The benefits of nursing with breast milk
Millions of mothers and medical experts agree that the battle between breast milk and formula is an uneven one. Unlike formula, breast milk is the perfect food for your newborn: the health benefits are both immediate and lasting, not to mention the fantastic physical and emotional effects that you'll experience while you nurse. Yet breastfeeding, although completely natural, isn't always perfect, and some mothers find that they run into challenges. Instead of getting discouraged, learn what to expect in the early days of breastfeeding, how to overcome any discomfort and why it pays to stick with breastfeeding your baby even when times get tough.
Breast Milk is the Healthy Choice
It should come as no surprise that your own breast milk is the best choice for your baby, but that's not simply because it's the most natural source of nutrition. Breast milk contains very specific nutrients that are not found in any other milk or formula, so it prevents deficiencies that would cause problems for your growing baby. Also, the specific needs of your baby in a given day will dictate which materials are taken from your bloodstream to enrich your milk. In this way, breastfeeding is a very personalized regimen for your newborn.
Your breast milk is the perfect diet for your developing newborn, but you'll need a healthy diet of your own to develop a good milk supply. Although the quality of your milk probably can't be traced back to what you ate, your diet certainly affects your quantity of milk: nutrient deficiencies and dehydration can result in small milk stores and low energy levels. A breastfeeding diet should include all the essential elements of a prenatal diet and then some. But don't worry too much about those extra calories, since breastfeeding and weight loss are directly related -- you'll lose your baby weight faster if you nurse naturally than if you were to formula feed.
Breastfeeding Problems and Solutions
Releasing your breast milk is not always comfortable, and in some cases, nursing can even be painful. Your breasts will release small amounts of colostrum in the first hours after birth, and this nutritious serum will support your baby for her first days. But while this "premilk" is delivered effortlessly and painlessly, most women experience soreness, tenderness and swelling when their mature milk comes in. Luckily, short but frequent feedings will help you deal with the pain and a breast pump can do wonders if you're struggling to get your milk flowing.
Unfortunately, other common discomforts can compound the pain of engorged breasts. Sore nipples, problems latching and infections like mastitis can affect your comfort and your baby's nourishment, so don't ignore any pain or inflammation with the hope that it will disappear on its own. Many minor breast problems will clear up with some careful attention, but some conditions will require medication or instruction before they can be overcome.
If you run into some trouble, take measures to resolve your breast issues as soon as possible and try to continue to breastfeed through them. Evidence points to stronger, fatter, healthier and happier babies when they're breastfed, which makes breast milk the best (and the most convenient) gift you can give your baby. Most women find that nursing gets a lot easier in a matter of weeks, so stick with it for your baby's health and the incredible bonding experience it brings.