Breastfeeding―the best for you and your baby

Breastfeeding―the best for you and your baby
You are pregnant. This is the best time to decide how you want to feed your baby. What you decide depends on your feelings about yourself and what your partner feels. 

Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It is all your baby needs for the first six months of life. The act of breastfeeding will help your baby learn to love, trust, and play. It is good for your baby to have skin contact with you, to look into your eyes, and to cuddle.

Breast milk gives your baby what his body needs to help fight disease (antibodies). You will give your baby natural “protection” from disease simply by breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is good for your baby and will make you feel good about yourself too!

You may get a lot of advice about breastfeeding from friends or relatives. Not everyone agrees that breastfeeding is best. You may feel confused. What should you do? Now is the time to learn the facts about breastfeeding and the risks associated with infant formula. Then you can decide what is best for you and for your baby.

Breastfeeding Is Best for Babies

Deciding to Breastfeed: Here are some reasons why your milk is best for your baby.

Perfect first food

Breast milk was made to meet babies’ first needs. It is easier for babies to digest than infant formulas (or breast milk substitutes). Babies who are breastfed usually have less colic, burping, upset stomach, constipation, and diarrhea than babies who are fed with formula.

Protection from disease, infection, and allergy

Breast milk protects babies against disease and infection. Food allergies may be less common in babies who have only breast milk for the first 6 months. Breastfed babies have less breathing problems, diarrhea, vomiting, ear infections, juvenile diabetes and childhood cancers.

Baby decides how much to drink

Babies are breastfed when they are hungry and stop when they are full. They decide how much milk to have. Babies who are fed with formula can be coaxed to take a little more. They may drink more formula than they need.

Good mouth development

A mother’s nipple fits the shape of a baby’s mouth. Babies who breastfeed usually have good jaw development and their facial muscles are strong.

Comforts and makes babies happy

Babies have a natural need to suck. Breastfeeding helps meet that need.

The close bond between mother and baby

Breastfeeding is more than a way to feed your baby. It creates a bond between you and your baby. Your warmth and the closeness of your body help to make your baby feel safe and loved.

Breast milk supplies all of your baby’s food needs during the first 6 months of life. This is the time of most rapid growth during life. Your healthy baby does not need any other foods during this time. That means no food or other drink except vitamin D supplements. Feeding solid foods too early could reduce your milk supply and increase the baby’s risk of allergies.

Common Myths and Concerns about Breastfeeding

A myth is a belief that is not based on fact. New mothers and fathers have many common breastfeeding questions. We try to answer some of them here. If you still have questions, talk to a public health nurse, public health nutritionist, or someone who offers breastfeeding support in your town or city.

Will I be able to breastfeed? If you WANT to breastfeed your baby, your milk will arrive and your baby will breastfeed. There are some medical problems that prevent some women from breastfeeding. Examples are a mother who is addicted to drugs or alcohol, is having treatment for cancer, or is infected with HIV. A breast reduction may also decrease milk supply.

Are my breasts too small? The size of a mother’s breasts does not matter. Big or small, they can produce all the milk your baby needs. You need to start to breastfeed your baby very soon after birth. The more often you breastfeed, the more milk there will be.

Are my nipples the right shape? The shape of your nipples is not likely to be a problem. Your baby’s sucking will make the nipple and the dark skin around it (areola) softer as you breastfeed. Your baby will do most of the work if your nipple needs to be different from its normal shape.

Will breastfeeding make my breasts sag? This is one of the myths about breastfeeding. The hormones of pregnancy, not breastfeeding, affect the breasts and may make them sag. A good support bra will help. You can expect your breasts to return to their normal (or almost normal size) when you stop breastfeeding.

Does breastfeeding take a lot of time? Some people say that breastfeeding “ties you down.” In fact, many women like the fact that breastfeeding gives them more freedom than formula feeding! All new mothers are limited by feedings, the baby’s demands, and being tired. The first few weeks with a baby are filled with change and joy. This is true for all new mothers!

Do I need to eat special food? No. All you need to do is eat healthy food and drink enough fluids. When you eat well, using Canada’s Food Guide as your guide, your body will be healthy and you will be able to nourish your baby.

What about smoking and breastfeeding? When you are pregnant, you should stop smoking. After your baby is born, the harmful effects of smoking get passed along to your baby in breast milk. Heavy smoking (more than 20 cigarettes a day), may make your baby feel like throwing up (nausea), throw up (vomit), have stomach cramps, and the runs (diarrhea). Smoking will also decrease the amount of milk you produce. The smoke from your cigarettes will increase your baby’s risk of ear infections, colds, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But, if you do smoke, it is still better to breastfeed than to feed your baby formula. You should know that your baby is more likely to be a smoker when he grows up if you or your partner smoke.

Will breastfeeding keep me from getting pregnant? Breastfeeding is not an effective method of birth control unless you follow all the steps of the LAM method. Although you may not have a menstrual period while you are breastfeeding, you could become pregnant. You must use some form of birth control (contraception) if you do not wish to be pregnant. Birth control pills can decrease the amount of milk you produce. Talk with your doctor or public health nurse about the kind of birth control to use while you are breastfeeding. If you decide to use birth control pills, watch for the signs of less milk, such as smaller breast size, or more demand from your baby (outside of growth spurts).

Will my partner be left out? No. At first, when you and your baby are building the milk supply, there are many things he can do to help you. He can also build a close relationship with your baby.

What about my other children? Older children will wonder about breastfeeding if they haven’t seen it before. They may want to talk to you and be near you while you are breastfeeding. Make a snack for them and have them sit next to you to eat it. Suggest that they bring you a book to read or that they do something quite nearby. Give them special toys at this time. Talk to them about what is happening while you feed. If older children feel left out or jealous this is normal. Make sure they know that you love them and they are important to you. If your children are old enough, they can help to care for the new baby. Teach them to hold or burp the baby. Ask your child to sing while you change the baby’s diaper and to pass you things you need. They could answer the telephone when you are breastfeeding. If your older children have a good experience now, they may decide to breastfeed your grandchildren!

What about going back to work? In New Brunswick many mothers have maternity leave for 4 to 6 months or longer. On the other hand, women who go to school, have a casual job, or are self-employed may not have paid leave. They may need to return to school or work within the baby’s first month of life. If you must go back to work or school, you can still breastfeed with help from your partner, sitter, relative or friend. For more information about pumping and storing breast milk, talk to your health care provider.

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