Making the decision to breastfeed

78368692The decision to breast or bottle feed is not merely a lifestyle decision. It is an important decision with lifelong health benefits. Breastfeeding can go a long way towards making a healthier population.

Breastfeeding is by far the best way to feed babies. Most people know how good breast milk is for babies. It protects them from allergies, pneumonia, ear infections, obesity, asthma, even leukemia. It is the perfect nutrition for newborns.

Many moms do not know how good breastfeeding is for them. It decreases your chances of getting ovarian cancer by 21 percent and decreases your chances of getting breast cancer by 43 percent! It lets you eat food that increases your baby’s weight instead of your own.

Here is some information about the first few days of breastfeeding:

Your baby has been inside you, in your amniotic fluid for many months. When babies are born, they are waterlogged – they have more water inside them than they need. So they are not thirsty, not hungry, just tired. During the next few days, they will pee that extra water out. They will lose weight, but they are not losing muscle or bone; they are only losing the extra water they were born with.

Many new nursing moms see this weight loss, feel that they are not making much milk, so they reach for a bottle of formula. Do not do this. Your baby does not need formula. He/she needs what your breasts are making. This is called colostrum. Colostrum is like nature’s first vaccine. It is full of antibodies to keep your baby from getting sick, and prepares your baby’s gut to properly digest milk, and eventually, solid foods. It is also a laxative to help your baby have normal bowel movements. There is not too much of it, but it is super good for babies. It is better than anything the formula companies can make. If you start using formula before your breast milk is well established (two to three weeks of nursing), your milk production may decrease and then stop. Try to breastfeed exclusively for at least two to three weeks before adding any formula.

Try to nurse your baby whenever he/she seems hungry. The more you nurse, the more milk your breasts will make. Newborns usually sleep for most of the first day, so do not be disappointed if they do not nurse too well. This will improve the next 24 hours or so. It will probably take three days of nursing before you feel like your breasts are making much milk. As long as your baby is peeing and pooping regularly, he/she is probably getting enough to drink.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a lot of information on breastfeeding at this site. Click here to read more.

If you live in the Louisville area, and have any questions or problems breastfeeding, be sure to ask for help. I encourage you to take advantage of the Breastfeeding Hotline at the Center for Women and Infants at University of Louisville Hospital. This clinic is available for all nursing mothers, regardless where their baby was born. Call (855) 562-6081 for lactation assistance.

This blog post was re-posted with permission by Dr. Lawrence Wasser. It originally appeared on his personal blog, Parenting Infants and Toddlers.

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About Lawrence Wasser, M.D.

Dr. Lawrence Wasser is currently a pediatrician with UofL Physicians -- Pediatrics and associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Dr. Wasser was born in the Bronx, N.Y. and grew up in Linden, New Jersey. He received his b.s. in engineering and applied science from Yale University in 1970, and his M.D. in 1974 from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He then completed a three year residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Boston, followed by a fellowship in behavioral and developmental pediatrics at the Child Development Unit at Harvard University School of Medicine, under the leadership of Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. Dr Wasser then joined a private practice in Louisville, where he worked in primary care for 27 years. He then joined the full-time faculty at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in the general pediatrics division at the UCHS practice on Broadway. In 2010, he moved to his current position as the director of the Newborn Nursery at the University of Louisville Hospital. For many years, Dr. Wasser has been giving parenting workshops both lo cally and nationally, helping parents survive the challenges of raising toddlers. He is the author of his own blog, Parenting Infants and Toddlers, http://toddlerdoc.blogspot.com/.

All posts by Lawrence Wasser, M.D.