A Gift of Love
by Erin Kaspar-Frett, CPM, LM, MSM
Benefits For Mom and Baby
Most won’t argue and it’s been proven through extensive research* that breastfeeding offers numerous advantages to infants, mothers, and families. In addition to the increased maternal/infant bonding, breastfed infants enjoy decreases in: diarrhea, respiratory infections, ear infections, bacteremia, bacterial meningitis, botulims, urinary tract infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis. The maternal health benefits are plentiful as well, and include: an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight, reduced risk of post partum hemorrhage, ovarian cancer, premenopausal breast cancer, and hip fractures in the postmenopausal period. Studies also show a correlation between breastfeeding and reduction in SIDS, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma, allergic disease, and other chronic digestive diseases and has been linked to enhancement of cognitive development. Lastly, there is the added benefit of cost reduction. Formula for an average year is over $1000.00.
Finding Good Support
Sometimes a woman decides she wants to breastfeed and is met with opposition from her family or friends. She may wonder to whom she can turn for support. Some, who lack support, give up breastfeeding and assume failure. A mother can contact a lactation consultant, a La Leche League leader, a midwife, a pediatrician, or a friend that is experienced in breastfeeding. As a society, we are becoming more supportive of breastfeeding as a whole, but we may still need to seek out that support.
I encourage all pregnant and breastfeeding moms to consider attending at least one LLL meeting to obtain or give support. For more information on LLL and to find a leader and meetings in your area contact LLL international at 1-800-LALECHE (US) or (847) 519-7730 or visit their web site detailing how to find leaders in your area at http://www.lalecheleague.org/leaderinfo.html
Getting Off to a Good Start
Studies have shown that breastfeeding progresses most smoothly when the baby is given to the mother at the moment of their birth.* When this happens, babies will typically begin breastfeeding within the first hour of their birth. They have a built in instinctual ability to know how to nurse. Mothers that have prepared themselves with reading and LLL meetings are typically relaxed and ready to nurse when they meet their new baby. The first latch on may be a bit awkward for both, but in time, both mom and baby will be pros!
Nursing on demand is highly recommended by the AAP as the ideal way to feed.* Feeding on-demand serves mom and baby. Baby grows confident in his mother’s ability to meet his needs when he requests them to be met, while mother’s body learns the amount of milk that baby needs. It is a demand, then supply system, only taking a day or two to catch up, if baby has a growth spurt.
Nutrition During Breastfeeding
What goes into a mother’s body while she is breastfeeding her baby is what becomes the nutrition her baby receives. Babies are building muscle, fat, bones, and brain cells. The best foods to eat during breastfeeding are similar to the best foods to eat during pregnancy. Whole foods, a well-rounded diet, and plenty of liquids will benefit both the mother and the baby. Avoiding caffeine, cigarette smoke, and recreational drugs is highly recommended during breastfeeding.
Remembering to take the time to eat is sometimes difficult for busy mothers. Frequent small meals are often recommended to the breastfeeding mother. Nursing mothers need at least 2700 calories and 65 grams of protein a day. Having an easy healthy snack and fluids available at all times is helpful for mothers who are busy or on the go.
Some babies will be sensitive to certain foods, becoming fussy or spitting up after the mother eats them. As the mother pays attention to what she had to eat or drink prior to a fussing episode, she will often realize what is causing the baby’s discomfort. Relaxation during feeding times also benefits the baby. A tense mother often makes for a tense baby, in the same way that a relaxed mother often makes for a relaxed baby.
What About Dad?
Non-nursing parents sometimes wonder how they can participate in their child’s life if they can’t provide sustaining nourishment. For some families, it works to have dad bottle feed expressed breast milk. For some, however, this feels awkward or the baby doesn’t relax or even feed at all. And yet there are so many important roles a non-breastfeeding parent plays in the life of their child. Fathers can hold, rock, bathe, feed solids when it is time, and dress and play with their children. These things can create a special time with their baby that provides a similar bond to the one mothers have during breastfeeding.
Weaning Your Baby
Many mothers are concerned about how long their baby will nurse. This is often a topic of controversy amongst care providers. Some mothers have been told that if they become pregnant with another baby, their breastfeeding baby or toddler must wean. This is not so. Breastmilk is still beneficial to an older infant or toddler even once his mother becomes pregnant again. Weaning is not required in most circumstances for the older baby.
Weaning is rarely recommended for the healthy mother and baby before 12 months of age, and only then because of medical reasons. The best approach to use for weaning is one that feels comfortable to you. Whatever approach to weaning a family decides to use, the important thing to remember is to gradually decrease nursing until the child is weaned. Except in rare circumstances, it is difficult for a baby or toddler to suddenly have things dramatically changed in their lives. This can be a disruption in their routine and cause anxiety for the child. Often, weaning will be up and down, as a child gets hurt or needs comfort, but it will happen.
Relax and Enjoy Breastfeeding
Above all, I remind mothers that the breastfeeding period is a special time, a time like no other in the mother’s or baby’s life. The baby will have the opportunity to get to know their mother during the time they spend nursing. The mother and baby will discover how important they are to one another during this time. The housework will still be there when the baby is done nursing. Work will still be there when the mother is ready to return. Friends and family members will gladly resume closeness when the mother feels ready to invest in these relationships again. The mother can simply relax and enjoy this special time between herself and her baby.
Looking for more breastfeeding info? Check out this online guide: http://babychangingstation.com/breastfeeding/
*Documentation recorded in the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement- Pediatrics Volume 100, Number 6, December 1997, pp 1035-1039 http://www.aap.org/policy/re9729.html. For a list of resources on the topic, please contact Erin Kaspar-Frett, firstname.lastname@example.org