Breastfeeding: facts vs. myths

Congratulations, you're expecting a baby. And of course you only want the best for your new son or daughter. Well the best thing for your child is actually not anything you can buy, but get for free: breast milk.How good is it? Well imagine if you can increase your child's IQ by up to 10%, and decrease their chances of getting asthma, leukemia and diabetes, also colic and respiratory infections, by up to 200%. Yes it's true, research has shown that bottle fed babies have 200% more visits to the pediatrician for health problems. All the major health organizations recommend breast milk as the ideal nutrition for a newborn. These groups include the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the U.S. Department of Public Health, and the World Health Organization. Their websites are fairly uniform in saying all babies should get only breast milk for their first six months of life, (with no formula supplementation) and continue to breast feed for a complete year or longer after you introduce table food. How and when to begin? As soon as possible, preferably before the baby is an hour old. When you are admitted to the hospital to have your baby, inform your nurse of your intention to breast feed. In most cases with an uncomplicated delivery there shouldn't be a problem. If you have never done it before, let the nurses know so you get assistance. How often? Listen to your baby for hunger cues. Most babies will nurse every 2-3 hours, and there are no more time limits on the breast; 15 - 30 minutes each breast at each feeding is not unusual. But each baby is individual and will develop their own routine of what works best for them. But will it hurt? Correct breast feeding is not painful. If you are in pain when your baby latches on, your positioning is not correct. There maybe some discomfort initially for a few days as your nipple adjusts to the baby's mouth. The most important thing is to have the baby's mouth wide open, like a yawn, before your nipple is put in his or her mouth. That way the baby's gums do not clamp down on the tip of the nipple, which is what causes most painful breastfeeding. Will I have enough milk? How do I know the baby is getting enough? Mother Nature devised this system millions of years ago, so mothers make enough milk for their babies. Look at your baby's fist; their stomach is no bigger than their fist. At birth, your breasts have colostrum, the first breast milk, the perfect temperature and quantity for your baby. Most women can express some from their breasts the last month of the pregnancy. When you are home, also count the wet diapers. With your baby wetting 6 - 8 diapers, you can be assured you are making enough milk for your baby. Milk is made by the law of supply and demand, the more the baby nurses, the more milk your body will make. When a baby gets formula supplements he nurses less often, so your body makes less milk. The AAP does not recommend any formula supplements, but let your baby nurse often to build up your milk supply. Do I have to change my diet and eat special foods? No, just eat normal healthy meals, like you did during your pregnancy. The most important thing is water; continue to drink eight glasses daily, so your body has the fuel to make enough milk. Dairy products are also important; you don't have to drink milk to make milk, but have cheese, yogurt and other calcium rich foods up to three times daily. How can I get more information? Attend a breast feeding class before you have your baby. Get videos and or books from the library. You can also call La Leche League International and attend some meetings before you give birth, and meet other women with breast feeding success stories. Downey Regional Medical Center offers breast feeding classes every other month. Call their Education Department for registration at (562) 904-5580. Cost is $10. Rita L. Shertick, RN, BSN, is a staff nurse at Downey Regional Medical Center's Family Birth Center. She is a Lamaze certified childbirth educator and a certified lactation educator.

********** Published: August 26, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 19