What you need to know about breastfeeding

Many mothers want to make sure they’re breastfeeding correctly. Some have an easier time getting started, whereas others struggle to get their baby to suckle properly or to latch on.

If you’re shown the proper techniques from day one, it can prevent unnecessary discomfort and set the stage for a happier, more successful breastfeeding experience. Don’t feel alone: Every woman has questions.

Today, mothers have online resources to guide them, but there’s no substitute for getting a one-on-one visit from a lactation consultant.

Breast milk provides health advantages that formula can’t

“I talk to women every day about the benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk does work magic and provides so many benefits that formula can’t deliver,” said Kate McLachlan, a registered nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with University Health System.

She explained when a baby latches on within the first hour after birth, the mother’s milk comes in sooner and it significantly increases the amount of milk she produces in the following weeks and months. This still holds true if the mother does a hand expression of breast milk immediately after her baby is born.

“Additionally, the baby’s saliva is absorbed into the mother’s breast and her body automatically transfers antibodies needed by her baby. We’re constantly learning new facts about the responsive components of breast milk,” McLachlan said.

Breastfed babies have fewer middle ear infections, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal issues.

It’s known to reduce the incidence of asthma, autoimmune diseases and some leukemias. Babies who drink breast milk are less likely to get Type 2 diabetes or struggle with obesity. Mothers who breastfeed for two years or more have a lower risk of getting breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A high percentage of mothers stop breastfeeding earlier than they planned

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of mothers don’t breastfeed as long as they would like to, due to the following reasons:

  •  They can’t get baby to latch on properly
  •  They worry about their baby getting enough nutrition
  •  Concerns about taking medications while breastfeeding
  •  The workplace doesn’t offer adequate maternity leave or support

If you’re able to breastfeed for any amount of time, the medical community agrees it’s healthier for both you and baby.

“I dedicate a lot of time teaching mothers how to get their baby to latch on properly,” McLachlan said. “I also spend time reassuring new moms that they can produce enough milk for their baby to be healthy. We talk about medications – nursing mothers can take most over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. I have a discussion with each mother about her individual circumstances and concerns.”

Having access to a lactation consultant can make a big difference. An expert can give you important information and encouragement when you need it most.

McLachlan said new mothers should reach out for continued support even after they leave the hospital. Getting personal instruction from a lactation expert can help you develop good breastfeeding techniques.

Tips for successful breastfeeding

  • Use the clutch or football hold for best positioning
  • Get baby to open wide by touching top lip against the nipple
  • Make sure to get a good breast compression to create a deep latch
  • Don’t be afraid to squish the nipple all the way into baby’s mouth
  • Position the nipple at the back of baby’s mouth and up high
  • Use pillows to bring baby up to the height of the nipple, bringing baby to the breast, not breast to the baby

When your baby latches on with the nipple all the way in their mouth – not just the end of the nipple – that will help to prevent nipple pain and increase milk transfer.

How long should you breastfeed?

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends exclusively breastfeeding for six months. After that time, solid foods can be brought into the baby’s diet while continuing to breastfeed up to one year. Breastfeeding is often extended beyond that timeframe, if both mother and baby want to continue.

The World Health Organization suggests extending breastfeeding up to two years or more for maximum health benefits for mother and child.

In the end, the choice to breastfeed is a personal one. You decide if it’s right for you. If you need it, there are many lactation consultants and support services available to help you through the process.

Register now for free monthly breastfeeding classes at University Hospital.

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