It's one of the great ironies of life: Breastfeeding, something that should be so simple, so natural, so often isn't.
Breastfeeding is so beneficial — to both babies and moms — that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for their first six months of life. Breastfeeding is so challenging, however, that almost 75% of moms aren't able to meet that goal.
Studies show breastfeeding has many benefits. Breast milk contains disease-fighting antibodies that can help protect babies from illnesses. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, allergies and dental cavities. ("Look, Ma! No cavities!")
Researchers in Australia recently found that breastfeeding for six months or more was associated with better academic skills, at least in boys.
For moms, breastfeeding enhances postpartum weight loss and reduces the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer or Type 2 diabetes. Moms who breastfeed generally miss fewer workdays due to illness than moms who don't breastfeed.
Breastfeeding also helps protect the environment, as breast milk requires no processing, packaging or shipping. From a practical standpoint, breastfeeding saves both time and money.
And who couldn't use more of those?
Here are some tips that mommy M.D.s — doctors who are also mothers — recommend for breastfeeding babies.
"I loved my nursing pillow," says Rebecca Reamy, M.D., a pediatrician in emergency medicine in Atlanta. "I noticed that as my sons got older, they started to understand that when the nursing pillow came out, it was time to nurse."
"While I was breastfeeding my baby, I bought a minifridge and kept it upstairs next to my baby's nursery," says Rachel S. Rohde, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Southfield, Michigan. "It was handy for pumped milk and also for snacks for me."
"Not all moms and babies are good at breastfeeding at first," says Kristin C. Lyle, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "I needed three or four visits with a lactation consultant to figure out how to do it. When you're in the hospital, ask to meet the lactation consultant and get her name and phone number so you can call her when you're at home if you need to."
"When my baby was a few days old, my body started making milk instead of colostrum, and my breasts became very engorged," says Nancy Rappaport, M.D., a psychiatrist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "It was painful. One thing that helped to ease the pain was soaking a washcloth in hot water and placing it on my breasts. Applying chamomile packs also helped. I just steeped the chamomile tea bags in boiling water, soaked washcloths in the solution and then placed the washcloths on my breasts."
Dr. Rallie's Tips
I nursed all of my babies, and I loved it. Because I worked full time when they were young, I needed to pump and store my milk while I was at the hospital. As fate would have it, I worked on the pediatrics floor while I was nursing, and the sound of a crying child would cause my milk to let down almost immediately.
I found that the nursing pads I'd bought just weren't absorbent enough to handle the resulting downpour, and besides, they were expensive. I had much better luck using thick sanitary pads designed for overnight use. They were bulkier than the nursing pads, but they were less expensive, and they kept me from soaking my shirts several times a day. — Dr. Rallie McAllister, mom of three, nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four, co-founder and CEO of Momosa Publishing and co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides. She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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