By Debbie Pierce, nurse practitioner, internationally board-certified lactation consultant, Kaiser Permanente Colorado
As a nurse practitioner and certified lactation consultant, I see hundreds of breastfeeding moms each year. From newbies to pros, all moms fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed have nearly identical questions about the symbiotic relationship between their babes and breasts.
Since August 1-7 is Breastfeeding Awareness Week, I’d like to celebrate by walking you through some common breastfeeding topics.
Nursing in public
Every woman has the right to feed her baby anyplace she has a right to be. The question is not whether you should feed in public, it is more how you can do it if you want to be discreet. The bottom line is you need to feed your child. Your baby’s appetite will not wait for you to get your shopping done. It will not wait for you to finish depositing your check at the bank. It will not wait for you to be alone in some remote location far away from sensitive eyes.
Be it breasts, bottle, or formula, your child needs to eat and you should feel empowered as a woman and a mother to do just that. There are many wonderful options for covering yourself and your little one while nursing. I always suggest using a cover-up that allows you to see your baby; this helps increase bonding time and ensuring proper latch. You can also try using a nursing scarf. It’s a fashionable and functional option for moms on the go.
Bonding with baby
It’s normal for your baby to want to feed 10-12 times per day and have cluster feeds where they seem to feed nonstop for several hours. These frequent feeds are telling your body how much milk to make. This frequency also has another important function — bonding. It’s important time you’re getting with your baby, while learning his or her habits and nonverbal signals. The benefits are nearly endless. Some studies have shown that the time spent bonding while breastfeeding lowers your risk of postpartum depression.
Mama needs a drink (or two)
Even though I hear more questions about proper diet, lately, I’ve heard some alcohol-related questions. It’s best to avoid drinking alcohol while breastfeeding because it can increase health risks for your baby and decrease milk production. I’m realistic though. You just went 40 weeks without drinking and that glass of white wine looks divine! If you do drink alcohol, limit it to one occasional drink (12-ounce beer, 4-ounce glass of wine, or 1 ounce of hard liquor). To minimize the amount of alcohol that transfers to your baby, have that long-awaited drink after you nurse or pump milk. Also, allow at least two hours per drink before your next breastfeeding or pumping session.
Working moms of the world unite! The pump can be your best friend, especially if you have to dash out the door to get to your 8-5. Getting your babe to go from breast to bottle isn’t as difficult as you might think. The best way to get your kiddo ready for the bottle is to introduce a bottle at about 1 month of age. You can pump some milk after nursing to have some milk available in reserve. It’s important to pump on a regular schedule when you return to work, and your baby may want to nurse more frequently when you are home.
For those of you who might be hesitant because of a demanding work schedule (“Will I have time to pump?”), it’s state and federal law that your employer must allow you time and a place to pump while at work. Every place of work varies on locations and time allowed to pump so please check with your HR department or your supervisor to learn more about your company’s policy.
Breast health: benefits for mom and baby
There is a great deal of evidence that supports the importance of breastfeeding. It impacts the health of both you and your baby now and in the future. Studies have indicated that breastfeeding decreases a child’s likelihood of developing diabetes, respiratory infections, some childhood cancers, and sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS). Other studies indicate infants who’ve breastfed may even have higher IQs. You’ll also have a decreased chance of developing premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancers. It can also help you lose weight, as you’re burning at least 500 calories a day just by breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding your new baby can be a wonderful experience — and it can also be challenging at times. Remember, breastfeeding is a learned skill that takes practice and patience. You might feel frustrated while you and your baby are learning and adjusting, but know that there are many resources available to help you succeed. There is also a lot of misinformation on the web, so be sure and check with your provider if you have concerns.