Health Tips & Articles

Breastfeeding- You Can Do It!

by Jessica Zina-Duarte, MD

The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life with continued breast-feeding alongside solid foods up to at least 12 months of age.  Breastfeeding can be very rewarding, but there are many common challenges for new and experienced mothers. The key is to not give up!  Just like when you first learned to ride a bike, you may struggle at the beginning, but practice helps you to succeed. 

What are some of the benefits of breastfeeding?

1.      Antibodies transferred from mom help protect the infant from viral illnesses during the first few years of life

2.      Lessened risk for ear infections

3.      Reduced risk for allergic diseases including asthma, eczema, and food allergies

4.      Improved brain development

5.      Decreased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

6.      Decreased risk for childhood obesity

7.      Decreased risk for leukemia and lymphoma in childhood

8.      IT'S FREE!

9.      Decreased risk of diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer in mothers

10.  May help mothers get back to their pre-pregnancy weight

Your first milk is called colostrum; some call it "liquid gold" because it is a deep yellow color and very rich in nutrients and antibodies. Your baby will drink about 1 teaspoon of colostrum at each feeding during the first 3 days of life. Some mothers are tempted to supplement with formula or to stop breastfeeding during this period because they feel they are not producing enough to feed their newborn. Do not panic! Unless a physician is concerned about your infant’s weight or there is some other medical reason, do not quit.

At birth, a newborn's stomach is the size of a hazelnut (about 1 to 2 teaspoons). You may not see or pump a lot of milk during the first few days after birth, but the colostrum is there and that is all your newborn needs. The colostrum will change into mature milk by the third to fifth day after birth. This mature milk has the right amount of fat, sugar and protein to help your baby to continue to grow. By around 10 days of life, your baby’s stomach has grown to the size of a walnut (about 2 ounces).

Some infant weight loss during first few days of life is expected. The pediatrician may suggest supplementing with expressed breastmilk and/or formula when mother's breastmilk is not available. Your breastmilk production is based on supply and demand. The key to increasing milk production is to remove more milk from the breast and to do this frequently so that less milk accumulates in the breast between feedings.  One of the benefits of breastmilk is that infants digest it better than formula. 

At first, newborn babies need to be breastfed frequently.  You can follow their feeding cues, but it's usually needed about every 2 hours. Such cues may include mouth opening, head turning (to seek or root for the breast), bringing a hand to their mouth, or, if they're really hungry, crying or moving in an agitated fashion.  The more you nurse the more you will produce!

Monitor urine output.  This can tell you if your infant is well hydrated. They should have one wet diaper in the first 24 hours of life, two to three in the second 24 hours, and at least 4 to 6 wet diapers starting at day 3 of life.

During the first 3 days of life, your newborn will be very sleepy and may seem to be disinterested in feeding. However, it is important to wake him or her every 2-3 hours and to attempt to latch him or her on your breast. After delivery, a lactation consultant will help you work on positioning of the infant and latching. A good latch occurs when the infant opens his or her mouth widely with lips turned outward against the breast and grasps the entire nipple and as much of the areola as possible with his or her mouth. When an infant is latched properly, the mother may feel a gentle, painless motion with each suck.

If the latch is painful then the infant is not latching properly.  This may cause nipple cracking and pain. Poor latch can also occur with breast engorgement or nipple abnormalities such as inverted nipples. For those women who have nipple issues, a nipple shield may be of benefit. An infant may also not latch well if he or she has a tongue-tie.  This occurs when the frenulum, which connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is short or attached too close to the tip of the tongue. In this case, a clipping of the frenulum by a physician may be of benefit.

If you continue to struggle with breastfeeding once discharged from the hospital, speak to your newborn's pediatrician. Do not struggle alone! He or she can refer you to Riverebend Medical Group's Dr. Elizabeth Rose.  She is a board-certified pediatrician and lactation expert who spends an hour with you and your newborn. She provides one-on-one help and can teach wonderful techniques to help you succeed in breastfeeding.

Invest in your infant’s future by breastfeeding!



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