August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and in honor of this momentous occasion, Parents.com has compiled a list of 10 things you didn’t know about breastfeeding. Are you a new mom? Or maybe you think you know everything there is to know about breastfeeding, already? Check out these facts, test your knowledge, and be an educated breast-feeder!
image from Little Mountain Homeopathy
Have a coffee, or a martini! A healthy diet is important for everyone, but you don’t have to feel guilty if you have a few too many cookies, or have a drink with your husband. “Your body is designed to make healthy milk,” says Laura Viehmann, M.D. The purpose of eating well is to maintain your own health and energy… your body will do it’s own work of using the nutrients you provide to produce wholesome breastmilk.
Nursing may cause cramping: But just for the first few days after birth! It’s a sign that your body is healing properly. “The same hormone responsible for triggering milk letdown, oxytocin, causes your uterus to shrink back to normal, which reduces the risk for uterine bleeding,” says American Baby advisor Laura Jana, M.D.
Your milk is not always the same: At first, you produce a sticky, yellowish-white colostrum that’s rich in protein. After a few days, you start producing “real” milk which contains two parts (you might see them separate in the fridge). Foremilk is thin, watery, and pale; hindmilk contains more fat, and will be slightly thicker and creamier.
Nursing pads will save your life: OK, not literally, but they’ll save you a lot of embarrassment from leaky nipples. Anything that makes you think of your baby, even hearing another baby cry, causes your body to release oxytocin which makes the milk come in! So don’t leave home without them!
You may get antsy: A friend of mine called it “nervous milk” and her baby weaned himself off of it pretty quickly. She just couldn’t relax and enjoy the feedings, and this nervousness transferred to her baby. If you think about it, it can be boring: feedings can last as long as an hour, and babies need to be fed every couple of hours at first. Try to use this time to do something enjoyable– check email, read, or catch up on your DVR queue, call a friend to chat… or take a nap! Of course it would also be time well spent if you can focus on bonding with your baby using eye contact, touch, and talking or singing to him.
It might be worse than labor: On second thought, maybe not, but it can still be painful. It’s normal if your nipples feel irritated at first because they’ve never had that degree of stimulation, but if you are writhing in agony you need to make sure the latch is right. You should rule out mastitis or blocked ducts, and speak to a lactation consultant. Once you baby is latching on properly, you may find your cracked, bleeding nipples healing within days! Use a purified lanolin product, like Lansinoh, to soothe nipples after feeding or pumping.
It may not work out: Some moms do all they can to make breastfeeding a success, and despite their best efforts it doesn’t work out. This can be for a myriad of reasons, including low milk production, infections, or medication. We do believe it’s important to try, but nourishing, nurturing and bonding can happen without breastfeeding too.
It may feel like heaven: Those hormones are at it again– this time in a good way! Oxytocin, a hormone involved in milk production, ushers in a cascade of blissful emotions, and prolactin makes you feel drowsy when you’re done. There’s nothing quite like the sweetness of a happy baby at your breast as you both drift off to sleep together!
Your turn! If there’s something that surprised you, or that you wish YOU had known about breastfeeding, let us know! Help out our readers by sharing your wisdom and leaving a comment below!