From the minute my daughter was born, I asked the nurses to wake me
up every time she wanted to nurse. I wanted to breastfeed and I thought
it would be easy.
Three days later, I was singing a different
tune and so was my daughter. I eyed the can of formula that was sent
home with us … and gave in. I just couldn’t resist.
crying, I stopped crying, but the guilt of bottle feeding her lingers
to this day. Now the mother of two, who successfully nursed her second
child, I know that breastfeeding is natural, but it takes patience and
With the help of a small army of mother’s helpers—from
pediatricians to nutritionists—everything you wanted to know about
nursing begins right now.
Human milk is unarguably the best food
for babies, according to the US Department of Health and Human
Services. It contains the right amount of nutrients in the right
proportions for a growing baby. Breast milk is different at the
beginning and end of a feeding. It also comes in a variety of flavors
that hinges on the mother’s diet.
“Breast milk is more than
just calories, proteins, fat and carbohydrates. There are other
nutrients that are not just ‘extras,’ implying that a baby can do
without them. They are needed for optimal nutrition during infancy.
Breast milk is the nutritional model for artificial baby milk, but no
formula company can match it,” says Karen Gibson, a registered
dietitian in the Department of Pediatrics at The University of Texas
Medical School at Houston and director of the UT WIC (Women, Infants
and Children) Program.
Breast milk ingredients:
* Lactoferrin helps the baby’s body absorb iron and protects the stomach from harmful bacteria.
* Lipases assist in the digestion of fats
* Special growth factors and hormones contribute to baby’s growth and development
infants who are fed breast milk also thrive more than those fed
formula, according to a study published in the October 2007 issue of
the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The premature infant
study involved 773 US babies born extremely underweight—less than 2.2
lbs. between 1999 and 2002.
The study found that babies in the
group given breast milk received higher scores on a test measuring
their overall intelligence at 30 months of age, with the highest scores
showing up among children who had received the most breast milk as
Premature infants are usually fed through a feeding tube, since most will have trouble nursing from their mother.
companies imply that formula is ‘second’ to breast milk, they are
leaving a lot up to the consumer to assume. Formula is really a distant
second in providing the complete nutrient profile that breast milk
does,” says Gibson.
Human milk is a baby’s first immunization. It
provides antibodies which protect the baby from many common respiratory
and intestinal diseases, and also contains living immune cells. Breast
milk contains immune components such as growth factors, cytokines, and
“Although controversial, breast milk may
also provide protection against some forms of allergies,” says Susan
Pacheco, MD, pediatric immunologist and assistant professor in the
Department of Pediatrics at UT Medical School.
“The same applies
to atopic or allergic diseases, such as asthma,” says Pacheco.
Researchers are still examining breast milk closely, to determine all
Destiny Wright had her heart set on
breastfeeding when she had her first son. She didn’t even buy any
bottles. “While I was pregnant, my doctor told me that I may have
trouble nursing, but didn’t explain why. I wasn’t told that having flat
nipples would affect my ability to nurse my son,” says Wright.
he was born in Colorado, the nurses didn’t help me. Every time I asked
a question, they treated me like I should know the answers already. It
broke my heart. I tried as long as I could to nurse him, but gave up
when the pediatrician said he was losing weight at his one-month
check-up,” says Wright.
When Wright found out she was pregnant
with her second child, she began doing research and turned to The
University of Texas WIC Program for help. Wright says they gave her
free breast shields when she was about five months pregnant. The
devices helped draw out her nipples, so she could better nurse her baby.
was born four months later at Memorial Hermann Northwest. Wright’s
experience according to her: unbelievable! “They were so pro-nursing
there. I started freaking out thinking he wasn’t getting enough milk,
but they calmed me down and told me to relax,” Wright says.
Dana Havard was particularly helpful, teaching Wright good positioning
and eventually calling in a lactation consultant to Wright’s room.
“When I really began to feel him nursing well, Dana was as excited as I
was. She was invaluable and I will never forget her help,” Wright
Donovan is now a thriving 3-month-old,
breastfed exclusively. Wright credits the hospital and the UT WIC
Program for providing invaluable instruction and support. “Women need a
support system, and I could not have asked for better help. I would
tell all mothers if it is their first, second or third attempt at
breastfeeding, don’t give up. There is help, but if you decide you
can’t do it, don’t feel bad either,” Wright says.
Why do women
stop breastfeeding? (How much time do you have?) Breastfeeding means it
is all you, all the time. A newborn baby can nurse every two to three
hours, day and night. If you want a little help from Dad, you still
have to pump the milk for him, which takes time, patience and an extra
set of hands to care for the baby while you’re pumping. It also takes
equipment. And, if you’re in the same home with a baby who is crying
for milk, your body will most likely respond, causing a mess. (In fact,
if you’re in a grocery store and hear someone else’s baby crying … same
Bottle-fed babies also tend to be satisfied longer
between feedings because the proteins in infant formula are harder to
digest. They may only eat every three hours.
Nursing can also
cause fatigue, anxiety and frustration while you are learning. And,
like everything else, there are also some possible side effects:
usually happens a few days after you have your baby. Once-soft breasts
can become as hard as a table top—too turgid, in fact, to drain. Your
milk usually comes in on about day three. Your baby may not be able to
empty your breasts, so they can become quite painful. The problem can
be eased by pumping a little milk.
Cracked nipples can also
cause pain. It usually occurs from incorrect positioning of the baby’s
mouth or tongue in combination with strong sucking. Certain ointments
help soothe the area, and breast shields can protect the nipple,
allowing you to nurse while you heal.
Mastitis is the term for
breast infection. Moms with cracked and bleeding nipples are at
increased risk because they have an open door for bacteria to enter the
breast tissue. This produces a hot, red, painful area on the breast and
the mother may run a fever. Mastitis can be treated with antibiotics.
The mother can continue to nurse and is encouraged to do so. The
antibiotics prescribed are not harmful to the baby, and emptying the
infected breast helps keep the milk flowing. The milk in the infected
breast is still healthy.
The learning curve is already hard
enough with one baby, so how about two or more? It can be little
tricky, but it can be done. It’s best that you contact a board-
certified lactation consultant before you have your babies, so they can
show you the various nursing positions when juggling more than one
infant. There are also specially made nursing pillows for twins. The
pillow helps you position both of your babies at your breasts.
a nursing pattern is established, do not worry about having enough milk
for two babies. It’s called supply and demand. In most cases, your body
will produce enough milk to go around.
If you are having trouble juggling your new bundles of joy, try expressing milk so Dad, or someone else, can feed one of them.
your babies were premature, breast milk can go a long way in giving
their immune systems a boost, in gaining weight and developing at a
What is good for baby is also good for mom.
Breastfeeding is the next natural physiological step after pregnancy.
Pregnancy morphs your body in countless ways; breastfeeding helps
return it to its pre-pregnancy state.
Through the small uterine
contractions that nursing creates, breastfeeding can help your uterus
return to its normal size more quickly and slow down your post-partum
Nursing mothers also tend to lose their “pregnancy
weight." Milk production burns between 200 and 500 calories a day. You
would have to ride a bicycle for at least an hour to achieve the same
Mothers who breastfeed for at least six months throughout
their lifetime have a decreased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine
cancers, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
More women are continuing to try breastfeeding, but the
percentage of mothers who breastfeed exclusively is far short of the
national objectives. “The increase in mothers choosing to initiate
breastfeeding is good news because it provides health benefits for
women and decreases the risk of some early childhood diseases among
infants,” says William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, director of the CDC’s
Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity.
percent of women who gave birth in 2004 initiated breastfeeding, up
from 70.9 percent for infants born in 2000, and nearly achieving the
national objective of 75 percent. However, the rates for exclusive
breastfeeding were not nearly as good. Among infants born in 2004, the
rate of exclusive breastfeeding through age 3 months was 30.5 percent.
These statistics show that a high percentage of women who leave the
hospital breastfeeding, will stop in the first few weeks.
recent years, states are beginning to show support for nursing mothers
by passing legislation to protect them. In 1995, legislation was passed
in Texas to stand behind mothers who breastfeed in public.
language of House Bill 359 includes: “A mother is entitled to
breastfeed her baby in any location where she is authorized to be;
allows worksites to use the designation of ‘mother-friendly’ if they
develop worksite policies supporting breastfeeding; state agencies that
administer maternal/child health program provide information that
encourages breastfeeding; create worksite breastfeeding support
policies for all state employees.”
At present, states and the
federal government have not made it easy for nursing mothers to return
to work and continue breastfeeding. Most workplaces do not have areas
set aside for women to pump their milk.
Before you go on
maternity leave, or before you return to work after your baby is born,
get organized. Talk with your employer about having a private place,
with a lock, where you can pump your breasts. Remember, that unless you
have a battery-operated pump, you will need a room that has an
You will also need to talk with your
employer about allowing you at least two times a day to pump. You will
need about 20 minutes to empty your breasts if you have a double pump,
possibly more if you have a single pump. Here’s a checklist of possible
* Breast pump, plus electrical adaptor if needed. Extra batteries if you are using a battery-powered pump
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be breastfed
for at least the first year of life. But, even a few months of
breastfeeding can provide benefits for you and your child. Giving them
a head start on good nutrition will be just the first of many gifts you
will share with them through the years.
A small cooler, plus an ice pack, if a refrigerator is not available.
(If you have a long drive home, it may be best to have a cooler, to
ensure the milk remains at the same temperature.)
* Milk storage containers
* Breast pads to prevent milk from leaking through your bra onto your clothes
* Clothing that makes it easy for you to pump your breasts, including nursing bras
Source: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston