We answer some of your questions regarding the basics of breastfeeding…

Now that you are about to give birth, you are probably wondering if breastfeeding is the best option as opposed to formula. Breastfeeding will ensure that your baby is getting the proper nutrition for health and development. It is also a great way to bond with your baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 77 percent of babies are now breastfed, which is an increase of 60 percent in the last ten years.

Breast milk in and of itself is a complete food as it contains about 400 nutrients in addition to hormones and disease fighting compounds, none of which are present in formula. As your baby grows, it will adjust its nutritional makeup to suit your baby’s needs.

Advantages of Breastfeeding

  • Reduces the risk of infection
  • Lowers the chance for chronic disease
  • Leaner baby (and leaner mommy)
  • Lessens the risk of SIDS
  • Boosts your confidence as a new mother
  • Eases recovery from pregnancy and labor
  • Reduces risk of childhood cancers
  • Delays the return of your menstrual cycle
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Cost effective
  • Breast milk is easier to digest than formula
  • Reduces the risk of allergies

How Breast milk is formed

During your second trimester for pregnancy, the milk will begin production in your mammary glands as your hormone levels increase. However, full-scale milk production does not begin till after you deliver. Your mammary glands each have a function in producing breast milk. The alveoli are clusters of small grape-like sacs in your breasts that are surrounded by muscles that then squeeze the milk into the ductless, which are the canals that carry the milk to the milk ducts. The milk ducts are an intricate network of canals that then deliver the milk to your baby.

During your final days of pregnancy and immediately after delivery, your body begins to produce colostrums. Colostrums is yellowish and thicker than milk you will produce in later stages of breastfeeding. It is high in protein, minerals and fat-soluble vitamins. Colostrums also contain immunoglobulins, which are antibodies that provide the baby with passive immunity to protect the baby from a vast number of viral and bacterial ailments.

About four days after your delivery, your body will switch from colostrums to transitional milk. This creamy breast milk contains increased levels of lactose, fat and vitamins and has more calories than colostrums. You will notice that your breasts will become increasingly larger and firmer in this stage, causing you some possible discomfort. If you stick to regular feedings during this phase it will help ease this and, don’t worry, this stage only lasts about two weeks !

After about 2 weeks, your body will then begin to produce mature milk. The first stage is foremilk, which has a bluish tint and contains water, vitamins and protein. The final stage of mature milk is called hind milk is white in color. Hind milk contains the increased levels of fat needed to provide your baby with proper nutrition for healthy weight gain.

Tips To Staying Healthy During Breastfeeding

In order for your body to produce healthy milk, you should take care of your body and maintain a proper diet. Here are some helpful tips to help keep you healthy while breastfeeding.

  • Eat healthy: You need to maintain your health as well as your baby’s so it is crucial that you take care of yourself and make sure you are getting the proper nutrition. Do not worry about counting calories or losing weight while breastfeeding. You should continue to eat the same way you did when you were pregnant: plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains. Choose leans meats and healthy fats.
  • Drink filtered water: Play it safe, there are still traces of chemicals and high levels of fluoride in tap water.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Alcohol does in fact enter your breast milk and no level of alcohol is safe for your infant. If you do opt for the alcoholic beverage, you should avoid breastfeeding altogether until you are sure it has completely cleared your system. For 12 ounces of beer, for example, it will take about 3 hours to be considered safe. Pumping does not speed up the process so don’t “pump and dump”.
  • Limit caffeine intake: Caffeine can affect how much sleep your baby will get. You should limit your caffeine to 8 to 12 ounces per day or better yet, avoid it altogether if you can. Avoid energy drinks as these are usually containing high levels of caffeine. You should stick to herbal teas, mineral water and decaffeinated tea or coffee.
  • Refrain from smoking: Twice the amount of nicotine is passed through breast milk then transferred through the placenta during pregnancy. Babies with parents who are smokers are more likely to develop asthma, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, croup and pneumonia. They are also at higher risk for SIDS. It is advised that you do not smoke while breastfeeding for your baby’s overall safety and health.
  • Discuss any medications you are taking with your doctor: Most medications are safe while breastfeeding but most of them will enter into your breast milk so it is important for your baby’s health to discuss any medications you are taking with your doctor, including over the counter medications.

Preparing For Breastfeeding

Once you have decided to breastfeed it is important that you start to prepare. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Proper prenatal care is imperative: discuss your plans to breastfeed with your doctor, keep all appointments and adhere to everything your doctor advises you.
  • Take a class on breastfeeding basics.
  • Find a lactation consultant.
  • Take the necessary health precautions
  • Find a support network: Talk to friends who have breastfed in the past and discuss your plans to breastfeed with your significant other, friends and family members.
  • Purchase the necessary items: nursing pad and bras, breast pumps and nursing pillows.

Now that you have some basic information, you can decide for yourself if breastfeeding is the best course for you and your baby!