Ruth J. Gruen, R.N., M.A. is an A.S.P.O./Lamaze certified childbirth educator, U.C.L.A. certified lactation consultant, and a licensed marriage, family and child therapist. Ruth has a “new mom” support group that meets weekly and she also teaches parenting classes. She has been in private practice in West Los Angeles for the past 7 years and can be reached at (623)322-1938 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
We all have heard that “breast is best.” But why? Breastfeeding provides the most complete and nutritionally-superior food for me. It provides anti -bodies so that I will get sick less often and have fewer allergies. Studies have shown that breastfeeding infants get diarrhea and ear infections less often. If I do get sick, I can continue to breastfeed and I will get well faster. When I spit up it will not smell so bad or stain our clothing. My stools will also smell better and I won’t get constipated.
Colostrum, or “liquid gold,” as some people call it, acts as a laxative to help me pass meconium, the black, tarry stool that is in my intestines at birth. This helps to keep me from getting jaundice. Colostrum is present in your breast from about six months of pregnancy until I am three- to five-days old. That’s when your mature milk arrives. Colostrum is very high in protein and immune factors that will protect me as a newborn. You may not see much colostrum or even be able to express any yourself because it is very thick. However, if you butt me to your breast often, I will get plenty. The more frequently I nurse, the sooner your thinner, mature milk will come in.
Breastfeeding me is very convenient for you. I don’t have to wait for you to prepare formula or warm bottles. We’ll both appreciate that in the middle of the night. I also like the warmth of skin-to-skin contact, being held very close and being able to look right into your eyes. That helps me bond with you and feel secure and loved.
Nursing me has other health benefits for you as well. Every time I nurse, you will feel some uterine contractions which will cause your body to get back to its original size and shape faster. You will also lose weight without actually dieting because making milk for me inside your body takes about 500 to 800 calories per day.
Please remember to eat a nutritionally-balanced diet and get plenty of rest every day. This may seem difficult at first because I will be very demanding. I may even want to nurse every one to 1 1/2 hours, especially the first week. But, hang in there, please! It will get much easier as I get bigger and can hold more food. Besides, the more I nurse, the more milk you will have. That’s the way it works. It’s called supply and demand. I demand and your body will supply exactly what I need. Isn’t that amazing? I call it a miracle — just like my birth.
Since we both may be very tired for the first few days, try taking me to bed with you and nurse me while you are lying down. We can both fall asleep and get more rest that way. Did you know that moms who breastfeed have a lower incidence of breast cancer prior to menopause? That is especially important if there is a history of breast cancer in our family.
Even though we both want this to work, and we know it’s the best way to feed me, it may not start off as easily as we’d like it to. After the first two hours of my life, I may get very sleepy and be difficult to wake for feedings. Nevertheless, I do need to nurse every two to three hours and you need to have the nipple stimulation and emptying of your breast in order for your mature milk to come in. Remember, the more frequently I nurse, the sooner your milk will come and the more milk you will produce.
If I sleep too long and don’t get enough colostrum, I might get more jaundice and that can make me even more sleepy. By undressing me and tickling my feet or rubbing my back and moving me gently, you can wake me for feedings. When I nurse, we may both get very sleepy because the release of prolactin and oxyocin causes a release of tryptophan into your blood stream and into my milk supply, which induces sleep. I especially love to fall asleep in you arms . So, put your feet up and get comfortable while we enjoy this very special time together.
I’ve heard that some moms get severe breast engorgement when their milk comes in. By taking a warm shower or applying warm, moist compresses, and expressing some milk by hand or using a good breast pump prior to nursing me, will help soften your breasts so that I can latch on easier. Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, but some moms get nipple soreness because they don’t hold their babies close enough to their breasts and their baby has to hang onto the end of their nipple. You may feel some discomfort when I first latch on, but that should be gone within just a few seconds and all you should be feeling is a gentle tugging.
I may get fussy and cry when you think I shouldn’t be hungry. Or, you may think you don’t have enough milk to satisfy me because I fuss and want to nurse often. This is normal newborn behavior. I might be having a bowel movement or I might have an air bubble in my tummy that’s bothering me or maybe prevented me from eating as much as I’d like to. My diaper might be wet or dirty, my bottom might be sore, I could be bored, or maybe I’m just “missing the womb.”
Before birth, I was kept nice and warm at all times. I felt weightless and could move my arms and legs easily. I might have even been sucking my thumb. I never felt any physical discomforts or hunger and I heard the steady rhythm of your heartbeat and breathing.
If things really get out of hand and you feel frustrated or get upset, you can get practical help and support from your local chapter of La Leche League or a Certified Lactation Consultant in your area. Many of them will make hospital and home visits. It also helps if you choose a health-care provider for us that is knowledgeable about, and in favor of, breastfeeding. Sometimes all you need is support and reassurance.