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Breastfeeding Overview

        Health | Postpartum Care

How to Breast-feed
Breastfeeding does not come instinctively and you must learn the proper procedure.
Breastfeeding does not come instinctively and you must learn the proper procedure.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

You should discuss your decision to breastfeed with those who are important to you. It is much more difficult to succeed if your partner, parents, or children don't understand why you want to breastfeed your new baby. A young child may be concerned that his new brother or sister is actually hurting you. Your other children may become jealous of all the attention you give the new baby. Preparing them makes it easier.

Some men become jealous of a new baby, and breastfeeding may make matters worse. Discuss your decision ahead of time as one way to lessen these feelings. And be sure to make the father a participant in routine baby care.

Many misconceptions still exist about breastfeeding. Many women find it frustrating if they don't breastfeed easily and instinctively -- they don't realize they need to learn the best way to breastfeed. Years ago, women learned breast feeding techniques from their mothers, older sisters, and older women who breast-fed their children. But chances are your mother did not breastfeed you, so she can't really help you with your own breastfeeding.

Classes in breastfeeding techniques are available. Lactation consultants, breastfeeding clinics, and organizations such as La Leche League offer support and encouragement for women having problems with breastfeeding. If you should experience breastfeeding difficulties, remember that the treatment for most breastfeeding problems is to continue breastfeeding.

Getting Started

Most women now have the opportunity to breastfeed their newborns shortly after giving birth. Unless you are so exhausted from the delivery that you can't stay awake, you should try nursing your new baby as soon as possible. Often this means nursing on the delivery table.

Don't be discouraged if your baby isn't interested -- remember, she's been through a tough and tiring process, too. She may be too worn out to be interested in feeding. Don't take this as a rejection. Some women's breasts don't seem to have colostrum (the substance you feed your baby until your milk comes in) immediately after delivery; don't be discouraged-the colostrum, then the milk, will come in.

Feel free to ask questions of your doctor, obstetrics nurse, or lactation consultant about breastfeeding. Very few new mothers cannot breastfeed. Most who feel they have to discontinue just give up too soon. As mentioned earlier, the best treatment for most breastfeeding problems (for example, blocked ducts or insufficient milk supply) is to continue to breastfeed. When you start, your nipples may be a little sore, especially if you are very fair-skinned. This is natural; they aren't accustomed to this type of work and need some time to toughen up.


It is extremely rare for a baby to be allergic to her mother's breast milk. If any family members have allergies, particularly to milk or milk products, your baby is more likely to have problems with formula than with your milk. If you suspect an allergy, consult your child's doctor. Some experts recommend that babies from families with allergies breastfeed, and that the mother avoid eating known or commonly allergenic foods while breastfeeding.

Diapers and Bowel Movements

Many parents of breast-fed babies notice their babies' bowel movements are different from those of bottle-fed babies. The bowel movements are soft and yellowish. Changing the soiled diapers of a breast-fed baby may not be as unpleasant as dealing with the diapers of a bottle-fed infant. Because breast milk is so well absorbed, breast-fed infants are rarely constipated. All of this changes once a baby starts formula or solids.

Breastfeeding and Working

Some women wonder if they can continue to breastfeed once they return to work. Most women in this situation find they can, with a little planning. Remember that breastfeeding is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

The human breast makes milk on a supply and demand basis. The more milk is taken out of the breast, the more milk is made. And human breast milk production is very adaptable. Many women have no problems with breast feeding in the morning before work, when they pick up their baby in the afternoon, during the evening, and again at night.

You can also reckon with the missed feedings during the day. You can freeze breast milk for up to two weeks. You also may be able to pump your breasts at work and refrigerate the milk in a clean bottle. This pumped breast milk can be fed to your baby the next day by your babysitter so your child's diet consists solely of breast milk.

If you are to successfully combine work and breastfeeding, you must be flexible. What works for one woman may not work best for you. Experiment with your schedule and the times you feed your baby.

Stopping Breastfeeding

How long to breastfeed is an individual decision. Most women stop within the first year. Remember, even if you breastfeed for only a few months, you have given your baby that much of a head start in good nutrition and protection from some illnesses.

Sometimes a baby decides on her own when it's time to stop breastfeeding. She may lose interest in the breast or prefer solids and a cup to breast milk.

Some women breastfeed for two or more years. If this is your choice, make sure your older child gets adequate calories and nutrition from solid foods in addition to breast milk.

Because the food you eat affects the content of your breast milk, there are some dietary concerns for when you are breastfeeding. We will tell you the foods you should avoid while nursing in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.