Deciding to Breastfeed

Barrier: Breastfeeding is a lot of responsibility for Mom.
Solution: You may be the sole food provider, but you are not the only one capable of feeding the baby. Purchase a breast pump before baby is born, and read up on how to use it. Wait a couple of weeks or more after delivery to begin pumping milk. Allow your infant to get accustomed to taking small amounts of expressed breast milk by having your husband, partner, or other adult give your newborn milk from a baby bottle. Forget about the dire warnings that baby will become confused about how to suck on the bottle's nipple and your own. Taking the chance that he won't become confused buys you some much-needed freedom. Expressing milk and allowing others to feed my girls helped me think more positively about nursing, which perpetuated breastfeeding in my case.

Barrier: Breastfeeding in public can be difficult, uncomfortable, and embarrassing.
Solution: Some people are offended when they see women feeding their baby the way nature intended. Truth is, you may want to be more discreet, but it's not always possible. Very few public places provide private spaces for nursing moms. Whenever I brought the kids to a nearby mall, I would silently curse the mall management for overlooking the fact that nursing mothers would like to be more comfortable when breastfeeding (although it did not stop me from going out with all three kids in tow). You can avoid embarrassment by covering up with a towel or receiving blanket when nursing in public, feeding the baby in the parking lot before going into a mall or restaurant, or requesting a more private booth or table when dining out.

When Nursing is not an Option
Despite its benefits, breastfeeding is not always the smartest feeding choice. If you or your baby have a chronic medical condition, formula feeding could be best. Women who use illicit drugs or who take certain prescription and over-the-counter medications on a daily basis should check with their obstetrician and pediatrician about the safety of nursing their babies. Here are some of the situations that preclude breastfeeding.

HIV and other infectious diseases: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV can be transmitted from mother to child through breast milk. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend women who test positive for the HIV antibody not breastfeed their baby. Moms with T-cell leukemia virus infection or untreated tuberculosis should also avoid breastfeeding to reduce risk of transmission to baby.

Chemotherapy and other medications: Women receiving chemotherapy and certain other medications for chronic illness should not breastfeed. A number of drugs that are unsafe for a developing baby are passed on through breast milk.

Illicit drug use: Moms who use any amount of marijuana, cocaine, heroine, or any other recreational drug should avoid nursing.

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

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