What every woman should know about breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the optimal nutrition for infants; breastfeeding provides many benefits for society, mothers and babies. Every woman should know what to expect in the first few days.

Breastfeeding is the safest and simplest way to feed babies, and makes life easier for the whole family. Many women use breastfeeding as a way to bond with their baby. Additionally, there are numerous other benefits, some of which are listed below: (For more information, visit the federal women’s health website.)

Benefits for mom include less bleeding after childbirth and a lowered risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

Benefits for baby include fewer ear infections, lowers risk of pneumonia, lower risk of allergies and asthma, less gas, less constipation and diarrhea, lower risk of obesity in childhood, lower risk of developing diabetes and lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Benefits for society include saving more than $1,000.00 (U.S.) per family, during the first year. Mothers and fathers of breastfed babies use fewer sick days, have healthcare costs that are lower produces no product waste as they feed their children – nothing to wash, recycle or throw away.

It is important to develop a plan for breastfeeding your baby. Before the baby is born, you should learn about breastfeeding. Good resources include your local WIC office, La Leche League and your health care provider. You should identify your breastfeeding support system and have realistic expectations and goals. You should be open and honest, and talk with someone about your questions. Make sure you get accurate information; this is also a good time to visit your hospital and learn about their labor, delivery and post-partum practices.

  • In the hospital, tell hospital staff that you are going to breastfeed. After birth, cuddle skin-to-skin, with your baby on your chest until after the first feeding.
  • Your breastfeeding support person may need to advocate for you and your baby.
  • Limit visitors so you can focus on breastfeed and care of your baby.
  • Practice breastfeeding your baby often. Keep your baby in the room with you, you will both sleep better.
  • Learn your baby’s feeding cues, such as: trying to put his fists into his mouth, opening his mouth, looking for something to suck on, starting to squirm or making sounds. Crying is a late sign of hunger.
  • Learn to identify what an effective suck-swallow pattern is for your baby.
  • Avoid giving your newborn any fluids other than breast milk, unless medically necessary.
  • Learn how to express milk with your hand.
  • Ask for help if you have pain with feedings.
  • Wait three to four weeks before introducing pacifier or bottle.

Remember, it is okay to ask questions: this is your baby.

In the first 24 hours of life, your baby will need a minimum of three feedings. Your baby will need to feed more with each new day. Expect your baby to breastfeed 8-12 times a day. Although your baby may not eat each time, this is good practice for both of you. Take this time to “fall in love” with your baby, and enjoy lots of cuddling time. Sleep when your baby sleeps – they need lots of cuddle time; it helps them adjust more easily to life outside of the womb.

Your breast milk is specifically designed for your baby, and will change to meet her needs. Mothers who make a feeding plan are more successful with breastfeeding.

Lastly, be patient with yourself and your baby. It takes time and practice to feel confident and comfortable with breastfeeding.

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