The decision to breastfeed will be one of the first major choices you make in planning for the arrival of your new baby. For some new mothers, it can also be the hardest. With so much information out there, it’s not always easy to sort through which voice to listen to. As soon as that baby bump begins to show, everyone from doctors to friends, family, and the grocery store cashier will want to offer their opinions and anecdotes. But deciding to breastfeed is only the first part of the equation.
How long to continue breastfeeding as well as how to actually go about it are a few of the questions that frequently come up, and it’s important that a knowledgeable professional be the one to answer.
Can I Breastfeed?
One of the top reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is the belief that they do not have enough milk. Statistically, your chance of actually being unable to produce enough milk to sustain a healthy baby is very low.
“It’s really interesting to me that so many mothers today still think they don’t make enough milk for their baby when in fact we have the evidence to support the idea that very few of us can not make enough milk for our babies– probably only five percent,” says Harvey, MS, RN, IBCLC.
The way to tell if your milk supply is sufficient is by weighing your baby. Harvey explains that most babies do lose up to 10% of their weight in the first 4 days of life, but should start to steadily gain weight from that point on.
“Once they begin to gain, they should gain at least an ounce a day in the first 3 months of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly suggests that every breastfed baby be weighed within two to three days of hospital discharge to make sure,” Harvey says.
If your milk supply is low, or if other issues are stopping you from breastfeeding, lactation consultants can work with you to determine the reason and find possible solutions.
How Do I Start?
Breastfeeding may be a natural process, but just because you’re born with breasts doesn’t mean you automatically know how to use them.
“So many moms think that breastfeeding is supposed to be easy and natural, and it really isn’t. It’s a learned skill for many people, and you need to know where your help is and access it until you can get over the hump,” says Harvey.
Because a new baby’s stomach is so small, it fills quickly but also empties quickly, so Haldeman recommends feeding often– at least 8-12 times per day, starting within the first two hours of birth.
“It can empty in as much as 40 minutes, 48 minutes, maybe 90 minutes,” says Harvey.
With feeding, comes the need for burping. How to burp your baby depends completely on each individual child’s needs. Harvey does has some tips that you can try while determining the best method of burping your baby:
- Light, rhythmic rubbing or patting on the back
- Putting the baby in an upright position
- Light bouncing or rocking while holding the baby
Haldeman recommends trying out a Side Lie Position, where the mother can stretch out and rest while breastfeeding. This is especially useful for those with delivery stitches or hemorrhoids that wish to take the pressure off of their backside.
Just as it sounds, mothers lay on their side with their baby stretched out next to them on the bed. The mom’s bottom arm should be resting up toward her head to leave room for the baby, and her other arm holds the baby close to her. Pillows can be positioned under the mom’s head, behind her back, and between her knees as needed for comfort.
Why Should I Start?
- Benefits for Mama
Cancer Risk Reduction: Every year that you breastfeed reduces your chance of breast cancer by 4.3%, and for every baby you reduce your risk by an additional 7%.
Metabolic Syndrome Risk Reduction: 50-80% reduction of the risk of developing Metabolic syndrome, which is defined as the precursor to Type 2 Diabetes.
Stress Reduction: Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress levels.
- Benefits for Baby
You know that breast milk is the most natural option in terms of feeding your baby, but how much of a difference does that make?
“Human milk is a living substance and every time a mother breastfeeds her child, she’s providing antibodies to that child. The benefits of human milk do not expire,” says Haldeman.
Hungry for more information? Check out what our other experts have to say about Breastfeeding.
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