As a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist and mother of three, breastfeeding is a topic that comes up in my conversations practically every day. This food source is truly “liquid gold,” offering growing babies nutrition, protection and long-lasting health benefits. It’s also advantageous for women. They can experience faster weight loss, lower rates of postpartum depression and a stronger bond between mother and child.
Moms labor to get their babies here, but breastfeeding is truly a labor of love. Though often challenging initially, it is worth every drop babies get. So in honor of Breastfeeding Month, here are 5 tips to practice successfully.
1. Provide yourself with the proper fuel.
If you hope to produce a food source for another human being, you should take in the proper building blocks to create it. Continue taking prenatal vitamins and drink water frequently, even when you aren’t thirsty. Eat nutritious foods: lean meats, beans, whole grains, well-washed or organic fruits and vegetables and dairy. Also, avoid excessive sugar.
2. Don’t get discouraged.
Breastmilk can take up to five days to come in for first-time mothers. Until then, the baby is getting colostrum, a valuable nutritional source with antibodies for fighting infection. Your pediatrician will use your baby’s weight and wet diapers to ensure the baby is getting enough food. Remember, newborns survived those first few days of life long before formula existed. Supply depends on demand. Let your baby nurse!
3. Those who can, do; those who can’t, pump.
Not every baby will latch onto the breast, even after using multiple techniques. Using a breast pump on each breast for at least 15 minutes every 2-3 hours will usually express enough milk to supply a newborn’s needs. Working moms can breastfeed, too. Having a breast pump can allow you the ability to nurse at home and pump at work. If your production is not enough to supply the baby’s needs, something is better than nothing. Give your baby breastmilk in addition to formula. Your baby won’t know the difference but will reap the benefits.
4. Trouble doesn’t last always.
Breastfeeding is often uncomfortable in the beginning. This discomfort should get better. If it doesn’t, seek help from a lactation consultant or your doctor. Clogged milk ducts, mastitis, and engorgement can cause severe pain. Massage, warm compresses and expressing milk every 1.5 to 2 hours when painful nodules arise can help to prevent the development of infection.
5. Know when enough is enough.
If you have tried every trick in the book and are still unable to breastfeed, sometimes the healthiest thing for a mother’s emotional well being is to accept this reality and let it go. As valuable as breastmilk is, it is not worth the negative effects on one’s psyche when it just doesn’t work out.
This article was originally written by Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald for JetMag.com in 2015.