The decision to be breastfeeding your baby is, according to many scientists, one of the best gifts you can give your little one as he embarks on his journey toward toddlerhood, childhood, and eventually, adulthood. In fact, most pediatricians agree that breast-fed babies have a clear head-start over their bottle-fed peers when it comes to healthy growth and development. You may be one of those moms who see the decision to breastfeed as a no-brainer. After all, it’s convenient, far less expensive than bottle-feeding, and most importantly, it’s the nutritionally-superior option for your little one. There are some things you need to prepare yourself for when it comes to breastfeeding, however. Although it may come naturally for a few lucky women, for many, many others, it takes patience, skill, and dedication to the process. Many women make the mistake of thinking that breastfeeding is an easy and instinctual process that requires no special skill or training. This notion sounds good, but it’s simply not true for the vast majority of new moms. If you’re considering breastfeeding your baby or are in the midst of trying to do just that, it is highly recommended that you consult with a lactation specialist. Most hospitals offer this service to new moms before they take their little ones home, but you can also meet with a specialist before your due date to prepare yourself for the experience.
Lactation specialists can show you how to help your new baby latch on to the breast properly, when and how to switch breasts, how to care for your nipples while breastfeeding to prevent painful cracking or infection, and answer any questions you have regarding your milk supply, nutritional concerns, pumping milk, and much more. These professionals are trained to deal with just about any breast-feeding issue that arises, so don’t hesitate to take full advantage of their knowledge and expertise!
Once you begin breastfeeding, the most important thing to remember is to stay the course. It may feel awkward initially, especially if this is your first baby, and you may worry that it’s not working or that your baby is not getting enough milk. These are common and completely normal concerns that nearly every new mom has. Just be patient with yourself and your baby—remember, this is a new experience for him as well. It will take a few days for your milk to come in, and when it does, your overly inflated and even sore breasts will be an unmistakable sign that your body is fully prepared to provide for your little one’s nutritional needs. Until then, your baby can survive off of the colostrum that your body begins producing even before your baby arrives. This yellowish-substance is highly concentrated and rich in protein, minerals, and antibodies designed to give your baby’s immune system a much-needed boost.
One of the most common mistakes women make in regards to breastfeeding is giving up too early and offering the bottle for fear that their babies aren’t thriving. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of women have the ability to produce more than enough milk for their babies. Your body responds based on demand, however, and once you begin skipping feedings and resorting to the bottle, your milk supply will likely wane, and your baby may actually begin to prefer the bottle over the breast. Once that happens, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get back on track. On the other hand, if you can tough it out for the first few weeks, it will get easier, and your baby will benefit greatly from your patience and persistence!