Some moms have a clear advantage when it comes to breastfeeding -- growing up in an environment where breastfeeding is supported and considered that standard way of feeding a baby. They may have family or friends who breastfeed their babies. So they likely feel comfortable breastfeeding their own baby and have lots of people to go to if they need help.
Other moms may not have much personal experience with breastfeeding, and may not get much support from those around them.
They can all likely use some help and advice to make sure they are breastfeeding their baby effectively.
Even as baby formula manufacturers try to make their products closer to breastmilk by adding nutrients such as prebiotics, nucleotides, antioxidants, DHA, and ARA, which are naturally present in breastmilk, the American Academy of Pediatrics holds that 'breastfeeding ensures the best possible health as well as the best developmental and psychosocial outcomes for the infant.'
The benefits of breastfeeding, both for the baby and the breastfeeding mom, are clear, including:
decreased rates of infections, including meningitis, ear infections, diarrhea, and colds
slightly higher scores on IQ tests for breastfed babies
a possible protective effect against SIDS
an earlier return to prepregnancy weight for breastfeeding moms
decreased risks of breast cancer and ovarian cancer for breastfeeding moms
And of course, it is usually more convenient and less expensive to breastfeed a baby vs. feeding him formula. Although health experts are working at improving breastfeeding rates and trying to make breastfeeding the 'cultural norm,' moms shouldn't feel guilty if they choose not to breastfeed. An iron-fortified baby formula is a good second best option to breast milk.
Getting Started with Breastfeeding
What's the best way to get started with breastfeeding?
Although taking a prenatal breastfeeding class is helpful, you can get a good start with breastfeeding your baby by nursing as soon as possible once your baby is born. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "Healthy infants should be placed and remain in direct skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately after delivery until the first feeding is accomplished."
After that, you can expect to breastfeed your newborn baby about 8 to 12 times each day.
Other tips to help you get on the right track when you start breastfeeding include that you:
avoid supplementing your newborn baby with water, juice, or even baby formula unless your pediatrician says that it is medically necessary
wait to give your baby a pacifier until she is breastfeeding well, so that it doesn't cause any nipple confusion
watch for signs that your baby is breastfeeding well, including that she is having three to five wet diapers and three to four stools each day by the time she is three to five days old.
see your pediatrician by the time your baby is three to five days old to make sure she is feeding well and doesn't have jaundice
give your exclusively breastfed infant a vitamin D supplement
Health experts have pretty ambitious breastfeeding goals for new moms. By 2010, as part of the Healthy People 2010 health objectives from the CDC, they would like to see:
75% of mothers breastfeeding in the early postpartum period
50% of mothers continuing to breastfeed at six months
25% of mothers breastfeeding to twelve months
How long do you plan on breastfeeding?
It is not something that breastfeeding moms commonly think about, but having a plan or goal for breastfeeding can be helpful.
For example, setting a goal for how long you want to breastfeed can help ensure that you won't stop early if you begin to have problems, as you get help and advice to keep going until you meet your goal.
And when considering how long to set your goal, remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child."
In addition to articles on internet, breastfeeding moms can get a lot of help from other moms who have breastfed their babies or who are breastfeeding now, including family and friends.
Other great sources of help for breastfeeding support can include:
breastfeeding books, such as The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins
breastfeeding support groups
twin support groups
a lactation consultant
a pediatrician who is supportive of breastfeeding
Some people expect breastfeeding to be easy -- that all babies are simply born ready to breastfeeding and all moms will moms will have enough breast milk to satisfy their baby. While it is sometimes that easy, many moms encounter some breastfeeding problems here and there, especially in the first few weeks after their baby is born.
Recognizing these problems early can help you make sure that you can the help you need so that you can continue breastfeeding without any interruptions.