Making the decision to breastfeed is a very personal matter. It’s a commitment that requires effort, but the result can be positive and rewarding for both you and your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby's life, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced. This continuation of breastfeeding is recommended for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.
The Science Behind Breast Milk
Early breast milk is called colostrum or liquid gold. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies that help protect a baby. By the second or third week after birth, the milk becomes mature with the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein to help your baby continue to grow. Breast milk is easy for your baby to digest and it reduces your baby’s risk of ear infections, allergies, and colds because it is full of antibodies that help your baby fight infection. Plus, the frequent skin-to-skin time with mom is calming and comforting for you and baby.
Breastfeeding releases hormones that contract the uterus which helps the uterus return to its normal size after childbirth. It’s convenient, free, clean and always the right temperature. Bonus – it burns calories and can help you lose pregnancy weight faster!
Now that you have the basic background on breastfeeding, most new moms are plagued with this daunting question – can I produce enough milk? The short answer is yes, you can. Establishing a good milk supply, in the beginning, can make a difference in how long the relationship continues.
Keys to Building Your Milk Supply:
- The key to successful breastfeeding is a good latch. This can be a difficult task and may take several days, but don’t get discouraged.
- Breast compression is the best way to increase milk flow to your baby and to completely drain the breast. Keep switching back and forth between breasts until your baby is satisfied or stops swallowing.
- Feed your baby often (at least 8-12 times a day) to stimulate your body to produce more milk. Be sure to offer both breasts at each feeding.
- Stimulate your body to produce more milk by adding a pumping session between nursing and store any milk you pump until your supply increases.
- Don’t worry if you’re not producing as much milk while pumping since it’s not a good indicator of breast milk production. To gauge how much a baby is eating, monitor the amount of wet and dirty diapers, and whether or not the baby is growing appropriately.
- No matter how tempting it may be, don't supplement your baby's feedings with any solid food or formula, unless you and your caregiver decide that your baby needs supplemental nourishment for medical reasons.
- Avoid the use of a pacifier if possible, for the first few weeks. Instead, encourage your baby to comfort him or herself at the breast – the sucking will stimulate your milk production.
If you're not sure your baby is sucking well or are still concerned about your milk supply, don't hesitate to call on a lactation consultant for help. Talking to other moms or lactation professionals can help ease anxiety over the issue. You can also enroll in breastfeeding class, either in-person or online. These courses are taught by professional lactation experts and will help prepare you for what to expect.
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