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Breastfeeding Basics For a Successful Start

Written by Valerie Lavigne, D.C.   
Tuesday, 01 March 2005 00:00
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This year’s theme for the World Breastfeeding Week is: Exclusive Breastfeeding: The Gold Standard, Safe, Sound and Sustainable. The World Health Organization currently recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and up to two years with other foods. So how can we help a new mother achieve this goal? Educating her on the basics of breastfeeding, and helping her to fully understand how the relationship between mother and baby is formed, should provide a step in the right direction towards a successful breastfeeding career.

New mothers often think breastfeeding is easy and natural, but if you’ve ever heard stories about difficult latches, thrush, mastitis, cracked nipples or any of the problems associated with breastfeeding, you know that it is really a learned art and sometimes a little help is needed during the learning process. As a new mother, or a future new mother, you need to equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible to ensure that your breastfeeding experience is successful from the very beginning. This article will help you understand why “breast is best,” how to get a proper latch, and how to know when baby is getting enough milk.

Breastfeedingi BasicsBy choosing to breastfeed, you are giving your child a huge advantage. The health benefits are immense, including a stronger immune system with fewer ear infections, colds and upper respiratory infections. Research has also shown a reduction in the incidence of diarrhea and asthma in breastfed babies, as well as IQ scores that are five to ten points higher than non-breastfed children. The benefits to the mother are equally encouraging. We have seen a decreased risk of breast cancer and an easier recovery from delivery. Also, there are huge financial savings breastfeeding can bring to the household—it has been estimated that a family of a singleton will save around $1,500 per year when a baby is breastfed.

In his 1998 study, Righard estimated that 94% of mothers experiencing breastfeeding problems had incorrect positioning and latch-on. The single most important breastfeeding skill to understand is how to put a baby to the breast efficiently. This is called latching the baby. When a baby is well latched, she is massaging the milk ducts and thus able to extract milk. If the baby is not positioned properly on the breast, she will not be able to create the stimulation necessary to empty the milk ducts and therefore produce more milk. Remember, it is baby who regulates how much milk is made, not mom! Simply put, the more often the breast is emptied, the more milk will be produced. Understanding this basic skill is the first step toward successful breastfeeding.

Latching-on To latch your baby effectively, you should be seated comfortably in a chair or on a couch. Once the general concept of latching is understood, you can then breastfeed in various positions. Your back should be well supported and reasonably straight; your feet should also be well supported on the floor or on a footstool. This is supposed to be a fun experience so try to relax as much as possible!