March 2012

All current research indicates that breast feeding is superior to formula feeding. Breast milk offers a degree of protection from intestinal diseases and is much less likely to result in gastrointestinal upsets. However, with modern formulas, adequate hygiene, and a concerned, loving mother, these advantages are small. They are far outweighed by mother’s own desires concerning breast feeding. Thus, for the mother who wants to breast feed, nothing is better. For the mother who does not wish to breast feed, formula feeding is adequate and nutritious.

There are two general considerations that you should appreciate about breast feeding: (1) The biggest single difficulty in nursing a baby successfully is lack of confidence in yourself. (2) The first two to three weeks of breast feeding always take more time and are harder than bottle feeding. However, this increased trouble is worthwhile because after three weeks or so, breast feeding is easier.

If you are planning to breast feed, approach it with a feeling of confidence in yourself and with an acceptance of the fact that breast milk does not come in fully for 3 to 5 days. It frequently can take 5 to 10 days for the supply to build up. Overall, the first 2 to 3 weeks may take a little more time and effort than bottle feeding. Once the supply is established, breast feeding is easier, less expensive, and offers many health benefits for your baby.

Your baby, when first given a chance to nurse, may settle down right away as if he/she had been doing it for weeks, or he/she may just act sleepy and only mildly interested. It doesn’t really make a great deal of difference at this point, because the infant will primarily be getting colostrum until your milk “comes in”. In addition he/she has excess fluid from which to draw until your milk does “come in”. He/she will have several nursing periods during which he/she can learn the “knack” of nursing and become interested before he/she really needs the nourishment. The important thing during this time is to learn how to make yourself comfortable while nursing and how to hold the baby and to offer him/her the breast. It is most important to be gentle and patient. If your baby is slow to nurse at first, do not feel the least bit discouraged.

Initially you may nurse your baby for 10 to 15 minutes at a feeding. If your nipples are unusually sore, you may want to hold down the feeding time until they become less tender. If the baby is satisfied and content after the first breast, you do not need to offer the second breast. If your other breast is very full and engorged or the baby is unsatisfied, you may offer that breast or use a breast pump to pump that breast and freeze the milk for future use. Frequently babies are sleepy and quite content with shorter feedings for the first 2 to 3 days and they become hungry and interested in nursing by the second to fifth day when the milk comes in.

During the first week, do not let anyone tell you that you don’t have enough milk to nurse the baby. Your milk supply will build up gradually over the first week or two as the baby nurses and stimulates the milk production. Once you do have milk, it is important to nurse your baby at each of his/her hungry periods, both day and night. It is not wise to give supplementary formula during the first three weeks to a breast fed baby unless he is unusually hungry and seems to require the breast too frequently for your comfort. Formula at this period satisfies him/her too quickly and gives him/her less incentive to nurse. This also results in a poor supply of breast milk.

During the first few weeks, your milk supply is very much influenced by your fatigue, anxiety, and the possible use of a supplemental bottle. Having a hungry baby nurse often is the best way to increase your milk supply. Relax and try to get all the rest that you can. Use your energy and time to get adjusted to the baby and to take care of your growing family. Let everything else go for the time being. Doing this for the first two weeks will pay dividends in having a satisfied baby and an easier feeding time.

Your diet should include an abundance of liquids, meats, fruits and vegetables; that is, well balanced meals. Avoid excessive chocolate, caffeine, spices, nuts, shellfish, and other highly seasoned foods, or any other foods which appear to cause discomfort in your infant. Do not use laxatives or other drugs without the knowledge of your pediatrician while you are breast feeding (Stool softeners such as bran, mineral oil, or Metamucil may be used without worry).

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