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What You Need to Know About Breastfeeding – A Guide for New Moms

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Are you a new mom who has just started breastfeeding your baby or are you planning to any time soon? Breastfeeding can seem like a challenging new chapter for any first time mom especially with all the changes taking place in your body. In this Baby Care Weekly article, we’ll help you ease into this new territory.

How Long Should You Breastfeed

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life and then continue nursing combined with solid foods for the next 6 to 12. Each mother and child is unique so the length of time you breastfeed will depend on personal considerations and baby’s specific needs.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mothers and babies. With its mix of vitamins, protein and fat, breast milk offers complete nourishment for your growing child. Aside from its nutritional effects, breastfeeding will:

  • Improve baby’s immune system. Breast milk is filled with many disease-fighting substances such as secretory immunoglobulin A which protects baby from different diseases. Studies around the world have revealed that breastfed babies are less likely to have stomach viruses, ear infections, meningitis and lower respiratory diseases.
  • Facilitate mother and child bonding. Nursing your baby will stimulate the release of oxytocin, the hormone that facilitates pair bonding. Oxytocin is responsible for moving mother’s milk during breastfeeding and it is the same chemical released in the brain when a person falls in love.
  • Lower stress and the risk of postpartum depression. The oxytocin released when you nurse baby also promotes relaxation. A survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health also concluded that women who did not breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding early had a higher risk of postpartum depression.
  • Lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A 2009 German study found that breastfeeding is exclusively or partially associated with a lower risk of SIDS. The research concluded that breastfeeding exclusively for one month could cut the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.
  • Let you better understand your baby. Breastfeeding regularly will help you notice when baby is hungry or full. You will also learn to distinguish baby’s behavioral cues that may not be easily noticeable when you are feeding with a bottle.
  • Help you lose pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding burns calories so you can lose those extra pounds you put on when you were pregnant.

What to Eat When Breastfeeding

Many first time moms might ask if there is a special breastfeeding diet that they must stick to during this critical chapter. The short answer is there is no one bullet-proof diet for breastfeeding moms. Research has shown that the quality of your diet has little effect on your breast milk; your body will naturally produce milk with sufficient vitamins and nutrients for your baby. However, this does not mean you should compromise your health and wellness. Eating a balanced diet is still important for breastfeeding moms to be healthy and feel good.

A healthy balanced diet should include:

  • Starchy, wholegrain foods
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Protein

There is no universal list of foods that breastfeeding moms should particularly avoid unless your baby has a reaction to it. With that said, don’t go gaga over dieting but stick to making healthy food choices. Also, take note of any allergies that are common in your family and any particular effects a food has on your baby.

You may want to keep a food diary at this point so you can keep track of the food and drinks you take and determine possible links to changes in baby’s behavior such as fussiness or irritability and even allergic reactions.

Here are other things to remember when it comes to consuming certain beverages and food while breastfeeding:

  • Alcohol. No level of alcohol in breast milk has been determined to be safe for babies. So if you decide to consume alcohol, avoid nursing until the alcohol has completely cleared from your system. Generally, it will take 2-3 hours for your body to get rid of 355 mL of beer (5% alcohol), 148 mL of wine (11% alcohol) or 44 mL of hard liquor (40% alcohol).
  • Caffeine. Keep your caffeine intake to less than 3 cups (16 to 24 ounces) every day. Caffeine in breast milk could make baby fussy or affect baby’s quality of sleep.
  • Seafood. Certain seafood have high amounts of mercury which could affect baby’s nervous system. Seafood that is know to be high in mercury include swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel.
  • Dairy. Some babies have adverse reaction to the protein found in cow’s milk. Contact your doctor if your baby develops symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, swollen eyes, lips or face, rashes, eczema, difficulty breathing, coughing and changes in her poo.
  • Medications. Make sure you consult your doctor if you need to take any prescription drugs while breastfeeding so you can be aware of the potential effects on your breast milk.

Breast Milk Supply

Many first time moms worry that they might not be producing enough milk for their baby. For as long as your baby is regularly wetting his diapers daily (about six to eight diapers per day) then your breast milk supply is most likely normal. There are also ways to naturally boost your breast milk supply, check out this Baby Care Weekly article to know some of them.

Challenges During Breastfeeding

New moms may experience some challenges when breastfeeding for the first time. These include the following:

  • Sore nipples. Breastfeeding for the first few weeks can feel sore and this is normal. Make sure your baby is nursing the right way to prevent soreness. Babies tend to nurse actively at first so it’s best to start breastfeeding with your less sore nipple.
  • Dry and cracked nipples. Avoid using beauty products like lotions, creams and soap with alcohol because these can cause skin dryness.
  • Engorged breasts. It’s normal to have full breasts when breastfeeding, however when your breasts feel sore, hard and engorged, it could mean the blood vessels have become congested. You can relieve pain by following these steps:

When to Call Your Doctor

Consult your health practitioner if you experience the following symptoms when breastfeeding:

  • If your baby does not gain weight.
  • If your breasts become unusually red, hard, swore or swollen.
  • If your breasts have unusual discharge or bleeding.