Have you decided to breastfeed your baby? Congratulations on making a healthy choice that is full of benefits for your baby and for you too.
Breastfeeding has been the primary feeding method for babies throughout history, although in the 1960s, using formula became much more popular. There has been a slow increase toward returning to breastfeeding, especially as parents have been educated about its health benefits.
An All-Star Nutritional Drink
Experts recommend breastfeeding because it offers complete nutrition to your child. It is loaded with good stuff like fat, protein, carbs, antibodies, enzymes, and vitamins.
Plus, babies also reap the benefits of all that cuddling and snuggle time with you as they feed.
You may hear your nurse or midwife talking about the various stages of breast milk. These are:
- Colostrum: The first milk that you’ll notice coming out of your breasts is called colostrum, nutrition-laden milk that is packed with antibodies and protein. It is generally thick and can be clear, yellow, or even orange because of the beta-carotene it contains.
- Transitional breast milk: This milk is part colostrum and part full-fledged breast milk. The colostrum and mature milk phase can last up until about six weeks after birth.
- Mature breast milk: This is the regular breast milk you’ll continue to produce until you stop breastfeeding.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
There are numerous benefits, both for mom and baby.
For babies, breastfeeding can lead to a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, ear infections, Type 1 diabetes, obesity, and asthma, among other things.
For mothers, breastfeeding can lower the risk of getting high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
How Long Should Moms Breastfeed?
Any amount of breastfeeding is good for babies, but they’ll reap the most benefits when their mothers continue to do it as long as possible.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding until a child is at least six months old, but ideally no less than one year. Breastfeeding can continue up to 2 years old, along with the introduction of solid foods.
Ultimately, it is up to moms as to how long they breastfeed their children. By factoring in your unique circumstances and taking into consideration the advice from the experts, you’ll find what works best for your family.
Is There More Than One Type of Breastfeeding?
While looking into breastfeeding or talking to your mom friends, you might hear some conversations about moms who breastfeed and formula feed, or those who say they exclusively breastfeed. If you’re new to being a mom, this can be confusing.
Don’t worry, it’s not complicated. Let’s look at the types of breastfeeding so you can figure out what your options are.
- Exclusively breastfeeding: This just means that you offer breast milk only to your baby — no formula, cereal, or solid food. It’s what medical professionals recommend all mothers do for their babies for at least six months.
- Partial breastfeeding: You might have breast milk supply issues preventing you from being able to exclusively breastfeed. One option is to breastfeed for some feedings, while formula feeding for others.
- Breastfeeding with solid foods: When your child reached 4- to 6-months, it may be time to introduce solid foods. You can keep breastfeeding as they eat solid foods.
Finding the Right Latch
As you start your breastfeeding journey, you’re going to hear a lot about your baby’s latch. That may be another new term for you, but it’s important. If your baby has a poor latch, they may not get enough breast milk and you might end up with cracked or bleeding nipples — it’s a lose-lose situation for both you and your baby.
If your baby has the right latch, they’ll be able to get enough breast milk and you won’t be looking for excuses to stop breastfeeding because your nipples won’t feel like they are covered in molten lava.
Using a comfortable position for breastfeeding can be your best ally in establishing a good latch for your baby. Find a nursing chair that feels comfortable and has good back support. You may find a breastfeeding pillow can help your baby find the right latch.
If you find you’re having trouble with holding your baby in a position that works well for breastfeeding, keep exploring different ways to hold your baby while its feeding.
Problems You Might Face While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding may be natural, but it isn’t always easy. You might feel awkward about it in the beginning or struggle to find the right latch or position that works for you and your baby. But with time and a little dedication, you’ll be breastfeeding your baby like a pro in no time.
Here are some of the common setbacks you might face.
- Engorgement: When you experience breast engorgement, you’ll be uncomfortable because your boobs will feel hard, painful, and supersized. This happens if you don’t breastfeed enough or sometimes when your milk supply increases. Try to breastfeed at least once every three hours — your baby will be hungry that often anyway.
- Painful Nipples: Making sure you get that latch correct will help this problem immensely. Also, after you’re through breastfeeding, rub a few drops of your breast milk on your nipples and let its soothing properties go to work.
- Clogged Milk Ducts: Hard, painful lumps can form in your milk ducts. These usually cause discomfort, redness, and swelling. This can happen for many reasons, including a bad latch, a large milk supply, engorgement, dehydration, lack of sleep, weaning, or even tight underwire bras.
- Mastitis: This is a breast infection that causes a lot of tenderness, pain, redness, and swelling. You might need antibiotics, but it’s fine to keep breastfeeding.
- Low milk Supply Issues: Some women don’t make enough milk to exclusively breastfeed. If you think your supply is lacking, there are things you can do to ramp up production.
Since breast milk is so vital to your baby and it’s hard to know how much your baby is actually taking in when you breastfeed rather than bottle feed, many moms are concerned they aren’t producing enough. It’s a common worry, but it’s usually unfounded. Most women are capable of producing enough milk for their baby’s needs.
The important thing to remember is that what may not seem like enough to you is usually enough for your baby. You aren’t feeding a grown adult with your milk supply. Newborns just need a couple of ounces at a time generally.
As your baby requires more, your body will begin to make more. If you’re worried about not having enough, you should start to build a freezer stash. If your baby just fed off of one breast and is full, pump the other one and store the extra in the freezer for a rainy day.
Products You’ll Want or Need
Even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding, there are products you’re going to need to successfully pull this off. The first thing you’ll learn as a new mom is how much gear it takes to raise a baby in this day and age.
Here are some of the items you may want to add to your breastfeeding wish list for your baby shower.
- Best Breast Pump: It’s not feasible to be with your baby 24/7. Sooner or later, you’ll need a manual or electric pump for expressing breast milk so your baby will have milk even when you aren’t with them.
- Best Nursing Bra: This will make it simple and convenient for you to start breastfeeding whenever your child needs milk.
- Best Nursing Pads: Pads can help disguise any milk leaks you have. No more embarrassing shirt stains.
- Best Nursing Pillow: This can spare your arms from the fatigue of constantly holding your baby up. You can buy covers for your nursing pillows to keep them clean, or you can spot clean them as needed.
- Best Nursing Covers: This will give you privacy when you’re in public with a hungry baby.
- Best Bottles for Breastfed Babies: Sooner or later, you’ll need someone to help you out with the feedings. Whether you’re at work, sick, or have a spouse who wants in on the fun, bottles can be crucial to your breastfeeding plans.
- Best Breast Milk Storage Bags: You can put these in the freezer to build your emergency breast milk stash.