Breastfeeding - Problems, Benefits and the Weaning Process

Doing What Comes Naturally

More and more mothers are doing things very naturally these days. They are opting for natural childbirth, many going for waterbirths or hypnobirths, and breastfeeding has finally come back into its own as the best way to ensure a newborn gets all of the nutrition needed. For most new mothers who choose breastfeeding, the question arises as to how long she should breastfeed her baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least the first year of life. However, life has a way of arranging things and that may not be practical for all nursing moms. Also, babies can just up and wean themselves from the breast long before mother is ready for it. Breastfeeding weaning is a natural transition and, contrary to what some folks say, babies don't nurse forever. Most babies wean themselves from the breast by the time they are two years old - although, like all things with children, they are all different and set to their own schedule.

Benefits of Breastfeeding For Baby

Of course, breastfeeding benefits are manifold for both mother and baby. During the first few days after birth, baby gets a good dose of colostrum, the liquid that precedes milk and provides disease fighting antibodies that the baby can't access from any other source. It is the perfect consistency and content for easy absorption by the baby's delicate system and coats the baby's intestinal tract, acting as a barrier, preventing harmful bacteria from invading. Between the colostrum and mature milk, there is transitional milk which is thinner but also contains important antibodies for baby's health. Mature milk comes in at about the two week mark and from that point forward, breastfeeding benefits include the fact that the protein in breast milk is easier for the baby to digest, meaning there's less gas, colic and rashes.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom

Breastfeeding benefits the mother by helping to develop a close bond with the baby as well as helping the body recover from childbirth more quickly by releasing hormones that will contract the uterus and reduce post-partum bleeding. Among the hormones released is prolactin, the mothering hormone that helps a woman relax. When a nursing mom is relaxed, she takes better care of her baby and herself. Eating a healthy breastfeeding diet is another way to care for the body, and also aids in the loss of excess weight that may have been gained during the pregnancy. By nursing and eating a good breastfeeding diet, the production of breast milk mobilizes stored fat. It's great for baby and for mom.

Breastfeeding Problems, They Happen

Occasionally a nursing mother encounters breastfeeding problems such as engorgement, sore or painful nipples, plugged ducts, and sometimes mastitis. Breastfeeding problems can be solved with patience and perseverance - and with the help of trained professionals who know how to help a nursing mother through such times. It can be disheartening, not to mention painful, and some women give up breastfeeding as a result. When there are problems with breastfeeding, pumping may be the way to overcome the situation without foregoing nursing entirely. In the case of engorgement, it is recommended that the breasts be emptied frequently and completely by breastfeeding. Sometimes baby just doesn't want as much milk as engorged breasts contain. The answer then is expressing the milk by hand or by breastfeeding pumping. There are many good breastfeeding videos and breastfeeding pictures available to help explain and encourage mothers in their journey with their babies.

Comfy Clothing for Breastfeeding

An important aspect to nursing is attire that works. Breastfeeding clothes include a good nursing bra and clothing that provides easy access without having to disrobe. Many women find that men's clothing provides the perfect solution. The fit is roomy and relaxed and a woman is able to open a button or two providing access without taking off too much clothing. Usually a woman's pre-pregnancy wardrobe is not convenient or comfortable immediately following the birth, so using her partner's shirts, sweaters, and even a pair of sweatpants make for comfort around the house while both mother and baby get into the swing of life with one another.

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