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Breastfeeding Your Baby (part 1) - Breastfeeding Counselors and Lactation Consultants, Benefits of Breastfeeding

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1. Breastfeeding Counselors and Lactation Consultants

If you have problems breastfeeding after baby’s birth, people are available to help you. Contact your local La Leche League to be put in contact with a breastfeeding counselor who can offer support and share experiences, usually for no fee. She may be available by telephone to answer questions, or she may visit you at home.

When a breastfeeding counselor comes across a problem beyond her scope, she can refer you to a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding counselors and lactation consultants often work closely together. A lactation consultant is a qualified professional who may work in hospitals, home-care services, health agencies and private practice. A consultant can help with basic breastfeeeding issues, assess and observe you and your baby, develop a care plan, inform healthcare providers of the situation and follow up with you as needed. You can even contact a lactation consultant before baby’s birth.

If you smoke, it’s best to breastfeed. The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the hazards from smoke that a baby is exposed to. Nicotine passes through breast milk, but the cancer-causing agents in cigarettes do not pass to baby. If you must smoke, wait 90 minutes after smoking to breastfeed. And be sure not to smoke around baby!

Contact the International Lactation Consultant Association for further information. They can be reached at 919-861-5577 or through their website at www.ilca.org.

2. Benefits of Breastfeeding

All babies receive some protection from mom against disease before birth. During pregnancy, antibodies pass from mother to baby through the placenta. They circulate through baby’s blood for a few months after birth. Breastfed babies receive continued protection in breast milk.

Nursing the first 4 weeks of baby’s life provides the most protection for baby and the best hormone release for you. Breastfeeding for as short as 3 months may reduce baby’s risk of developing allergies and infections. Breastfeeding for the first 6 months may help reduce the risks of asthma, juvenile diabetes, childhood leukemia, stomach viruses and ear infections in baby. And you may lower your child’s risk of SIDS by 50%!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months. However, by the time a baby reaches 3 months, only one in three will still be breastfed. By this age, about 35% of all breastfed babies also receive formula. By the age of 6 months, only 12% of all babies receive breast milk exclusively.

Breast milk contains many substances to help prevent infection. Breastfeeding may reduce the intensity and length of time a problem lasts. For a while, breast milk gives baby immunity against illnesses you’ve had. However, microwaving breast milk can kill antibodies that help protect baby from illness and disease, so never microwave breast milk.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) in breast milk are important for baby. Studies show a baby who has them in his diet may have a higher IQ and greater visual development.

3. Breastfeeding and You

Breastfeeding your baby will definitely have some effects on you. It may help you lose weight, but studies show you need to breastfeed baby for at least 3 months to get any benefit. After your milk supply is well established (about 6 weeks), strenuous exercise shouldn’t impact your milk supply. However, sleep loss can affect your milk supply.

Breastfeeding may reduce your risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease in later life. In addition, new research shows it may cut your breast-cancer risk by nearly 60%! If there’s a history of breast cancer in your family, especially your mother or sisters, breastfeeding may help protect you against developing breast cancer. One study recommends women with a family history of breast cancer should be strongly encouraged to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding does not make your breasts sag. Your age, weight before pregnancy, your breast size and whether you smoke are greater factors in determining whether your breasts will sag after baby’s arrival.

Still being careful with caffeine consumption? Drinking one to two cups of coffee a day shouldn’t affect baby. However, if you notice baby becoming agitated, cut down your intake.

Be careful with alcohol consumption. Don’t believe the old wives’ tale that drinking beer will help increase your milk supply. When you do have an alcoholic drink, drink it immediately after breastfeeding and don’t have more than one. Choose wine or beer because the percentage of alcohol in beer and wine is lower than that for hard liquor. Beer and wine pass from your body in about 3 hours. Studies show it takes up to 13 hours for hard liquor to leave the body.

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