As a new mother, you probably have a slew of questions on your mind about your new bundle of joy. One of the most common concerns that new moms have is what to expect from breastfeeding. There are numerous advantages of breastfeeding, from promoting optimal nutrition to strengthening your bond with your child. As rewarding as this experience can be, though, it doesn't come without its own set of challenges. Whether you're dealing with a low milk supply or fatigue, you're not alone in your struggles.
Both new and experienced moms face difficulties while breastfeeding. It's important to remember that this is an adjustment period for you and your baby, so it's entirely normal to experience frustrations during this time. With a few helpful guidelines, you can make the most of breastfeeding and enjoy a closer bond with your infant.
Breastfeeding has a number of positive effects on your baby's health and development. We'll explore the myriad benefits below.
Why is breast milk so effective?
Breast milk consists of a unique formula that store-bought formula simply cannot replicate. Natural breast milk is rich in antibodies that help guard against infection and boost your child's immune system. It also contains a highly effective mixture of fat, sugar, water, protein and vitamins. These nutrients play a crucial role in supporting your baby's growth and development. The composition of breast milk even changes over time to meet your baby's shifting nutritional needs.
What are the advantages of breastfeeding for babies?
Breastfeeding helps support your baby's health and well-being in various ways. Breast milk is known to promote healthy weight gain, which is crucial in the early stages of your baby's life. Additionally, breastfeeding lowers your baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, respiratory infections, celiac disease and other illnesses.
How do moms benefit from nursing?
Not only does nursing improve your baby's well-being, but it also benefits your own health. In the short term, breastfeeding can help reduce your risk of postpartum depression. However, there are other long-term advantages as well. Breastfeeding your child lowers your likelihood of developing serious illnesses further down the road, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Breastfeeding Basics: Learn How Milk is Made, When to Nurse, How Long Babies Nurse & More
To get the most out of breastfeeding, it helps to understand how it works and how you can optimize it for you and your child. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process.
How much milk does my baby need?
Although every baby's needs are different, there are some general guidelines you can follow based on your baby's age. For newborns, be sure to feed them every 2-3 hours on average. Most newborn babies tend to drink about 1-2 ounces of milk per feeding during their first two weeks of life. This amount typically increases to 2-3 ounces once your baby is two weeks old. At 2-4 months of age, babies tend to drink 4-5 ounces per feeding, and you can expect them to drink up to 8 ounces per feeding once they're 6 months old.
How is milk made?
Your breasts contain small clusters of cells known as alveoli, which is where milk is produced. The milk is then squeezed out of the alveoli before traveling through milk ducts, which are responsible for transporting milk throughout the breast. This intricate process enables your body to produce the optimal amount of milk for your baby as they grow and develop.
What is the difference between colostrum and breast milk?
The key difference between the two is that colostrum has a higher concentration of protein than mature breast milk, as well as a lower concentration of carbohydrates and fat. Colostrum is produced during the first few days after you give birth, and it's typically yellow in color and has a thick, rich consistency.
How does breastfeeding work during the first few feedings?
During the first few feedings, your baby will only need about a teaspoon of colustrum at a time. You can also expect to feed your baby fairly often in the beginning—as much as once every hour.
How to Hold Your Nursing Baby
There is no one way to hold your baby while nursing. It's important to find the position that's most comfortable for you and your baby. The three most common positions that you can try include the cradle hold, the football hold and the lying-down position. It's worth noting that the football hold may be ideal for mothers who gave birth via a C-section.
Common Breastfeeding Challenges
If you're experiencing some difficulties while breastfeeding, you're far from alone. Here are some common challenges or side effects of breastfeeding that new mothers face:
- Sore nipples or breastfeeding pain
- Low milk supply
- Cluster feeding & growth spurts
- Plugged/clogged ducts
- Fungal infections
- Nursing strikes
- Breast & nipple size/shape
- Feeling like you can't leave your baby
- Feelings of sadness or depression
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
To make the most of breastfeeding your baby, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin
- Look for signs your baby is hungry
- Try to rest while baby sleeps
- Talk to other moms or your doctor about your concerns
Q: What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
A: The benefits of breastfeeding include healthy weight gain, a closer bond with your baby and a reduced risk of various illnesses.
Q: How long should a mother breastfeed and how do you wean from breastfeeding?
A: It's recommended that mothers exclusively feed their babies breast milk for the first six months of their life. They should then supplement breast milk with other safe foods until their child is 12 months old or older.
Q: How can a mother continue to provide breast milk to her infant after returning to work or school?
A: Mothers have the option of using a pump or hand express to allow their baby to drink breast milk from a bottle.
Q: Where can mothers find more information about preparation and storage of breast milk?
To ensure that your breast milk is properly prepared and stored, you can visit this page for official CDC guidelines.
Q: How is growth assessed for breastfed infants?
A: For more information on the growth standards of children up to 2 years of age, please refer to these official guidelines.
Q: When do you get your period after birth while breastfeeding?
A: While everyone is different, mothers who breastfeed full-time typically don’t get their period until they stop nursing. Mothers who partially breastfeed and bottle-feed can get their period about five weeks after giving birth.
Q: Does breastfeeding make you tired?
A: Breastfeeding can cause fatigue or drowsiness due to the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. However, it is also common for new moms to be tired no matter what feeding method they choose.
Q: How many calories does breastfeeding burn?
A: Breastfeeding can burn about 500 calories per day.
Q: Can you drink while breastfeeding?
A: It is strongly recommended that mothers do not drink while breastfeeding. Alcohol can pass into your breastmilk at similar levels it does in the bloodstream which can lead to your baby’s impaired development.
Q: Is breastfeeding painful?
A: Pain while breastfeeding can be normal in the first few days but should subside as your baby learns to properly feed. If pain and a fever continue, consult your healthcare provider.