Unless there is risk of significant infection like HIV or the mother must be on certain medications for her health, breastfeeding is always recommended for the health of both mother and child. Not only does breast milk provide excellent nutrition and immunities passed from the mother, but it also helps cement the bond between mother and baby.
Benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Decreased lifetime risk of breast and uterine cancer
- Excellent nutrition that changes in composition depending on what the baby needs
- Formation of a healthy bond between mother and child
- Increase in metabolism for the mother
- Passive immunity to diseases and illnesses
While you are in the hospital following delivery, your physician as well as nurses and lactation consultants will be on hand to help you begin to breastfeed. During pregnancy, you will have produced colostrum, different from the milk that will later come in. Because it is so sweet, colostrum reinforces the latch and sucking instinct in babies. To help the milk supply come in, mothers should nurse their babies every two to three hours for about 15 to 20 minutes a side.
Once the milk supply comes in, the breasts will feel engorged and women may run a low grade fever. There can also be some discomfort and pain when first beginning to breastfeed. If the pain becomes severe, speak to your physician or nurse as it may be a sign that the baby is not latching on correctly.
While breastfeeding you should continue to follow the same diet restrictions as during pregnancy. A healthy breastfeeding diet should include a focus on lean meats, vegetables, fruits, fiber and plenty of fluids. Women who are breastfeeding should not become too concerned about calories or dieting to get back to a pre-pregnancy weight, as breastfeeding will cause a spike in metabolism for most women. In addition, women who are breastfeeding may not return to a normal menstrual cycle for some time, although partners should still use alternate forms of birth control. Speak with your physician if you have any questions or concerns.
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