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All current research indicates breast-feeding is superior to formula feeding. Breast milk offers protection from intestinal disease and is less likely to cause gastrointestinal upset. However, today’s formulas are almost nutritionally equivalent to breast milk. Thus, for the mother who wants to breast feed, nothing is better. For the mother who does not wish to breast feed, formula feeding is adequate and nutritious.
There are two general considerations for breast feeding: 1) the biggest difficulty in successful nursing is lack of confidence and 2) the first two to three weeks of feedings take more time. However, the challenges are worthwhile because after those initial weeks you will fall into a routine and it becomes easier.
If you are planning to breast-feed you will need to approach it with a feeling of confidence and the knowledge that your breast milk will not come in fully for 3 to 5 days after birth. It frequently can take 5 to 10 days for the supply to build up. Once the supply is established, breast-feeding is easier, less expensive and offers many health benefits for your baby.
When first given a chance to nurse, your baby may settle right into breast-feeding as if they had been doing it for weeks, or they may act only mildly interested. At this point, your breasts are producing colostrum, which contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease, is lower in fat and higher in protein until your milk comes in therefore the quantity of nursing is not important. Infants have excess fluid to draw from in the meantime. These initial nursing periods help the baby learn to nurse and become interested before they actually need the nourishment. The important thing during this time is to find how to make yourself comfortable while nursing, holding the baby and offering them the breast. Be gentle and patient. Do not be discouraged if your baby is slow to nurse.
Initially you may nurse for 10 to 15 minutes at a feeding. If your nipples are unusually sore, you may want to hold down the feeding time until they become less tender. If the baby is satisfied and content after the first breast, you do not need to offer the other breast. If your other breast is full and engorged you can offer the breast or use a breast pump and freeze the milk for future use. Frequently babies are sleepy and quite content with shorter feedings for the first 2-3 days and become hungry and interested by the second to fifth day when the milk comes in.
During the first week, do not let anyone tell you that you don’t have enough milk to nurse the baby. Your milk supply will build up gradually over the first week or two as the baby nurses and stimulates milk production. Once you have milk, it is important to nurse your baby at each of their hungry periods, during the day and at night. It is not wise to give supplementary formula during the first three weeks to a breast fed baby unless they are unusually hungry and seems to require the breast too frequently for your comfort. Formula during this period satisfies the infant too quickly, can interfere with the incentive to nurse, and result in a poor supply of breast milk.
Your diet should include an abundance of liquids, meat, fruit and vegetables; that is well balanced meals. Avoid excessive chocolate, caffeine, spices, nuts, shellfish and other highly seasoned foods or foods that appear to cause your infant discomfort. Do not use laxatives or other drugs without your pediatrician’s knowledge while breast-feeding, if necessary stool softeners such as bran, mineral oil or Metamucil may be used.
East Valley Children’s Center 3200 S. George Drive, Tempe AZ 85282 ( map )