1. Nursing offers proven health benefits for baby and mom.
A growing body of research suggests several short and long term health benefits for breastfeeding infants. Some of the areas examined to date are cognitive health, including a lower risk of autism spectrum disorder, lower risk of chronic diseases such as type 1 and 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lower rates of obesity. Furthermore, a recent research study published in Pediatrics examines how breastfeeding may alter a gene that's responsible for regulating the infant's physiological response to stress. For mom, studied benefits of nursing include lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and a swifter return to her pre-pregnancy weight. The hormones released during breastfeeding may also regulate mom's stress response. All in all - the perfect formula for happy and healthy mom and baby.
2. It may be painful in the beginning but it doesn't have to be.
Breastfeeding doesn't have to hurt, but sometimes it does due to common circumstances like the baby's inability to latch on correctly and/or remove enough milk from the breast. If the baby is inappropriately latched on during a feeding, insert your finger into the corner of the baby's mouth to break suction. Never pull the baby off the nipple while he is still latched. You may have seen various nipple creams on the market, but there's an easier and more affordable way to relieve sore nipples. When you are done nursing or pumping just dab a few drops of breast milk over the nipple area and let air dry after each feeding. The antibodies found in breastmilk are great for preventing infection and healing cracked nipples.
If your breasts are engorged and not relieved after nursing, try nursing more often, at least 8 times a day. You may additionally need to pump after each feeding. Gentle massaging of the breasts using circular motions can knead out any hard lumps. Cold compresses wrapped in cloth may also be applied between feedings for about 10 minutes at a time to relieve inflammation.
3. There's no such thing as NOT having enough milk.
Milk production functions on the basis of supply and demand. So if there is less demand, your body will naturally start producing less milk. The best way to build up your supply in the first weeks of baby's life is to continue to feed on demand and offer the breast as much as possible (even if it already seems like you are!) If your baby is having a hard time taking to the breast, use an electric pump after each feeding to stimulate milk production.
4. The way you store your milk is important.
There are some important food safety guidelines to take into consideration when storing breastmilk. Freshly expressed breastmilk can sit out at room temperature for 4-6 hours. However, once the baby drinks from a bottle, it should not be offered at a later time. Expressed breastmilk can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, and frozen for up to 6 months.
5. Breasfeeding is not always a walk in the park.
No one ever really talks about the hardships of breastfeeding. So when these hardships are met by a new mom, it may come as a harsh surprise. As challenging as the venture may or may not be for you, remember 2 very important things: #1 it is so worth it to stick it out. #2 Sticking it out doesn't have to be difficult. You are not the first woman to nurse. There are countless moms with countless experiences we can learn from, and luckily there exist many networks, communities, and professionals out there to turn to. It can start in the hospital shortly after delivery, where lactation consultants and nurses are usually available to guide you through your nursing endeavor. Once you leave the hospital there are numerous resources at your disposal. Just to name a few, you can...
Find a board certified lactation consultant
Find a La Leche League Leader in your area
Talk to a WIC lactation consultant or Breastfeeding Peer Counselor