As you progress through your pregnancy, you may be trying to decide whether or not to breastfeed your baby when she arrives. Many new mothers choose to breastfeed because of the health and wellness options that it offers. Breastfeeding is not only a healthy and nutritional source of food for your baby, but it also offers you and baby the chance to bond with one another. So if you are considering breastfeeding, here are some important facts that you may need to know to help get you and baby off to a great start!

The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Deciding to breastfeed can be a big decision, especially when you consider that it sometimes requires a lot of time, patience, and effort. However, breastfeeding is also one of the healthiest and most beneficial things that you can do for your baby. Your breast milk is designed specially to meet the nutritional needs of your baby. It contains just the right amount of vitamins and minerals to ensure that he grows and develops properly. It also contains special antibodies that will help your baby to fight off illness and infection. Additionally, many babies find breast milk easier to digest than formula, which means he'll experience fewer bouts of diarrhea and constipation. Here are some other advantages of breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding requires less planning, work, and money than bottle-feeding.
  • It will help you to get your pre-pregnancy body back more quickly (because breast-feeding helps to burn calories).
  • Your breast milk is always sterile and ready to go.
  • Breastfeeding may lower your risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer

Types of Breast Milk
During the days after labor and delivery, your body will begin to produce colostrum, which is the first type of breast milk your baby will receive. Colostrum is a thick, yellowish liquid that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and immune factors. This milk helps to nourish your baby in her first days and helps to protect her against infections and disease. After a couple of weeks, your regular breast milk will begin to come in. This milk is high in fat and will help your baby to get the calories and extra sustenance she will require as she grows.

When to Start Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can begin as soon as you give birth to your little one. Babies are born with the ability to suck, and your baby will automatically show off his sucking reflexes soon after birth. Many women choose to have their babies placed on their chests immediately after labor and delivery. This allows the baby to find his own way to your nipple, and begin the breastfeeding process.

It is important to start this breastfeeding bond as soon as possible, in order to encourage your baby to latch on and feed correctly. Many women choose to have their babies stay with them by their bedside to make the breastfeeding process easier. Your baby should be breastfed on demand, or approximately every two to three hours, during infancy.

Breastfeeding Twins: Tandem Breastfeeding
If you are going to give birth to twins, you may seriously be considering bottle-feeding. However, breastfeeding twins is not as hard as it may seem. Moms of twins often engage in tandem breastfeeding, during which they feed both twins at once (one on each breast). Contrary to popular belief, you will not run out of breast milk if you are breastfeeding twins. The more milk your twins drink, the more milk your breasts will produce in return, leaving lots leftover. Breastfeeding twins can be tiring, though, so try to get them on the same schedule if you can, and sleep whenever they are sleeping.

Diet During Breastfeeding
If you choose to breastfeed your baby, it is important that you maintain a healthy diet. It is important that you eat enough fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins to ensure that you and baby are receiving the proper vitamins and minerals. A good breastfeeding diet will look much like your diet during pregnancy. There are also some foods to avoid while breastfeeding. In particular, foods and beverages containing caffeine can be unhealthy for baby, so cut back on coffee, colas, and chocolate.

Medications During Breastfeeding
While you are breastfeeding, it is important to be aware of the types of medications that you choose to take. Almost all medications will pass into your breast milk and could affect baby's health. Medications that were safe during pregnancy or are safe for infants are generally fine to take while breastfeeding, but speak with your prenatal practitioner to be on the safe side.

Complications with Breastfeeding
Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not all fun and games. It can occasionally cause minor health complications, which can be uncomfortable for you. The most common complications during breastfeeding are:

  • Cracked and Sore Nipples: Sometimes, breastfeeding can cause your nipples to become cracked and sore. As a result, breastfeeding can become painful, especially if you are doing it a lot. Painful nipples can be soothed with ice or with pure lanolin cream. Also, avoid wearing tightly-fitted breastfeeding bras or irritating fabrics.
  • Engorgement: Engorgement happens when your milk begins to come in very quickly. This causes your breasts to swell up and become hard. You can relieve engorgement by breastfeeding often or by expressing your milk using a breast pump.
  • Mastitis: Mastitis is a breast infection that happens when bacteria enters the milk ducts. This can leave your breasts feeling warm, sore, and tender. Mastitis can be treated with frequent breastfeeding and a course of antibiotics.

Who Shouldn't Breastfeed
Despite it's nutritional benefit, not every woman is able to breastfeed. There are certain situations in which breastfeeding is not recommended, as it could be dangerous for mother or baby. You shouldn't breastfeed if:

  • you have HIV/AIDS
  • you have an active infection, like tuberculosis
  • you are abusing drugs or alcohol
  • you are undergoing chemotherapy
  • you are taking medications that will negatively affect baby

Learn more about breastfeeding and other issues with pregnancy and postpartum in our pregnancy forum.

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