A Guide to Breastfeeding

4 Conversations

This entry (when completed) will strive to cover all aspects of breastfeeding a baby. Contributions from anyone who wishes to have a say are welcomed - even begged!

The points that should be covered include:

  • Why breastfeed? Benefits and rewards.
  • Methods of breastfeeding.
  • Process of breastfeeding - how it works.
  • Special cases (preemies, etc).
  • Rumours, lore and 'old wives' tales'.
  • Legitimate concerns.
  • Setbacks, difficulties and remedies.
  • Resources and aids.
  • When not to breastfeed.
  • Involving the father.
  • Pumping breast milk.
  • Products and other recommendations.
  • Alternatives to breastfeeding.
  • Weaning.
  • Personal accounts.

In the interests of completeness and balance, this may end up being several entries.

Additional Edited Guide entries that may be of help:
Expressing Breastmilk
Thrush in the Milk Ducts
Infant Colic and What to Do About It
The Caesarean Section
The Needs of Pregnant Women

Contribute to a subject or spark a debate by starting or joining a conversation below. Contributions may be simple suggestions or whole segments for copy-and-paste. Thanks in advance for all help!

Preliminary Discussions

Conversations on this topic have brought to light the following points for further discussion.

Why Breastfeed?

Some women feel that having babies and continuing the human race is their ultimate contribution to humanity. Breastfeeding is a natural extension of this ultimate purpose. This may also explain the feelings of failure some women expeirience when having difficulty breastfeeding successfully.

Breastfeeding holds many benefits for mother and child alike. Breastmilk helps develop babies' immune systems. Small babies do not have a digestive system sophisticated enough to process cow's milk, and breastmilk is formulated especially for them. Breastfeeding may reduce the mother's possibility of developing certain kinds of cancer, and also plays a role in reclaiming your pre-baby body.

The convenience of breastfeeding is a major selling point for some moms; no need to haul bottles and formula around with you everywhere you go, not to mention how to heat a bottle on the run. Breastfeeding cuts down on feeding prep time (once you get the hang of it) and on clean-up.

Methods of Breastfeeding

A convenient way of breastfeeding baby and catching up on your lost sleep is to bring baby to bed with you. While this is frowned upon in some circles, it's really down to what's best and most comfortable for mom and baby. Accidentally smothering baby in your sleep may be a concern for some moms. Experimenting with different positions is a must - else baby will only feed from one breast during the night, leaving the other engorged.

Setbacks, Difficulties and Remedies

Fatigue - Newborns on average need to feed every couple of hours, round the clock. This lasts from a few weeks to several months, depending on the baby, while it works out it's days and nights and gradually starts sleeping in longer turns.

Uncooperative Nipples - Many women experience flat or inverted nipples when attempting to breastfeed. Nipple problems make it difficult or impossible for baby to latch, in turn making it difficult or impossible for baby to get milk. Professional lactation consultants are the best source of information for breastfeeding moms and can be the most helpful in overcoming these types of problems.

Nipple shields may solve the problems sometimes, but the safety and practicality of their use is debated. Once baby is used to the shield it may be hard to switch back to not using the shield (nipple shields are recommended for temporary use) because baby won't be used to the sensation of a real nipple. Gradually cutting away the tip of the shield could be one solution to help baby adjust, but depending on what the shield is made of (rubber or latex) safety issues may arise.

Nipple Ailments - Cracked nipples are a common complaint, and much of the cause of pain during breastfeeding. There are many varieties of nipple creamor balm on the market to remedy this, but feedings will continue to be painful until the cracks are healed. It will also help to remember not to wash your nipples with soap while in the shower, as soap will dry out the skin and add to the problem. Blisters on nipples are a similar concern. Keep in mind that while lactating, nipples will almost constantly be in contact with a source of moisture and will require slightly different care than normal.

Mastitis is a really painful infection in the milk ducts. Baby-safe antibiotics can remedy this, but it's also important to continue breastfeeding during treatment.

If you have a low milk supply baby will not get sufficient nutrients during feeding. This can also be remedied with medication (Reglan). Engorgement is the opposite problem, having too much milk in the ducts causes lumpiness and pain (not to mention leakage). Expressing milk outside of feedings can help control this, breast pumps can be rented or purchased. Alternatively cold cabbage leaves or moist, warm compresses will help, and massaging lumps to improve milk flow.

Bad Advice - Possibly one of the biggest problems with breastfeeding, as it can cause unneccessary discomfort while attempting to deal with other breastfeeding setbacks. Best advice is to do lots of research, read everything you can, consult different sources, and experiment to find what works best for you - regardless of what has worked best for others.

Legitimate Concerns

Drugs used during delivery and post-partum medications will be expressed with breast milk. It's important to fully educate yourself on what medications you take or require, what their effects in breastmilk are, how long they take to pass through your system, and what alternatives are available. Something to consider: will the effects of the drug in your baby be less or worse than the effects of not taking the drug in yourself?

Alcohol in small amounts may be acceptable while breastfeeding. The alcohol will be passed with your milk and may make baby more drowsy than usual. It might be better to express and discard some milk after having a drink before feeding your baby.

Breastfeeding will be painful. Moreso for first-timers, but discomfort is a normal part of breastfeeding. Usually this will pass once you get the hang of it, sometimes in days, sometimes in weeks, sometimes in months. Keep in mind that this is one of the best things you can do for your baby, and make every effort to overcome difficulties.

Involving the Father

Taking care of a baby 24/7 is exhausting, try to involve the father whenever possible. Daddies can help feed too, whether with a bottle of previously expressed milk or a pre-made formula bottle. This allows dad in on some of that mommy-bonding time that is one of breastfeeding's biggest rewards.

Alternatives to Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a personal choice that each mother must make for herself. Advancements in the quality of formulas available have made breastfeeding less of a necessity and many moms take advantage of that fact. Some find bottles and formulas more portable than breastfeeding, and saves them the challenges of finding enough privacy in public to breastfeed, or finding a comfortable place to breastfeed on the run.

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