Breastfeeding - Diet, Benefits, Problems and Weaning

The positive pregnancy test is the first of a long list of exciting and sometimes challenging events along the path to parenthood. Once you have determined your due date, and begun the process of choosing colors for the nursery and names for the baby, you'll probably get down to the nuts and bolts of birth planning and deciding whether you'll nurse or not.

There's No Other Way

Then, the baby arrives and there's no question - you want to nurse this child. It's the most natural instinct in the world for a mother. Breastfeeding benefits are myriad - from not having to fix bottles in the middle of the night, to bonding and having a relationship with your child that you can't get any other way. In the beginning stages, when all there in your breasts is colostrum, your baby receives the benefit of protection from diseases and immunities that can't be given any other way. When your milk comes in, your baby is able to gain all of the healthy nutrients he needs to grow strong. It has been acknowledged by the world health authorities that nursing for the first six months of life is the most effective way to protect infants from disease and to ensure they receive nutritional benefit.

What Must I Do?

You know that breastfeeding is the best for your baby and you will do whatever it takes to make sure you are able to give this baby total nourishment from your milk. How, exactly, will you do that? Well, there is a lot of conflicting information around about what you should eat and what you should drink in order to provide your baby with all of the valuable nutrients he'll need to grow normally and to thrive. Some information tells you that if you eat certain things you'll give your baby colic. We'd like to clear some of that up for you.

You may have been told that you need to drink a lot of water when you are breastfeeding. Actually, you only need to drink enough to satisfy your thirst - your body is really adept at conserving what it needs to have to keep its reserves intact. The way to tell if you're getting enough fluid is to check your urine. If it is really dark and has a strong smell, you need to drink more. If it is pale, you're doing fine. The same rule of thumb goes for food. If you're hungry, eat. You don't necessarily need a lot of extra calories in order to sustain your milk supply. Your caloric intake is governed more by your physical output than by nursing, however, nursing usually gives you a big appetite. So, if you don't have one, check in on your emotional thermostat. Perhaps you need some emotional support.

Good Clothing and Lots of Pictures

You'll want to be sure you have good nursing bras and clothing that is suitable for a nursing mom. There are so many wonderful styles and nursing fashions available today that even women who don't nurse are wearing them. Breastfeeding clothing is easy to manipulate and move around so that if you have to feed the baby in a hurry, and you're out in public, there shouldn't be a lot of fuss. Side entry slits and convenient panels that lift up in the front of a top or dress are all designed to make breastfeeding convenient and easy - no matter where you are. On a side note, there is nothing more beautiful than a mother breastfeeding her infant. Breastfeeding pictures and videos are not only lovely, they evoke wonderful things in the hearts and minds of those who view them. Also, they provide a great learning tool for those who want to observe and learn techniques and methods of breastfeeding. Check the internet for breastfeeding videos and breastfeeding pictures to help you along or to give you ideas for a photo session of your own.

Ouch - That Hurts!

As with all things, there can be problems with breastfeeding. Most breastfeeding problems occur at the beginning of the process, during the learning curve. Breast engorgement - where the breast is overfull of milk - is a painful and difficult thing. The breasts become firm, flushed, warm to the touch, and feel like they're throbbing. The best way to deal with this is to empty the breasts as often as possible. If the baby doesn't empty them, then do it yourself either by hand breast pumping or by using a breastfeeding pump. Sore or painful nipples, plugged ducts, and infection of the breast (mastitis) are also problems that can cause distress, pain, and sometimes discouragement. Understand that these problems can be treated quickly and effectively and there's no need to stop breastfeeding because of them.

Weaning Your Baby

At the end of it all, a baby must be weaned from the breast. What's the best way? As time progresses, nursing patterns change. The voracious eater of previous times is no longer interested, other than to be comforted when he falls or before he goes to sleep. In fact, babies wean themselves. So, if you're concerned about breastfeeding weaning - fear no more. Your child knows when it's time to stop and will gradually slow down over time until the break is made. It will likely be harder on you than it is on him. If you must wean your baby before he's ready to be weaned, then the challenge becomes a bit greater. Do it as gradually as you can, introducing other methods to satisfy his need to suck and be close. Take your time and you'll find it will happen. Rushing the baby or yourself only leads to stress.

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