and convenience are what differentiates them from each other. If you feed your baby a commercially prepared formula, be assured that your baby’s nutritional needs will be met. However, we do know there are risks for allergy reaction or colic reaction. There are some soy formulas and hypoallergenic formulas, but most of the formulas on the market are dairy-based. Human milk is not dairy. Additionally, none of the important antibodies found in breast milk are in formulas, so your baby will not get that added protection from infection and illness. Whatever nutritional option you choose, talk to your doctor about the choices available for you and your baby.

JustMommies:What’s the scoop on breast pumps?
Elaine Robertson:If you are getting ready to go back to work or just want a caregiver to feed your child while you take a break, breast pumps can be a big help. Make sure you find the pump for your needs. There are manual pumps (which you operate by hand) and electric/battery-powered pumps. Most moms who need to pump more regularly opt for a more efficient electric model. The price ranges anywhere from $200-$350. Hand pumps are generally more affordable and smaller. If you are a mom returning to work, you should buy a double pump. This type will pump both breasts at the same time and can be done in about 15 minutes. You should follow your baby’s pattern when you pump. If your baby is nursing every 2-3 hours, you need to pump every 2-3 hours once you return to work. Try the pump out at home first, because you want to feel comfortable with it before you go back to work. You also want to make sure your baby can take a bottle as well. You don’t want to go to work and worry that your baby is not going to be able to take a bottle while you are away. Please speak with your employer beforehand. Make sure they understand how important it is for you to pump and they accommodate you. You need to have some privacy (not a bathroom)… a private place to use your pump during the day. It’s important to have easy access to putting your milk in a refrigerator or a cooler. Bring a photograph of your baby with you, so that you can look at your baby while you are pumping. A vivid reminder of your baby will allow milk to flow more readily.