Breastfeeding your newborn is a wholesome and beautiful experience. While it's perfectly natural, it may not always be as easy as you imagined - particularly if this is your first time! The articles below are intended to address potential questions that may arise.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for many reasons. Breast milk is a complete and complex nutritional source containing antibodies for your baby. It reduces the risk of disease, allergies, bone and tooth density, vitamin deficiencies and developmental defects. Additionally, breastfeeding promotes a very special emotional bond between you and your baby.
Introduce your baby to breastfeeding as soon as possible. It may take some time, but your baby will begin to nurse when she is hungry and ready. When she does begin breastfeeding, allow feeding as often as possible in the first two days (this will get the milk flow to regulate), allowing about 5 minutes each breast for the first couples of days, and ten to fifteen per breast after a few days of feeding. If you are having trouble with flow, you may wish to use a breast pump (a mechanical devise that extracts milk from the breasts of a lactating woman), or supplement with natural products such as Nursing Blend or Nursing Time Tea. After feeding, be sure to burp your baby by gently patting her back while she lies on your shoulder to expel any gas. For more information about breastfeeding techniques and useful products, we recommend visiting Breastmilk.com.
Most women chose to breastfeed because they want to provide the highest quality nutrition to their new baby. Having a healthy diet and lifestyle as a mother is the best way to ensure that your new baby is as healthy as she can be for proper growth and development. We know that new mothers are generally exhausted and going through a lot of adjustments during post-delivery recovery, and that eating right can be a challenge. If you eat a less-than perfect diet, there is no big need to worry. Research has shown that even with a less than perfect diet, your baby will still receive ample nutrition through your breast milk. This is true, however some ingredients in breast milk may vary depending on the maternal diet. This is where good eating habits make a difference.
Be sure to consume about 300-500 extra calories per day while breastfeeding, and be sure they are nutrient dense and not calories from fast food or ‘junk food’. Getting enough Vitamin D is essential for good bone strength for your rapidly growing baby, especially if you live in a place with low amounts of sun. Hydration is also key for the production of milk, so be sure to drink plenty of water. Studies have shown that almost any diet will produce quality breast milk, and that hydration is almost more important that what you eat. One thing that is strongly recommended to avoid is smoking. Stay away from cigarettes. Nicotine passes directly through breast milk to the baby. Alcohol consumption is not recommended for nursing women, yet there is some debate surrounding the topic. Check in with your doctor for his or her input. You also need to discuss any medications that you would like to take with your doctor; some can be very dangerous while breastfeeding.
As mentioned in Breastfeeding 101, some women experience difficulties getting their babies to nurse for the first few days after birth. If your baby won’t nurse, don’t panic. She was born with enough nutrients to get through these first few days of confusion and objection to nursing. Attempt to feed her as much as possible so that she gets the hang of it.
Low Milk Supply: Some women have concerns about being unable to produce enough milk to meet the needs of their growing baby. You may begin to produce less milk if you are not feeding your baby as regularly as you should be, are taking birth control pills, or are ill. You may also be one of the few women who simply do not produce enough milk. There are a number of natural galactagogues (herbs to increase milk flow), the most popular of which is called Fenugreek. There are also a number of natural products available designed to help with milk quality and production such as Nursing Time Tea or the comprehensive supplement Nursing Blend. If you are concerned that your milk production is extremely low, you should see a doctor or lactation specialist.
- Sore Nipples: Incorrect ‘latching on’, and poor positioning of the baby are the leading causes of sore nipples during breast-feeding. Breastfeeding should not hurt. If it does, try to reposition the baby until it is comfortable for you, change positions every time you nurse, and be sure that your baby has enough areola in her mouth, and is not just sucking on the nipple. Feed regularly, and wear loose fitting bras and shirts while not feeding. Never use harsh soaps or astringents on your nipples. For nipple discomfort, you may want to try Nipple Nurture Balm or another nipple cream to soothe, heal and protect sore nipples.
- Sore breasts: also known as engorgement, are a result of your baby not being fed for long enough or as regularly as she should be. Engorgement sometimes also causes a low-grade fever and can be confused with a breast infection. Engorgement is the result of the milk building up, and usually happens during the third to fifth day after birth. Be sure that your baby feeds regularly, and for a long enough period of time, as well as avoiding the use of bottles of formula or pacifiers.
- If your breasts are engorged for longer than a few days, see your doctor to make sure that you do not have a breast infection (Mastitis), which is an infection caused by plugged ducts. The plugged duct will feel like a lump in one breast, and is accompanied by a fever and/or flu-like symptoms. Mastitis will create soreness in both breasts, causing them to be hot to the touch, discharge yellowish fluid from the nipples, and nausea. You can still breastfeed, but see your doctor if these symptoms persist for over 24 hours; you may need antibiotics.
- Thrush is a yeast/fungal infection that forms on the nipples while breastfeeding. It thrives on breast milk and is caused by an imbalance in hormone levels, which creates an upset in normal levels of bacteria. Activities that can lead to thrush include: having an overly moist area around your nipples, taking antibiotics or birth control pills, and having a diet that is high in sugar. Thrush can be spread to your newborn in the form infectious spots in her mouth. If you or your baby shows signs of thrush, please see your health care provider for a diagnosis.