At the beginning of life, babies have very basic needs: food, warmth and sleep. In terms of feeding, moms have options. If you’re considering breastfeeding, we have three certified lactation consultants at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center who help moms breastfeed their new babies. Our lactation consultants work closely with mom and baby’s care team to provide care at the bedside, which allows for a closer bonding experience during this important time.
In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, our lactation consultants Ashley Cook, Elizabeth Inman and Sandy Kaspar provided insight on some common questions for new moms and moms who need a refresher about breastfeeding.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
For the mother, breastfeeding has the following benefits:
- Helps reduce pregnancy weight
- Reduces postpartum hemorrhage risk, especially if the baby latches within 30 minutes of delivery
- Decreases the risk of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack and Type 2 diabetes, especially if the mother had gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
*Note: The longer the baby breastfeeds, the greater the benefits.
For the baby, breastfeeding decreases the risk of the following conditions in infancy and as the child grows:
- Lung and gastrointestinal (GI) infections, by introducing good bacteria to the baby’s GI tract
- In premature infants, necrotizing enterocolitis (intestinal disease)
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Ear infections
- Childhood obesity
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Childhood cancer
- Colic (frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in a healthy baby)
- Upset stomach
- Dental malocclusion (misalignment)
The Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and other professional groups involved in infant health recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months and then continuing to breastfeed for one to two years with the gradual introduction of solid foods.
What do I do if my baby doesn’t latch right away?
This is not uncommon. We help mothers facing this challenge and give specific recommendations. Some general recommendations include:
- Continue using skin-to-skin contact frequently and at least with every feeding.
- Be sure your baby is awake before attempting to breastfeed. Wait until you see your baby’s eyes open.
- Ask for help in positioning and latching. You don’t have to do this on your own.
- Be patient! Both you and your baby are practicing together.
What are some tips if my baby is having issues latching on or sucking?
Get comfortable before attempting to breastfeed. Position your baby with his/her nose across from your nipple. Stroke his/her upper lip with your nipple. Try pressing a drop of colostrum (the first secretion from the mammary glands after giving birth) to your baby’s lips. Wait for your baby’s mouth to open wide like a yawn before attempting to latch. Try stimulating your baby by talking or stroking his/her skin, and try massaging your breasts for a few minutes before attempting to breastfeed.
Is it common to have uneven milk supply?
Yes. Milk production works by supply and demand. The more you breastfeed, the more milk is removed and more milk is made. If you are not regularly and frequently breastfeeding on each breast, you might begin to make less milk on one side. Also, if your baby isn’t latching well on one breast, less milk might be removed from that breast. Then that breast would make less milk. Some women have had surgery or injuries to a breast which could lead to that breast not producing as much milk.
Should I stop breastfeeding if I’m sick?
This depends on the illness. Most times, a mother can safely breastfeed because breast milk has antibodies and immune factors that help fight off sickness. The mother usually has the illness before symptoms appear, which means her baby has already been exposed to the germs. Mom’s body has already begun making antibodies to fight off this new germ, which she passively gives to her baby through breast milk, helping the baby stay well. This also works in reverse. If the baby is sick, the germs go from his/her saliva through the pores of the nipple into the mother’s body. Her body makes antibodies and then shares those antibodies with the baby through breast milk. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about a particular illness.
What do I do if I run out of breast milk?
Breast milk donors are sometimes available, but accepting breast milk from others is not recommended by healthcare professionals because you can’t be sure what is in the milk you’re receiving. If you do choose to use a breast milk donor, breast milk that has been processed through a milk bank is the safest.
Will my baby still want my breast milk if I sometimes need to supplement with formula?
Yes, except on rare occasions. Be aware that if you provide formula in a bottle, where the flow tends to be fast and consistent, then the baby may be hesitant to come back to the breast because they have to work harder. But patience and skin-to-skin time typically help the baby get back to breastfeeding quickly.
Are there any foods or drinks I should avoid when breastfeeding?
Mothers are encouraged to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. They should keep eating what they have been eating during pregnancy unless they notice a correlation between a particular food and the baby’s physical reaction. For instance, if mom eats a lot of dairy and her baby is fussy and has lots of gas and bowel movement issues, her baby may be intolerant to dairy.