Subject Contents


Feeding human breast-milk to provide for the nutritional needs of infants. See also formula feeding , appropriate diet for age , iron in diet , and lactose intolerance .
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Alternative Names
Nursing; Lactation
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Breastfeeding is the natural nutritional source for infants less than one year of age. Choosing how and what to feed your baby is a personal decision that deserves careful and thorough consideration of the facts, your opinions, and options. Feeding your baby breast-milk or bottled formula are both healthy and responsible decisions, each with advantages and disadvantages. How and what to feed your baby is a decision that should "fit" you, your baby, and your family.
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Food Sources

Side Effects
Moms who breastfeed may experience:
  • nipple soreness
  • breast engorgement
  • leaking breasts
  • let-down reflex
  • (other than during breastfeeding)
  • inadequate milk supply
  • difficulty knowing how much milk the baby is drinking
  • Moms who breastfeed their babies may feel:
  • confused
  • by lack of experience or support
  • afraid or ashamed to ask for help for such a "natural" activity
  • overwhelmed by the time commitment
  • exhausted by the frequent feedings (every 2 to 3 hours, day and night)
  • socially isolated from other relationships and activities
  • frightened by conflicting emotions of enjoyment and resentment
  • Note: Cow's milk by itself is not an adequate source of complete nutrition for infants. Commercially prepared formulas for bottle feeding are excellent sources of nutrition for babies that do not breastfeed.
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    Most healthcare professionals (including the American Academy of Pediatricians and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Associates and Practitioners) recommend breastfeeding for your baby's first year. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for the first six months of life. It contains appropriate amounts of carbohydrate , protein , and fat , and provides digestive enzymes, minerals, vitamins , and hormones that infants require. Breast milk also contains antibodies from the mother that can help the baby resist infections. Experts agree that breastfeeding your baby for any length of time, regardless of how short, is of benefit to you and your baby. You can provide your baby with Breast milk by either breastfeeding or by feeding your baby Breast milk from a bottle. Breast feeding your baby (directly from the breast):
  • can only be done by you
  • can be done exclusively or can be supplemented with bottle feedings
  • involves you making a major commitment
  • Feeding your baby Breast milk (which has been expressed):
  • can be given with a bottle (by you or others)
  • requires regular pumping of milk from your breasts
  • requires appropriate handling and storage of milk
  • requires appropriate preparation of bottles and nipples
  • Most healthcare professionals advise using only one method (breastfeeding or feeding Breast milk by bottle) for at least the first two months of life. This recommendation is based on the possibility of nipple confusion which can cause sucking and feeding problems for infants who are switched between breastfeeding and bottle feeding . After two months of age, most babies adapt to bottle nipples easily. Breastfeeding is a natural function but is not necessarily a natural instinct for mothers. Most mothers need education during pregnancy to make informed choices about how and what to feed their babies. Mothers also need support, encouragement, and assistance after birth to establish, maintain, and enjoy feeding and caring for their babies. ADVANTAGES OF BREASTFEEDING: Research indicates that breastfed babies may have less frequent:
  • ear infections
  • (serious
  • otitis media )
  • stomach or intestinal (gastrointestinal) infections
  • low iron levels in the blood (iron-deficiency
  • anemia )
  • skin diseases (
  • infantile eczema )
  • allergy
  • problems (infantile
  • allergies ) Research indicates that breastfed babies may have less risk of:
  • digestive problems such as
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • becoming
  • overweight ( obese )
  • developing
  • high blood pressure ( essential hypertension )
  • developing tooth decays (
  • dental caries ) Moms who breastfeed their babies may enjoy:
  • no bottle cleaning
  • no formula preparation
  • lower cost
  • easier
  • weight loss
  • enhancement of the unique bond between mother and child
  • Moms who breastfeed their babies should:
  • understand that ANY medications you take may enter the Breast milk and affect your baby (check with your physician or lactation consultant about which are safe)
  • maintain adequate nutrition
  • drink plenty of fluids, especially water, every day
  • get plenty of rest
  • take good care of your nipples and breasts
  • relax and enjoy the experience
  • THE DECISION NOT TO BREASTFEED Many situations or circumstances can change your plans to breast feed. How and what your baby eats may ultimately depend on the infant's physical condition and your health after birth. Some babies are unable to adequately breast feed due to:
  • premature birth
  • small size
  • weak physical condition
  • difficulty sucking
  • birth defects of the mouth (cleft lip or cleft palate)
  • digestive problems (
  • Breast milk jaundice , galactosemia ) Some mothers are unable to breastfeed because of:
  • breast infection
  • or
  • breast abscess
  • breast cancer
  • or other
  • cancer
  • previous surgery or radiation treatment
  • inadequate milk supply (uncommon)
  • Some mothers are advised NOT to breastfeed due to health problems such as:
  • serious illnesses (
  • heart disease or cancer, for example)
  • eclampsia
  • nephritis
  • active, untreated
  • tuberculosis
  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection or
  • active herpes lesions on the breast
  • severe
  • Why do I want to (or not want to) breastfeed my child?
  • What do I expect breastfeeding to be like?
  • Where do I turn for support, assistance, and answers?
  • How will I feel if I am unable to breastfeed my child?
  • How will I feel if my child is unable to breastfeed?
  • What if I change my mind about breastfeeding after my baby is born?
  • What changes will I have to make to get plenty of rest while nursing?
  • How will breastfeeding my baby affect my other relationships (such as with my husband/partner)?
  • How will I cope with my child's dependence on me for food?
  • How will I cope with the physical discomforts of breastfeeding?
  • How long should I breastfeed my child?
  • healthcare professionals such as:
  • physicians
  • dietitians
  • nurses
  • nurse-midwives
  • professional lactation consultants or a
  • breastfeeding support group such as:
  • International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC)
  • La Leche League International (LLLI) 800-LA LECHE or (847-519-7730). Their website is
  • www.lalecheleague.org .
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    Breastfeeding your baby

    Techniques and tips for breastfeeding .
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    Alternative Names
    Positioning for breastfeeding; Breastfeeding - nipple care; Breastfeeding - positioning; Nipple care when breastfeeding; Nursing frequency when breastfeeding
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    Proper nipple care, positioning, appropriate nursing frequency, and other measures can prevent many common breastfeeding problems .
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    Food Sources

    Side Effects

    NIPPLE CARE Most women's breasts have nipples that protrude slightly at rest and become erect when stimulated, as with cold. During pregnancy , the nipple and the pigmented area around it (areola) thicken in preparation for breastfeeding . Little glands (Montgomery glands) on the areola become more noticeable. They contain a lubricant to keep the nipple and areola from drying, cracking, or becoming infected. Soaps and harsh washing or drying of the breasts and nipples can cause extreme dryness and cracking and should be avoided. Some experts recommend leaving milk on the nipple after feeding and allowing it to dry and protect the nipple. Keeping the nipples dry is important to prevent cracking and infection. For cracked nipples, apply 100% Lanolin after feedings. ENGORGEMENT Many times the breasts will become swollen and painful 2-3 days after birth. The best treatment for this is to nurse the baby more frequently. Also, it may be helpful to pump your breasts should you have to miss a feeding, or if a feeding does not relieve the pain. See your health care provider if there is no improvement after 1 day. BABY'S POSITION Comfortable nursing requires correct positioning of the baby at the breast. Some guidelines are given to help you develop your own technique. Observing someone else breastfeed or practicing with an experienced nursing mother may also help. Cradle Hold: Sit in a comfortable chair, with arm rests if possible. Place your baby on your abdomen, tummy-to-tummy. The baby's head is cradled in the crook of your arm and the face to your breast. The baby's knees are underneath your other breast. The infant's head, back, and legs should all be in a straight line. This position can be held for the entire duration of the feeding. If you feel your nipple starting to hurt half-way into the feeding, check to see if your baby has slipped down and if the knees are starting to face the ceiling instead of being tucked in next to your side. Football hold: Cradle the back of your baby's head in your hand, with the body under your breast and toward the elbow. Place a pillow under your elbow to help you support your baby's bottom. Use your other hand to support your breast. This position allows you to control the baby's head and assures good positioning to latch on. Side lying: Lie on your side with one arm supporting your head. Your baby can lie beside you with the head facing your breast. Pull the baby in snugly and place a pillow behind to support the infant. Rarely, a baby may have a sucking disorder which will need to be observed by a health care provider. A certified lactation consultant can be of tremendous help in teaching a baby to breast-feed. If your physician or local hospital cannot refer you to a lactation consultant, call ILCA at (708) 260-8874. nursing FREQUENCY Most babies normally breastfeed every 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours during the first month. Breast milk is digested more quickly than formula so breastfeeding is needed more frequently. Even if you cannot measure the amount of milk your baby drinks, you can tell that the baby has had enough if: baby nurses every 2 to 3 hours, has 6 to 8 really wet diapers per day, and is gaining weight appropriately (1 pound each month). The frequency of feeding does decrease with age as the baby can eat more at each feeding. So, don't get discouraged ; you will eventually be able to do more than sleep and nurse! NIGHTTIME FEEDING While you were pregnant , your baby was continuously fed and didn't know hunger . After birth, babies need to be fed frequently. During the first few weeks, your baby will want to breastfeed around the clock. This is perfectly normal. Some mothers find that bringing the baby in bed at night or placing a bassinet within reach, allows them to meet the child's needs while losing minimal rest. Other mothers prefer to keep the baby in a separate bedroom, and have a comfortable chair there. "Horror stories" are told about parents rolling over babies and smothering them during sleep. These events generally occurred when the care giver was under the influence of medications or alcohol which interfered with their sleep. If you return to work, don't be surprised if your baby wants to nurse more frequently at night. If you do not sleep well with your baby in your bed, you may find that keeping them in the same room or a room close enough to hear them is just fine. If you choose to sleep with your baby, be aware that bottle mouth syndrome can occur when breast fed babies are allowed to suck at their mother's breast all night, just as they occur when babies suck a bottle all night. MILK SUPPLY Some mothers stop nursing during the first few days or weeks because they feel they aren't producing enough milk. It may seem like your baby is always hungry. You can't measure the amount of milk your baby is drinking so you may worry that you aren't producing enough milk. In reality, your baby's increased need to nurse signals your body to produce more milk. This is a natural way your body determines the amount of milk needed and provides an adequate milk supply. The first weeks may be difficult and frustrating for you but don't give up. If you can resist supplementing your baby's diet with formula feedings for the first four to six weeks, your body will respond appropriately and produce an adequate supply of milk. Supplementing your baby's diet with formula feeding will only trick your body into believing the current supply of Breast milk is adequate. GROWTH SPURT Around the 2nd week, and the 2nd, 4th, and 6th months, it may seem that your baby wants to nurse "all the time." Your baby may want to nurse every 30 or 60 minutes, and stay at the breast for longer periods. It may seem that the only thing you are doing all day is nursing. This increase in nursing is normal and signals your body to produce more milk as your baby enters a growth spurt. Within a few days, your milk supply will have increased to provide enough milk at each feeding and the baby will start eating less frequently and for shorter periods of time. Many nursing mothers have trouble finding the time to devote to their baby's increased feeding needs during this adjustment period. Often, understanding how and why this happens and that it is only temporary can help. Slow down and enjoy the job of feeding your baby; a job that only you can do. Ask for and accept help with other responsibilities to free your time for feeding. THE 6 O'CLOCK SYNDROME Babies frequently seem fussy and want to nurse more frequently late in the afternoon and into the evening, when everyone else (especially you) is tired. You may feel too tired to nurse again or assume that you just don't have any more milk to give. It may be tempting to give your baby a bottle of formula while you attend to other responsibilities. But remember, bottle feeding your baby formula when you are tired or your milk supply seems low will signal your body to produce less milk which will result in more fatigue and frustration for you and your baby. breastfeeding a baby on demand is full-time and exhausting work. Your body needs energy to produce enough milk. Be sure you get adequate nutrition, rest, and sleep. Taking good care of yourself is necessary if you're going to take good care of your baby. BABY'S STOOLS Your baby's bowel movements (stools) during the first two days will be black and tar-like (sticky and soft). Early and frequent breastfeeding during the first 48 hours will flush this sticky stool ( meconium ) from the infant's bowels. The stools will become yellow-colored and seedy. This is the normal stool consistency for a breastfed baby and should not be confused with diarrhea . During the first month, your baby may have a bowel movement after each breastfeeding. This frequency decreases with age. Don't worry if bowel movements occur after every feeding or every three days, as long as the pattern of bowel moveme