Baby’s Nutrition: Learning the Dance of
Your first dance with a new partner can be a bit awkward. With practice, you both learn how to move with one another gracefully. Learning to comfortably nurse your baby is very much like learning to dance. It may not be perfect at first, but with practice, it becomes effortless. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively through baby’s first six months and continuing to breastfeed as you add in other foods during the first months 6- 12. Even a small amount of breastmilk in the first few days after your baby’s birth makes a difference. Longer is better, but every ounce counts! Breastfeeding provides warmth and closeness. The physical contact helps create a special bond between you and your baby. Breast milk has many benefits – it is easier to digest, doesn’t need to be prepared, and it is always available. It has all the nutrients, calories, and fluids your baby needs to be healthy and growth factors that ensure best development of your baby’s organs. Breast milk also has many substances that formulas don’t have that help protect your baby from many diseases and infections. In fact, breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, wheezing, bronchiolitis, and other bacterial and viral infections. Breastfeeding is good for Mom too. It helps to release hormones in your body that promote mothering behavior and return your uterus to the size it was before pregnancy more quickly. It also burns calories, which may help in losing pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding will delay the return of your menstrual period to help keep iron in your body. It also keeps bones strong.
PLAN AHEAD Attend a breastfeeding class. It is important to learn how to latch the baby to the breast correctly so that you are comfortable and the baby is effective at getting milk. Check your local health department and area hospitals for breastfeeding classes. Ask friends and family members who breastfed for their support. You can get excellent and accurate information from www.womenshealth.gov. Include breastfeeding goals in your birth plan. Ask about skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. Research shows it eases the baby’s transition into the world. Often referred to as ‘kangaroo care,’ this close contact helps stabilize baby’s breathing and heartbeat – and has been shown to increase milk supply.
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ESTABLISH A SUPPORT SYSTEM New Moms need support and reassurance. While you are pregnant, develop a list of ‘who to call’ in case you have questions or concerns. It can be a friend who had a successful breastfeeding experience or a lactation professional. Most hospitals have lactation professionals on staff and they will consult with you on the phone or in person. You can search ‘find a lactation consultant’ at www.ilca.org. The La Leche League offers support groups.
INTERVIEW PEDIATRICIANS When choosing a Pediatrician, be sure to ask if he or she has experience supporting breastfeeding Mothers and babies. Your baby’s doctor will be a valuable part of your support system. They are the best source of information about medications you may be prescribed during the postpartum period.
IF YOU ARE RETURNING TO WORK OR SCHOOL Let your employer know that you will need regular breaks to pump human milk for your infant and ask about a comfortable, private space. Your insurance may provide a double electric pump or you can buy or rent one. A good pump is critical. Ask a lactation counselor about the best models. Take a few weeks to practice pumping before you return to work. Work with your childcare provider to plan baby’s feeding around your schedule.