Breastfeeding can be an amazing experience for new parents. It can also come with its own set of challenges and concerns. I often say that parents expect their baby will come out and it will be “natural” and easy. However, both you and your little one are new at this, so cut yourself some slack and realize that there may be ups and downs along the road. Breastfeeding is a learning process for both you and your little one and there is a steep learning curve. With knowledge and practice it tends to get easier for everyone.
It is likely that you will have a lot of questions about breastfeeding. Here are the top questions I get asked as a pediatrician (and mom of three breastfed boys) to help empower you and help troubleshoot if challenges arise.
How often should I breastfeed?
In early infancy, mostly breastfed babies will feed every 2-3 hours and that’s from the start of the feeding! You will feel like you are feeding a lot and that is normal. It is best to look for hunger cues and not wait until your baby is crying to start feeding. Some common signals are rooting, lip smacking and making suckling motions. As you and your little one get to know each other better, the hunger cues tend to become more apparent and easier to recognize.
What are the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations about breastfeeding?
The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months with the continuation of breastfeeding until one year of age or as long as desired by both the mother and the infant.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
There are benefits to breastfeeding for both the mother and the infant. That said, a fed baby is a healthy baby. If you choose not to breastfeed or breastfeed in combination with formula your baby will receive the nutrition they need to grow and develop.
Benefits for Babies:
- less frequent ear infections, chest infections, and stomach bugs.
- lowers the risk of SIDS
- decreases the incidence of asthma and eczema.
Benefits for Mothers:
- helps contract the uterus after delivery
- can help with weight loss
- can decrease the risk of premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer.
I thought breastfeeding is supposed to be easy? Why is it SO HARD for me?
Just like learning to walk and talk, breastfeeding is something that all babies need to learn to do. During the learning process it can be really challenging for a variety of reasons. It usually will get easier with time but asking for help is key! Talk to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant. You may hear lots of differing opinions when you ask questions. Take most things with a grain of salt. There is no single “right” way to feed a baby.
Do I need to supplement? When and how should I start?
There are circumstances in which it is necessary either for the health of the mother or baby to supplement with formula or you may make the personal choice to do so. It is important to listen to the advice of medical professionals. A fed baby is a healthy baby. There is no shame in choosing to supplement for personal or medical reasons. Each family unit is unique and it is important to make the choices that work for you, your baby and your family unit. Should you decide to supplement, speak with your pediatrician about what is the right formula choice for your baby.
New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics)