05 Jun The Best Milk is Breast Milk
One of the biggest questions new moms have is about breastfeeding:
What is the proper way to care for my breasts when breastfeeding?
This guide will lay out the basics of breast care and practices that will keep both you and baby healthy and happy. If you’ve never breastfed before, the concept can be a bit intimidating. Don’t worry; every new mom has had to get the hang of it, and it does take a bit of practice.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a very intimate experience between you and your baby, but it’s not just an act of bonding. Breastfeeding has many benefits, including:
- Breast milk has antibodies that can help your baby fight diseases
- Breast milk is rich in essential nutrients
- You and your baby have a much lower risk of serious illnesses when you breastfeed
- Breastfeeding is easier on your baby’s digestive system than formula
- It’s cheaper than buying formula and saves you money
Breast milk also lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS claims the lives of over 2,000 infants each year in the US. The correlation between breastfeeding and SIDS isn’t quite clear, but there is evidence suggesting that breastfeeding does lower the risk.
Common Breastfeeding Problems and Their Solutions
A lot of moms experience soreness of the nipples. After all, your baby may not have teeth, but they can still latch on tight and work your muscles to the brink of what’s tolerable.
Solution: Try using a different position. Using only one breast or the same position every time can cause abrasions and soreness. You should also make sure your baby latches on properly. Talk to a lactation consultant, correcting an improper latch is the most common cure for painful breastfeeding. You can soothe irritation with a product like Medela lanolin cream.
Variations in milk supply can sometimes be unpredictable. However, having too much or too little milk are two problems breastfeeding mothers can overcome.
Solution: Once your baby reaches six weeks to two months old, they may experience a growth spurt that makes them want to nurse more. Don’t supplement with formula; although your supply may get low, nursing more will get your supply back to normal. If one or both breasts feel like they’re too full, express some of the milk (i.e., squeeze it out using a pump or hand express) to relieve discomfort. Save your expressed milk in the freezer for another time.
Hard, painful breasts, commonly referred to as engorgement, are unpleasant to deal with. Engorgement can result in an infection or a plugged duct, so it’s important to treat it accordingly.
Solution: Let your baby feed freely after birth to prevent a buildup of milk. You should also make sure your baby latches on properly and avoid pacifier use in the first few weeks of life until breastfeeding is well established. If you experience engorgement on one side, pump your breasts when necessary to keep milk flowing and the duct unblocked. Don’t wear constrictive bras that press or pinch your breasts.
Heading Back to the Office
Lots of working moms return to the job while still breastfeeding. It may take some adjustment and preparation, but it is absolutely doable. For a fantastic article on how to express breast milk at the office, check out healthychildren.org.
Finally, although breast milk is my recommendation as a pediatrician and the best choice for a newborn, there are lots of families that choose formula. A parent shouldn’t feel guilty about choosing formula; it’s a perfectly acceptable alternative when breast milk isn’t an option. For more information on the web, visit cdc.gov and healthychildren.org. If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding breastfeeding, you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.