Deciding to Breastfeed

Overcoming Breastfeeding Barriers
You're considering breastfeeding, but you're just not sure it's right for you. Perhaps you've heard nursing horror stories that make you want to run to the nearest store to stock up on formula. Maybe you fed formula to your other children, and now you're considering breastfeeding this baby.

In the end, you must do what's best for you and your family. But first, you need the facts to make an informed decision. Here's some straight talk about breastfeeding that I hope will help.

Barrier: You think that you may flunk breastfeeding.
Solution: You're afraid, and that's to be expected. But you can't fail at something you've never tried. Stop listening to friends and relatives that did not have a good experience with nursing. Stick with health professionals and seasoned breastfeeding pros, including experienced mothers, who can provide you with facts while offering support.

Barrier: You have to work at breastfeeding.
Solution: It may be a natural function, but it doesn't always come naturally at the start (neither did toilet training). Both you and baby will probably go through a period of adjustment as you learn the breastfeeding basics, but it's worth it. Many babies and their moms get the hang of nursing soon after birth and go on to have a successful relationship that lasts for months afterward.

Barrier: You are concerned about producing enough milk.
Solution: Not to worry. The more you nurse, the more milk you make. Some women do not have enough glandular tissue to produce adequate milk to nourish their babies, but this condition is rare. Even if you think you are small breasted and can't produce enough milk, don't be concerned. Your breasts can make just as much milk as larger ones.

Barrier: Inverted or flat nipples.
Solution: Many times, inverted or flat nipples don't hinder breastfeeding. Wearing breast shields during your third trimester and between feedings once the baby is born may help, so ask your doctor about this.

Barrier: Breastfeeding is messy.
Solution: Nursing is not always a tidy business. Let's be frank. Your breasts leak, and they are capable of shooting milk clear across the room! When does that happen? When a baby suckling at the breast suddenly stops but your milk flow continues. Invest in lots of breast pads to take care of any leaks, and wear appropriate clothing, that is, two layers, to disguise minor leaks. Each time you nurse, have on hand a cloth or towel you won't mind getting wet. Cloth diapers work well to clean up during and after nursing.

Barrier: Breastfeeding hurts.
Solution: Nursing may be a bit uncomfortable at the start because your breasts are not accustomed to a baby's powerful suckling. I had this problem a couple of times, and I used acetaminophen, patience, and perseverance to overcome it. The initial pain you may have with breastfeeding should go away within days to a week, however. In the meantime, ask your licensed health care provider about over-the-counter pain relievers to alleviate the discomfort. If breast pain persists, improper positioning is most likely the cause, although there may be other reasons. Here's why: Your baby gets milk by pressing on the areola, the dark area surrounding the nipple, not from the nipple itself. Baby must be encouraged to open her mouth very wide to get as much of the areola into her mouth as possible. If she doesn't open wide enough, she will end up suckling on the nipple, and you will end up in pain.

Mastitis could also be a source of breast pain. It's a bacterial infection that usually develops in just one of your breasts. You feel tired and achy, like you've got the flu. You do not have to stop nursing, however. In fact, breastfeeding helps clear up the infection by draining the breast. You doctor may prescribe antibiotics that are safe to take during nursing.

The absence of fever combined with reduced milk flow and a sore breast may mean you have a plugged milk duct rather than mastitis. Breast tenderness may be treatable by massaging the affected area, frequent nursing, and applying moist heat. In any case, call your doctor immediately.

Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

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