Tips for New Mothers:
Feeding Tips for New Mothers
Life Essentials Health
no secret that breastfeeding provides both a mother and her baby
with numerous physical and emotional health benefits.
some new moms who have every intention of nursing their babies end
up switching to formula within the first few weeks of their babies'
are some of the key findings on this topic from a study published
in the December 2005 issue of Pediatrics:
on data collected in 2000 and 2001, 32 percent of women chose
not to breast feed at all
percent started breastfeeding, but stopped within the first week
percent stopped breastfeeding within the first month
percent continued breastfeeding for greater than 4 weeks
women with lower than average socioeconomic status were most likely
to stop breastfeeding within the first month
for stopping with breastfeeding included:
perception that the infant was not getting enough milk
on my own personal experience with breastfeeding as well as the
experiences of other moms who I have talked with over the past year,
it's clear that all first time moms can benefit from learning about
what to expect with breastfeeding, particularly in the first month.
Knowing what to expect can provide first time moms with confidence
and assurance that can lead to a healthy breastfeeding experience.
are some pointers about breastfeeding that I wish I had known about
before my baby arrived:
can be hard and stressful. Most books and breastfeeding support
groups tend to emphasize how wonderful breastfeeding is and how
good it is for the development of a healthy bond between mom and
baby. A lack of awareness of how hard and stressful breastfeeding
might be at times can leave many women feeling like they are the
only ones dealing with a stressful breastfeeding situation. The
reality is that many mothers find it difficult.
of the stress of breastfeeding can come from having painful nipples.
La Leche League and lactation consultants tend to say that breastfeeding
should not be painful. I would agree, but would add that this
may not be true during the first week or so of breastfeeding.
While breastfeeding, the nipples get stretched so that they reach
the back of the baby's palate - close to the throat. In the first
weeks of life, the baby is constantly nursing to bring up mom's
breast milk supply. Constant nursing plus the stretching that
the nipples are subjected to can leave mom's nipples extremely
sore. The good news is that after about a week or two, the nipples
get used to the rigors of nursing and don't tend to get sore anymore.
a woman continues to experience sore nipples after a week or two
of breastfeeding, the cause might be an improper latch. Latch
refers to the position of the baby's mouth, lips, and tongue on
the breast. A La Leche League leader, lactation consultant, or
mid wife can provide guidance on how to promote a good latch while
common source of stress can be the feeling that mom doesn't have
enough or any milk in her breasts. When a woman's milk first comes
in, it can take a while for her body to adjust to how much milk
her baby needs. Until her milk supply regulates in this manner,
her breasts will feel really full at times and really empty at
The reality is that breasts are never fully empty because the
body is constantly producing milk as long as the baby is nursing.
In my case, our baby grew so fast that I felt that my breasts
were often empty, which led me to feel that my milk supply was
inadequate. In actuality, my body was learning what our baby needed.
All I had to do was let our baby nurse as much as he wanted -
even if it seemed that no milk was coming out - because the more
a baby nurses, the more milk will be produced. Thankfully,
I had learned this at La Leche League meetings during my pregnancy
so I was able to persevere with breastfeeding, despite my feelings
of having an inadequate milk supply.
the breasts feel is not a reliable indicator of whether a woman
has enough milk or not. Neither is the amount of milk that a woman
can pump out because man-made pumps are not as efficient as babies
at drawing out milk. For example, the pump that I have doesn't
work very well unless it's rinsed in water first to give the suction
mechanism more stick. Even then, it doesn't get much milk out.
I currently use my breast pump only to relieve engorgement that
occurs whenever our baby's nursing patterns change.
potential source of stress for me was an overactive letdown. Letdown
is when the baby's suckling triggers a reflex that results in
milk flow. The stress that first time moms can experience with
an overactive letdown is another potential feature of the breastfeeding
experience that women don't tend to tell each other about. It's
important to note that not all women experience an overactive
With our baby, my letdown was so strong that milk would literally
shoot out. He wasn't able to handle the strong surge in milk,
leading to coughing and sputtering that was heart-breaking to
see. Now that I look back, I didn't even realize at first that
I had an overactive letdown. I just thought that I was doing something
wrong or that something was wrong with our baby. If I had the
opportunity to do things over again, I would have set our baby
aside once my letdown was triggered, let the milk run out, and
then let our baby back on the breast once the surge had diminished
and he was able to nurse comfortably. Ultimately, our baby was
able to overcome this problem when he grew big enough to handle
my letdown, which occurred at approximately 3.5 to 4 months of
first time moms can feel stress over wanting to get the latch
just right. I wanted our baby's mouth to look exactly the way
that the baby's mouth in a La Leche guide looked. In truth, our
baby's mouth couldn't always look "perfect" because he was trying
to handle my letdown. Now that he is bigger and manages the letdown
just fine, his latch looks like the classic latch when he is nursing.
But even though we've got a good latch going, his mouth doesn't
always look "perfect" - both lips are supposed to be flanged out,
but his top lip is sometimes curled in. A good approach seems
to be to let the baby latch and see how it feels. If it hurts
or is uncomfortable, then change it. Sometimes babies know how
to latch correctly right away, but sometimes they don't. Sometimes
it is a learned skill.
women can find it stressful when family members suggest or flat-out
tell them that they don't have enough milk. Today's generation
of child-bearing women should remember that their parents' and
grandparents' generations were greatly influenced by formula companies
and many of them don't have the experience of breastfeeding for
a long time. Some of them didn't breast feed at all. The reality
is that babies will nurse a lot because they are growing all the
The only reliable way to tell whether a baby is getting enough
milk or not is to observe his or her output (number and amount
of pees and poos) and the baby's growth. Sometimes, even when
a baby is obviously getting enough milk, relatives may suggest
that mom doesn't have enough milk. In my case, our baby was 20
pounds at 3 months and 23 pounds at 4 months and I still heard
from my relatives, "Maybe you don't have enough milk" from time
to time. Ultimately, it is very rare for a mother to have inadequate
milk supply if she is allowing her baby to nurse whenever the
baby wants. And of course, high quality milk production requires
mom to eat when hungry and to eat healthy foods.
KEPT ME GOING WITH BREASTFEEDING:
supportive husband .
good support network - La Leche League helped a lot because I
was able to call the leader anytime.
midwives who invited me to call anytime, day or night, during
the first few weeks of our baby's life.
La Leche League meetings while pregnant - they taught me a lot
about breast milk management before I started breastfeeding and
this helped to keep me from getting discouraged when I started
the mindset that formula is not an option - if there was an option
that was as good as breastfeeding, but didn't require my breasts,
I would have taken it! But since there wasn't, I had to keep going
with the breastfeeding.
told that I was doing a really good job (even though I felt like
I wasn't). Empathy helps a lot - for example, having someone acknowledge
that I wasn't having a good time.
you can see, I believe that a first time mom who really wants to
breast feed her child can never have too much support. If you are
a first time or expectant mom who is in need of breastfeeding information
and support, I encourage you to visit La Leche League's
web site and Dr.
William Sears' web site. Feel free to contact me as well by
writing to margaret at drbenkim.com - be sure to replace the "at"
with an @ symbol.
currently working on a book that includes all of the steps that
my husband and I took to prepare for and experience a healthy pregnancy
and delivery. This article is an excerpt from the last section of
the book, which I hope will be available in the summer of 2006.
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