Breastfeeding Guide
Guide To Nursing Your Baby

Nursing

Breastfeeding Guide

Contents

What Is Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding Support And Resources
Learning To Breastfeed
How Often Do I Need To Breastfeed?
How Long Should I Breastfeed For?
What Are The Problems Of Nursing?
Do I Need Birth Control If I Am Breastfeeding?
Is It Safe To Smoke Or Drink?
What If I Have Postpartum Depression?


TOPICS

Birth Defects
Postpartum Guide
Postpartum Depression
Paternity Testing


breastfeeding woman


Articles In This Section

Pros And Cons of Nursing
Benefits
Disadvantages

Other Advice
Breastfeeding positions
How to breastfeed
Milk supply
Nursing problems

What Is Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding, also called nursing, is the suckling of an infant from the mother's breast. In the past wealthy women who did not want to be tied to nursing their baby employed the services of a wet nurse. A wet nurse was a woman who was lactating (producing breast milk) after giving birth herself and who was willing to breastfeed another woman's child. Wet nurses were indispensable at a time when many women died in childbirth. Today, the benefits of breastfeeding are slightly different, but no less important. The experience of breastfeeding is special for many reasons, including:
• Breastmilk contains important antibodies that protect your baby from common childhood infections.
• It facilitates bonding.
• Is less expensive than bottle-feeding.
• Offers long term health benefits for both mother and child.

Related Articles On Pros And Cons
Benefits of breastfeeding: Detailed look at the advantages of nursing.
Disadvantages of breastfeeding: Side effects for mother and child discussed.

Breastfeeding Support And Resources

While breastfeeding is natural, most women still need some guidance. If you are nursing for the first time, you will find many sources of help and support, including specialized health professionals and friends and members of the family who have already breastfed successfully. The following is a list of specialists who can provide advice:
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC): These consultants help to teach new moms how to breastfeed comfortably, offer advice on positioning, latch and a range of issues from diet to breast engorgement. Your hospital or birthing center will have a list of IBCLC's they work with. Or you can visit www.ilca.org to find a consultant near you.
Breastfeeding Counselor or Educator: These advisors can help answer your questions about breastfeeding. Many educators are qualified CLCs (Certified Lactation Counselor) or CBE's (Certified Breastfeeding Educator). While both have specialist training it is not as extensive as IBCLC's.
Doula: A doula is a professionally trained and experienced helper who can give social and practical support to families during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.
WIC Program: WIC (Women, infants and children) is a federally supported program that offers nutrition counseling and health care referrals to low income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women. To find out more, see: www.fns.usda.gov/wic

Learning To Breastfeed

Learning how to breastfeed takes time and needs practice. Tips on how to breastfeed and for starting off include:
• Start breastfeeding your baby as soon as possible after birth.
• Ask a lactation consultant (who will be on site) to come and help you.
• Tell the staff not to give your baby food or formula unless medically necessary.
• Arrange for your baby to stay in your hospital room all day and night so that you can breastfeed often. Alternatively ask a nurse to bring your baby in for feedings.
• Don't give your baby pacifiers or artificial nipples until he/she has learnt how to latch on to your breast.

How Often Do I Need To Breastfeed?

Basically - as soon as possible after birth and then often. You should feed your baby at least 8 to 12 times every 24 hours to encourage milk production. This means, after birth your baby will probably need feeding hourly or every 2 hours during the day and a few times during the night. A healthy baby will quickly develop their own eating pattern so follow their lead and watch for signs that they are ready to eat again. One feeding session typically lasts about 15 to 20 minutes per breast (a total of 30 to 40 minutes). If you are worried that your baby is not eating enough, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant.

How Long Should I Breastfeed For?

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American College of Nurse-Midwives recommend:
Breastfeeding for at least 12 months, with exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. That means after 6 months you can start introducing other foods and liquids into your baby's diet if you wish (this is known as the weaning process).

What Are The Problems Of Nursing?

Breastfeeding problems can occur, particularly in the first days and weeks of starting. The following is a list of the most common complications. It is worth mentioning that just because you developed certain problems with one baby does not automatically mean you will for the next one.
Sore nipples: the nipples have to work much harder than they ever have before. This can cause some initial sensitivity, particularly if your baby develops a preference for one nipple.
Low milk supply: While a common concern, most moms produce enough milk. Checking your baby's weight and growth is the best way to know if he/she is eating enough. See: milk supply while breastfeeding.
Oversupply of milk: Having very full breasts can make feedings uncomfortable and stressful.
Engorgement: If you have engorged breasts, your breasts become hard, painful and full of milk. Engorgement can also cause a low-grade fever and may be mistaken for a breast infection.
Plugged duct: Where a milk duct becomes blocked. The area will feel tender and a sore lump will appear. It does not cause fever or any other symptoms.
Breast infection (mastitis): A soreness (sometimes there is a lump) on the breast develops. It may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms and fever.
Fungal infections: A yeast infection (thrush) can form on the nipples because yeast thrives on milk.
Nursing strike: This is where your baby has been happily nursing for months and then suddenly decides it no longer wants to. It does not necessarily mean that the baby wants to wean, s/he may be trying to tell you something is wrong (possibly a sore mouth due to infection, an ear infection or some other sort of pain).

Do I Need Birth Control If I Am Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding can delay the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles by a few months. Most women who breastfeed start ovulating within 10 to 12 weeks (although some women experience longer delays). If you are concerned about becoming pregnant again, talk to your doctor about a suitable form of birth control to use while breastfeeding. IUD devices can be inserted after week 4 and birth control injections after week 6.

Is It Safe To Smoke Or Drink?

If you smoke, ideally you should quit for the sake of your own and your baby's health. If you can't quit, it is still better to breastfeed because you can protect your baby from sudden infant death syndrome and respiratory problems. If you do smoke, do so outside the house away from the baby. Ideally you should also avoid alcohol while nursing, but an occasional small drink is fine (just avoid feeding for 2 hours after the drink).

What If I Have Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is different to the baby blues. The blues are a temporary form of depression which disappears quickly after childbirth. Postpartum depression is more serious, and fortunately far less common. Read about the symptoms of postpartum depression. If you are diagnosed with the condition, you will need to work with your doctor to find the best form of treatment. You may need to take antidepressants. While these medications do pass into breast milk, few problems have been reported in babies.

Related Articles
Postpartum depression quiz - take the test!

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WOMENS HEALTH ADVICE: ABOUT Breastfeeding
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