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I know breastfeeding is good for my baby. But are there benefits of breastfeeding for moms?

Breast milk has nutrients your baby needs. It helps protect your baby from many illnesses, and it's easily digested. For you, it's convenient and economical. You can feed your baby anytime, anywhere. You may need to buy bottles or nipples if you plan to express milk and bottle-feed your baby now and then. Breastfeeding also helps your uterus return to its normal size faster. And some studies suggest that women who breastfeed may have a lower risk of developing specific types of cancer and hip fractures as they age.


I have small breasts. Can I produce enough milk for my baby?

Whether you're a B or a double D, it's possible to make enough milk to feed your baby. Nature designed a perfect supply-and-demand system. The more your baby stimulates your breasts by sucking, the more milk you'll produce. So even if your baby is in a growth spurt and nursing more often, your body will "keep up." Remember, mothers of twins and even triplets can have enough milk supply to breastfeed successfully.


How will breastfeeding feel?

When your baby takes your nipple, along with the areola, into his mouth and begins to suck, the sensations you feel cause a reflex called let-down. This signals your breasts to release milk. You may feel a little tingling or surging sensation when your milk lets down. You might feel slight discomfort at first, but if he latches on properly, you should not feel pain. If you do, he's probably not latched on properly.

Problems with Let-Down

If you're distracted, tired, stressed, anxious, embarrassed or have pain in your breasts, your milk may not let down.

Tips:

  • Get some rest.
  • Nurse in privacy, and try to release your mind of stressful thoughts and obligations during feeding time.
  • Spend a few moments looking into your baby's beautiful eyes, and let nature take its course.
  • If breast pain is a problem, work with your lactation consultant to review positions and latching on.

Leaking

This possibly embarrassing situation happens to all of us. For some, just thinking about their baby is enough to turn on the milk machine.

Tips:

  • Apply pressure to your nipples directly with your thumb and index finger.
  • Try crossing your arms tightly across your chest.
  • And wear absorbent breast pads in your bra.


When can I start breastfeeding?

Soon after birth. At first, your baby will receive not breast milk but colostrum, a yellowish fluid full of antibodies, protective cells and nourishment. Once your milk comes in, he will get both protein-rich foremilk and satisfying, high-fat hind milk.

Engorged Breasts

You may feel a little fullness if your milk comes in very quickly the first few days after birth. This is normal.Your breasts may swell, and feel uncomfortably full. Excessive engorgement, however, may be painful.

Tips:

  • To avoid engorgement, feed your baby often, and throughout the night. Let him nurse for 10-20 minutes on each breast.
  • If you still feel pain, express some of the milk with a breast pump. Or try releasing it manually by massaging your breast, then compressing it just outside the areola (Try doing this in the shower).
  • To help relieve severe engorgement, try cold packs, crushed ice in a plastic bag or cold cloths between feedings. Keep hot water away from your breasts while showering.
  • If you're still in pain after a day or so, call your doctor or lactation consultant about this issue and any other breastfeeding questions you may have.

Plugged Ducts

A tender, red area on your breast near the areola is a sign that you have a plugged milk duct.

Tip: Before each feeding, massage your breast, focusing on the firm area. Then nurse your baby right afterward and try to drain the affected breast.

Mastitis

Also called a breast infection. It can start out as a plugged duct, that gets infected, and can be accompanied by a temperature, aches and fatigue.

Tips: To avoid this, empty your breasts regularly, avoid tight clothing and try to stay rested. If you do get a breast infection, call your doctor at once. You may need an antibiotic, but you probably won't have to wean your baby. Follow your doctor's advice.


How often should I feed my baby?

Don't set a strict baby feeding schedule, instead breastfeed your baby as often as he wants at least 8-12 times every 24 hours during the first few weeks. You'll know how you're doing by how much weight he's gaining.

Milk Supply

To establish a good milk supply, you need to feed your baby frequently (8-12 times per day) in the first few weeks. Keeping up the frequency of feedings will keep telling your body to produce milk.

Tips: Ask yourself these questions to determine if your milk supply is sufficient:

  • Is my baby gaining weight?
  • Does he gulp and swallow when he feeds?
  • Does he wet his diaper 6+ times and have at least one bowel movement per day?

Some Issues That May Affect Your Baby

Food Sensitivities

The things you eat and drink affect your breast milk and ultimately your baby. Some babies have food sensitivities or allergies that bring on colic-like symptoms like crying, fussing, frequent nursing, and stomach discomfort.

Tip: Lay off the spicy foods or gassy foods like cabbage, garlic, onions, broccoli, and caffeine. If removing the food item doesn't stop the symptoms, talk to your baby's doctor about the possibility of colic.

Nipple Confusion

Bottles and pacifiers feel different to your baby than a breast does. Introducing these things can confuse him and make him not want to nurse.

Tip: Be sure that breastfeeding is well established before offering a pacifier, or bottle-feeding him.

Sucking Difficulties

Some babies do better with breastfeeding than others. An excited or hungry infant might be so eager that he doesn't latch on well. Or your baby might be satisfied by getting just a taste of milk and then stop nursing.

Tips: If your baby is a “sipper,” try to keep him interested by singing or rubbing his back. Massaging your breast may help with milk flow. For additional breastfeeding questions, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant.


What's the right way to breastfeed?

Have your nurse or lactation consultant help you with positions to hold your baby for feeding. Hold your breast with a “C” hold, your thumb above the breast and your four fingers supporting your breast underneath. Make sure your fingers are positioned away from the areola, so your breast can go far into your baby's mouth. Tickle your baby's lower lip to get him to open his mouth. Once he opens wide, pull him close and place his open mouth fully on your breast.

Sore Nipples

Some nipple tenderness is normal during the first days of breast feeding. But if your nipples become sore or cracked, this can hurt.

Tips:

To avoid this, be sure your baby is latched on properly. He should be sucking on your breast and your nipple should be far back in his mouth. Talk to your lactation consultant if you're not sure.

To help relieve this -

  • Avoid excessive moisture between feedings.
  • Let your nipples air-dry.
  • Don't use nursing pads with plastic liners, which can trap moisture.
  • Lotions or lanolin can help, once the nipple is dry.
  • Try alternating breasts for a few feedings until the condition improves.
  • Also, wash your breasts with warm water and avoid soap, which can be drying.

If the condition doesn't improve, check with your doctor or lactation consultant about this issue and any other breastfeeding questions you may have.


How can I keep breastfeeding when I go back to work?

Many women manage the breastfeeding/working schedule with a little planning. Whether you go back to work full-time or part-time, you can develop a breastfeeding routine that works for you and your baby. Here's a schedule that many moms follow:

  • Nurse early in the morning, right after your baby wakes up.
  • Nurse again just before you leave for work.
  • Pump your breast milk two or three times during the workday. Store it in a refrigerator and bring it home in an insulated cooler with ice packs to feed your baby the next day.
  • Have your child-care provider feed your baby the stored breast milk during the day.
  • Nurse your baby as soon as you get home from work or pick her up from child care.
  • Nurse during the evening.


At what rate will I gain weight?

Weight gain is usually slow during the first 3 months. After this, your baby begins to grow more quickly. Although everyone is different, here is a guideline of what you can expect.

  • 1 to 4 pounds total during the first 3 months (first trimester)
  • 2 to 4 pounds per month during the 4th to 9th months (second and third trimesters)


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