Your Health: The joys and woes of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding offers multiple health benefits for mom and baby.

Parents want the best for their babies, and deciding whether or not to breastfeed is one of the first choices a mother makes for her child. Breastfeeding offers multiple health benefits for mom and baby so the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least six months.

Perhaps the most important advantage of breastmilk is the nutrients it provides for proper organ development and to help babies stay healthy and protect them from some illnesses.

Women who breastfeed can more easily bond with their babies and tend to recover from childbirth more quickly. Some studies show that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Regardless of the health benefits, learning to breastfeed and continuing the process is not always an easy task.

Sheila Sloss, RN, IBCLC, is the Birth Center Program Coordinator for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission. Sloss helps moms understand the benefits of breastfeeding and overcome challenges that come along with it.

“As women move through their breastfeeding journey, their challenges will change,” said Sloss. “The most important thing I always want moms to know is that we are here to support them no matter how they choose to feed their baby.”

The first 24 hours after delivery is the time when moms are learning the best way for their baby to latch as well as positioning and hand expression of milk. After the first day, babies are more alert and want to nurse, which can be exhausting for some women. Sloss encourages moms to be prepared for this early stage so they know what to expect.

“Every time you breastfeed or express breastmilk, you are telling your body how much milk to make,” said Sloss. “Remember that it usually takes two to three days for milk to fully come in.”

It is normal for moms to worry about babies not getting enough to eat so Sloss recommends frequent feeding, looking for wet and dirty diapers, and keeping track of your baby’s weight. As your baby grows, the challenges become maintaining milk supply, properly weaning and how best to return to work.

“For something so natural, breastfeeding can be difficult especially in the beginning,” said Sloss. “Moms are learning and babies are learning too, and each breastfeeding situation is unique.”

For those preparing to face the challenge, here’s some tips that may help.

  • Set realistic expectations. Do not expect perfection and resist comparing yourself to other new moms.
  • Start breastfeeding within one hour after birth so your baby receives colostrum that is rich in immunoglobulin G and protects against infections and illness.
  • Breastfeed on demand. Feed any time you notice hunger cues from your baby.
  • Practice rooming in by keeping your baby with you when possible.
  • If you want your baby to continue to breastfeed, it’s best to avoid offering pacifiers or artificial nipples.
  • Drink plenty of water and get enough calories. Your body needs an additional 400 to 500 calories per day when breastfeeding.
  • Lean on your care team and personal support people. Lactation consultants can show you how to use different latch options and help you work through issues.

Sloss offers an important reminder for women. “If you are a mom struggling with breastfeeding, talk with your pediatrician and lactation consultants and come up with a feeding plan that works for you and your baby,” said Sloss. “As long as your baby is fed, healthy and loved, you are doing a great job.”

Moms with breastfeeding questions can call AdventHealth’s Breastfeeding Warmline at 913-632-4330 seven days a week to speak with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Learn more at AdventHealthKC.com/birthcenter.