by Schae Richards, community editor 

Breastfeeding is a natural process between mother and baby. Still, it can be overwhelming for mothers at times.

Margo Christensen, RN, prenatal services coordinator at Logan Regional Hospital, said with some education, mothers can better understand the basics of breastfeeding, and determine whether it’s the right choice for them.

How does breastfeeding provide health benefits?

Breastfeeding can have several health benefits for both mother and baby. Some of these include:

Benefits to mother

  • Reduces risk of premenopausal breast cancer, and uterine and ovarian cancers (if mother breastfeeds for at least two years)
  • Improves bone density and reduces occurence of osteoporosis
  • Helps mother get to pre-pregnancy weight faster (if mother is eating healthily)
  • Is convenient and economical
  • Builds bond between mother and baby

Benefits to baby

  • Builds the immune system (perfectly matched for a newborn’s nutritional needs)
  • Protects the development of brain cells
  • Decreases chance of allergies, asthma, juvenile diabetes and cancers and ear infections
  • Reduces risk of sudden infant death or “crib death”
  • Lowers chance of being re-admitted in the hospital for respiratory infections and diarrhea-related infection

How often and how much should my baby eat?

Breast milk should be a baby’s “sole source of nutrition” for the first six months of their life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most breast-fed babies want to eat every hour and a half to three hours, depending on their individual needs.

Though the exact amount can’t be measured, you can track your baby’s consumption by checking their “level of contentment” and “what comes out,” meaning they need to have so many wet and dirty diapers (six to eight wet diapers, and four or more dirty diapers by 4 days old) within a 24-hour cycle. You can also track each feeding at first to help check your baby’s growth.

“The hospital also sends mothers home with a little log they can use at home for the first week of the baby’s life,” Margo said. “…It helps them track feedings and wet and messy diapers, which provides a way to ‘measure’ their baby’s progress, so they can feel reassured about things.”

What if my baby has trouble latching?

A good latch is important to successful breastfeeding.

“We work with our mothers here in the hospital, hoping to ensure the baby is latching,” Margo said. “If they have mastered the technique of latching, mothers usually do a lot better when they go home.”

However, if a mother would like additional support, she can seek help from a lactation consultant or healthcare professional to help improve latching.

Breastfeeding can be painful for the first few days as the mother’s body is trying to adjust.

“It should not continue to hurt once breastfeeding is established, which sometimes takes a few weeks,” Margo said. “…It all comes down to how good that latch is.”

Do I need to diet while breastfeeding?

No special diet is recommended while breastfeeding, although mothers should try to eat healthy foods.

“We strongly encourage mothers to keep a healthy, balanced diet,” Margo said. “We don’t restrict mothers in their diets, unless they think something might be bothering the baby.”

Mothers should consume about 500 extra calories a day (per baby). You should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and consume enough protein and carbohydrates to help with your baby’s development. Also remember to stay hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day, and cut back on, or cut out caffeinated beverages.

What if I am returning to work?

Many mothers return to work post maternity leave. You should continue to breastfeed whenever you can, or when you are at home with your baby.

“We encourage mothers to breastfeed for as long as they can,” Margo said. “If a mother wants to breastfeed for two weeks, she’s providing her baby with optimal nutritional and immunological benefits for that period of time just as a mother who breastfeeds for longer periods of time.”

Upon returning to work, get into the routine of pumping and storing milk to have on hand, and start introducing your baby to a bottle. This will create a smoother transition for both of you.

When should I NOT breastfeed

There are some cases when a mother should not breastfeed. Some of these include:

  • If the mother has tested HIV positive (United States, only)
  • If the mother is using illicit drugs, or has a history of substance abuse
  • If the mother is going through chemotherapy, taking therapeutics drugs or high doses of radiopharmaceuticals
  • If the baby is diagnosed with Galactosemia (an intolerance to galactose)

You may also decide along the way that breastfeeding isn’t for you. At any time, you can switch to a formula to better accommodate you and your baby.

“Breastfeeding has to work for the mother as much as it has to work for the baby,” Margo said. “Our goal is to support [mothers] in their choice.”

If you need additional support after being released from the hospital, you can schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant on Tuesday or Friday mornings for $35. Call (435) 716-2560 to schedule your appointment.