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Breastfeeding Basics
Author Andi SilvermanMama Knows Breast


Andi Silverman was a lawyer and journalist. She was an on-air reporter for the CBS and Fox affiliates in Boston, and is a graduate of Brown University, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Virginia School of Law. Andi became a mom in September 2004. Still breastfeeding 10 months later, she got pregnant again! Who said breastfeeding was birth control?! Andi is author of “Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner’s Guide to Breastfeeding” (Quirk Books 2007), and has written this breastfeeding basics guide for readers of MetroplexBaby.com and our partner, BigCityMoms.com. Moms and dads, here's Metroplex Baby's Parent Guide on

BREASTFEEDING BASICS

I bet you have a huge “to do list.” Buy a crib. Install the car seat. Stockpile diapers and wipes. Get some baby blankets. Yes, there’s a lot to think about when you’re pregnant, and at times it’s overwhelming.  Rest assured everything will get done. There is, however, one key thing you should focus on when you’re pregnant…how you will feed your baby. 

 Whether to breastfeed or formula feed is a highly personal decision. Each mom has to do what works best for her and her baby. Some moms breastfeed. Some use formula. Some do a combination of the two. There are also moms who feed their babies bottles of pumped breast milk. It’s truly a matter of personal choice.

But before deciding what to do, consider this: the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months. That means no water, juice, formula or solid foods. The AAP also recommends breastfeeding (in addition to solid foods) until the baby is at least one year of age. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years.

Here’s the reason for all the boob talk. Breast milk is the “gold standard” for your baby’s health. It has the perfect mix of antibodies and nutrients for a baby’s development. Research shows that breastfeeding can protect a baby from a range of infectious illnesses and diseases such as diarrhea, ear infections, bacterial meningitis, SIDS, diabetes, obesity, asthma and some childhood cancers.

But wait…there’s more. Breastfeeding is good for your health too. After your baby is born, it causes uterine contractions that help your body return to its pre-pregnancy shape. Breastfeeding also burns calories. (Yes, you can lose weight without putting on your sneakers!)  In addition, research indicates that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of Type II diabetes, ovarian and breast cancers and possibly osteoporosis.

If you do decide to breastfeed, you need to get off to a good start. Right there in the delivery, put the baby to your breast. Babies have a “rooting reflex” that causes them to make sucking motions and turn towards your breast. But they do need guidance. It’s up to you to make sure your baby is “latched on” well. Her mouth should open wide and take in as much of the areola (the dark area) as possible. If you need help, get guidance from an expert such as a nurse, lactation consultant, doctor or midwife. 

After birth, and that first feeding, the marathon begins. Newborns eat around the clock, every two to three hours. So, if your baby ate from 9 a.m. to 9:30, the next feeding starts at 11:00. Of course, this is a rough estimate. Sometimes babies eat more frequently. Sometimes less frequently.  As your baby gets older, feedings are generally every three to four hours. Experts recommend feeding your baby “on demand,” or whenever she asks for it, even if she just ate. So watch for feeding cues. If she’s crying, fussing, rooting, licking her lips or sucking her fist, she may be hungry.

So how do you know if your baby is getting enough to eat? First of all, her pediatrician will check her growth. If she’s gaining weight, then she’s probably doing just fine. You might also keep a log of how often she eats, urinates and has bowel movements. Newborns eat eight to twelve times per day. They can poop three to four times and pee five to eight times.

If your newborn is really sleepy, and not waking up on her own to eat, you’ll need to wake her up. Making her stick to a feeding schedule not only ensures that she is getting enough to eat; it also helps establish your milk supply. Breast milk operates on a supply and demand principle. The more the baby sucks and swallows, the more milk you make. For this reason, it’s also important to feed the baby from both breasts. You can switch sides during one feeding, or alternate sides for every feeding.

So is breastfeeding a breeze or a challenge? The experience is different for everyone. While breastfeeding is what nature intended us to do, it doesn’t always come naturally. In the worst-case scenario, a mom can get sore nipples, engorged breasts, plugged ducts, a yeast infection or mastitis. At the first sign of ANY problem, get help as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the worse the problem can get. A lactation consultant is usually the best person to contact for advice. You can find an LC through the hospital, your doctor, or even The International Lactation Consultant Association (www.ilca.org). You might also want to contact your local La Leche League chapter to find a breastfeeding support group.

And what if you’re planning to go back to work? If you want to continue to breastfeed despite having to go to an office, this will probably mean pumping milk while at work. A babysitter can then give your baby the milk in a bottle the following day. Finding a private place to pump at work is sometimes difficult, so talk to your boss about your plans.

Eventually, you may start to contemplate weaning. Once again, when to wean is a matter of personal choice. Some moms continue to nurse their children well into toddler-hood. The big question though, is how to wean.

The most important thing is to wean gradually, and not quit cold turkey. Drop one feeding at a time. Stick with a new schedule for at least a few days, before cutting out another feeding. In order to drop a feeding, shorten the feeding time until it gradually disappears. You can also try the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” principle. In other words, only feed the baby when she asks for it. You can try to distract her by playing, taking a walk or snuggling. Finally, someone other than you may try to give the baby a bottle. A baby under one year of age should have formula. A baby who is older than 12 months can have cow’s milk. But check with the pediatrician before making any changes.

Finding a support system is perhaps the greatest key to breastfeeding success. In addition to a lactation consultant, talk to other moms one on one, in a support group or an Internet chat group. And ultimately, remember that whether you breastfeed for one day, one week, one month or one year, you will be the center of your baby’s universe.

Andi Silverman is the author of “Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner’s Guide to Breastfeeding,” (Quirk Books 2007). She also runs the blog www.mamaknowsbreast.com.


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