For anyone entering parenthood today, you've undoubtedly heard the phrase “breast is best,” and for good reason.
That's because there are simply no substitutes that rival the invaluable health benefits of breast milk, which explains why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding babies breast milk exclusively for the first six months, and as long as possible – ideally throughout the first year. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card, while nearly 4 out of 5 new moms start breastfeeding, only half are still doing so at 6 months, and fewer still - only about 25 percent - continue throughout the full first year.
As with so many aspects of parenthood, it has been my experience that it's one thing to know what to do, and altogether another to know how do it. In the case of breastfeeding, the fact of the matter is that what's “natural” doesn't always come naturally. Too many moms are caught off guard by this and quit early because they don't have the support they need. In other words, they mistakenly think they're failing when they're really not. That's why I think it's so important to share the following breastfeeding insights and practical tips, as they can really help to increase the odds of breastfeeding success.
Dr. Laura Jana is an Omaha-based pediatrician and proud mom of three. She is the co-author of two parenting books and founder of Practical Parenting Consulting. She is a media spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and founder of Primrose School of Legacy in Omaha. She blogs every second Tuesday of the month. Read more from Dr. Jana.
1. Catching on to latching on. Don't be afraid to ask for help if at first your baby doesn't succeed. Some babies are born with the ability to latch on to the breast correctly right from the start, but others really benefit from some hands-on training before they catch on to this all-important skill.
2. Be sure to send out an SOS (in Search out Support)! Anyone who's ever done it knows breastfeeding can be time-consuming, tiring, or – if we're being honest with ourselves - even downright demanding. Breastfeeding moms should always remember to ask for support – whether it's in the form of a helping hand at the hospital, help tending to baby's other night-time needs, or to fend off any feelings of isolation or frustration.
3. Remember it's a matter of supply and demand. Fussy babies often fool moms into believing their milk supply is inadequate. Instead of simply assuming that extra fussing and/or frequent nursing are sure-fire signs of breastfeeding failure, it helps to first understand how the concept of supply and demand applies. Whether in the earliest days of breastfeeding or in the weeks after settling in to a predictable nursing routine, fussing and acting hungry is how babies communicate their growing “demands” so that they can successfully increase the milk supply. If you have any concerns, always remember to check-in with your pediatrician to make sure that everything is on track.
4. Get comfortable. This not only includes finding a comfortable feeding position that works for you and your baby – whether it's a cradle hold, a football hold, or laying side-by-side - but also becoming comfortable with breastfeeding in general. The ability to find a comfortable position, feel adequately covered-up, and nurse in public and/or on-the-go all serve to make breastfeeding a more enjoyable experience.
5. Don't get too irritated. Be aware that there are some mild irritations that can show up during the first few days of breastfeeding – most notably some nipple irritation and uterine cramping - but tend to go away within days. After that, remember to be on the lookout for and seek medical advice throughout your breastfeeding months for the onset of any new irritations in order to keep blisters, cracks, blocked milk ducts, or mastitis (breast infection) from getting in the way of an otherwise painless and enjoyable breastfeeding experience.
6. And finally – remember that breast milk each day really can help keep the doctor away. Not that I am in any way advocating the avoidance of your pediatrician, since a close partnership with your pediatrician and regular checkups are key to your baby's health. Rather, I find it is both empowering and motivating to finish any discussion of breastfeeding with a reminder that breastfeeding is a great investment in your baby's overall health – one that not only provides them with the ideal food, but also lots of other health benefits and plenty of opportunity for shared bonding time.