Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and child. The benefits begin soon after birth. Baby's sucking reflex is strongest right after birth. The sooner the baby is put to the breast the better. This early suckling also helps mom. The baby's sucking makes mom's uterus contract and helps keep the bleeding down, avoiding the risk of hemorrhaging. This benefit continues during the early months after birth. Breastfeeding helps mom recover faster from childbirth. During pregnancy, women store fat in the abdomen and hip areas that will be used during the lactation period. Therefore, women who breastfeed are able to lose weight easier and regain their pre-pregnancy figures.
Before the mature milk comes in, all that is available is "drops" of colostrum. But these drops are worth their weight in gold. Colostrum is highly nutritious and full of antibodies, that is why it's called baby's first immunization. Colostrum has a laxative effect that helps baby pass the meconium (these are the black tarry stools) which reduces the risk of jaundice. It is important that baby nurses soon after birth and often during those early days to stimulate the milk production. The more the baby nurses the more milk there will be.
Once the mature milk comes in, baby should nurse every 2-3 hours. Breast milk is digested within 2 hours, that is why breastfed babies are hungry quicker than bottle-fed babies. Because you can't measure ounces when you breastfeed, it's important to "measure" your progress by paying attention to the "output." Once the mature milk comes in, baby should daily have 5-6 very wet disposable diapers or 6-8 wet cloth diapers and 2-5 bowel movements. Every baby is different, so it is important to forget about the clock and schedules and listen to your baby. The baby is the expert. By listening and quickly responding to your baby, you will soon learn to distinguish between hunger cries and cries of boredom, tiredness or loneliness.
Even if you plan to work, it's important to delay the bottle for at least 6 weeks. By then, the milk supply is established and the chance of "nipple confusion" is reduced significantly. What this means is that some babies have difficulty switching from breast to bottle, so it is better to get baby used to the breast first. If baby refuses the bottle you can always use alternative feeding methods like a spoon, eyedropper, cup or feeding syringe. If you plan to return to work, you can build a supply of milk for the caregiver to feed your baby. Breast milk is easily stored in the refrigerator or it can be frozen for longer storage.
Breast milk is so perfect for your baby that it changes constantly. The milk available for a premature baby is different from the milk available for a full term baby. The milk you feed your baby in the morning is not the same as the milk baby receives in the afternoon or evening. It even changes during a single feeding. The first milk that comes out is called the "foremilk" and it is very watery. The foremilk quenches baby's thirst. The second milk that comes out is called the "hindmilk." This is the milk that's rich in nutrients that will put on the weight.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months. Around the middle of the first year solids may be introduced, but breast milk should continue to be the main source of nourishment during the first year of life.
If your baby gets sick, the breast is capable of producing antibodies and providing them to the baby. If mother or baby gets sick, there's rarely a need to interrupt breastfeeding. Breast milk protects baby from infections and gastrointestinal problems. This translates into fewer trips to the doctor.
Breastfed babies travel very easily. All you need to worry about is bringing enough diapers, and perhaps a "privacy" blanket or a baby sling, and you're ready to go. No need to worry about figuring how long you'll be gone and how many bottles you'll need - warm milk is always available.
Another benefit breastfeeding provides is extended "breastfeeding amenorrhea" or "breastfeeding infertility." God designed us so perfectly! Not only does breastfeeding help space babies, but by not having monthly cycles, a woman's body is able to have that time to recover from childbirth and avoids having the loss of blood during menstruation. I personally enjoy about 15 months of infertility after childbirth through what is called "ecological breastfeeding." For more information on how to space your babies naturally, a good resource is Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing by Sheila Kippley.
What's Wrong with Baby Formula?
Most formulas are based on cow's milk, which is made for a calf. Because of its high protein content, cows milk must first be watered down. Then, sugar must be added to recoup the lost calories. In (The) Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League, it states, "Completely missing in artificial infant feeding products are the live cells that help protect baby from disease and the enzymes and hormones that support the baby's physiological development. Infant formula cannot duplicate all the subtle ways in which human milk supports infant growth and health. Human milk is uniquely suitable for human infants because of the complex balance of ingredients."
Formula companies simply have not been able to duplicate human milk, therefore, they lack the different enzymes, amino acids and ingredients that we know are essential for the development of a human baby. Human milk is better digested and assimilated than formula is. That is why the formula fed infant feels fuller longer. It takes him a lot longer to digest all the components in the formula, which generally makes the baby more uncomfortable also.
Breastfeeding helps give your baby the best start in life. It helps avoid allergies, infections and gastrointestinal problems. It costs absolutely nothing. It helps mother regain her strength and her figure. It makes mothering easier by avoiding the hassle of bottles and provides the additional benefit of extended infertility.
For the most nutritious milk supply, you need to get adequate amounts of nutrients, fluids and rest. If you wish, you may add extra nutrition by taking herbs like Red Raspberry or Marshmallow which increase and enrich milk for lactation. Avoid herbs like Parsley and Sage, which will dry up your milk.
Personal Experiences with Breastfeeding and Using Herbs
I have three children: Yvonne Marie (8), Christopher Michael (6), and Stephanie Michelle (3). I was fortunate to be able to stay home with them to nurture them and watch them develop. I nursed my first two children until they were two and the last one until 3 and a half.
Early in my nursing experience i was introduced to herbs the hard way. I developed health problems that required strong medications to be cured, and doctors would either say wait until you wean or other times they'd give me medications that would cause more problems than what they solved. I got tired of running to the doctor and started doing my own research. With the encouragement of friends and the help and knowledge of people, I've been able to take care of a variety of personal ailments naturally, such as: recurring yeast infections, vaginitis, low thyroid function, lack of energy, excessive menstrual bleeding, and boils. I've also been able to take care of my children's common colds, digestive problems, sinus infection and impetigo. The kids call me "the health mobile."
I've been able to safely take care of health problems using herbs without worrying about hurting the baby or having to wean. I highly recommend that every mom become informed about herbs and when and how to use them. You will save money and your sanity. You'll get such a feeling of peace knowing that you can take care of minor ailments without running to doctor's offices where you might end up being exposed to more germs than you had before you got there.
Another issue that is important is quality of the herbs. I've been so pleased with Nature's Sunshine Products. I know before I open a bottle of herbs, that they've done everything they can to insure the safety and potency of the product. In the past, I would run out of my herbs at home and run to the nearest store for herbs just to be disappointed. Most of the time they did not have the same effect I was accustomed to with Nature's Sunshine. Please be careful with cheaper brands that might not do the job and also expose you and your baby to pesticides and bacterial problems.
My favorite herb books are: The How to Herb Book by Velma J. Keith & Monteen Gordon and (The) Herbal for Mother and Child by Anne McIntyre.
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