The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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“Honey,” your husband says sweetly one morning, putting his hand on your exhausted shoulder, “why don’t you pump some milk today and I’ll get up with the baby tonight so you can sleep?” Music to your ears, no doubt—but not a terrific plan. “If a mother consistently sleeps when her baby needs to be fed, her milk supply will drop,” Harvey says. If your spouse extends this generous offer, thank him profusely and suggest a compromise: He can retrieve junior, change him, bring him to you and then return him to bed once the feeding is over. And when you’re craving a delicious slice of slumber, keep your eye on the prize (untold health benefits for your baby and you) and remind yourself that it won’t be long before the midnight buffet closes permanently.
As convenient as it would be to plan out a day’s worth of feedings, a newborn doesn’t wear a watch. He doesn’t care if it’s been 15 minutes or four hours since his last meal; when his tummy rumbles, he wants to eat. And you need to let him—if you don’t, you risk poor weight gain for him and decreased milk production for you.
In a perfect world, new moms wouldn’t be allowed to go back to work for at least a year after giving birth. These extraordinary, people-making creatures would lounge about contentedly, tickling tiny toes and supplying milk on demand while generous volunteers assumed their unpaid chores and responsibilities. (Mothers in general would also be forced to endure daily foot massages and drink magical thigh-toning milkshakes, but I digress.)
Modern-day moms balance more responsibilities than the busiest CEOs, and it can be hard to muster the energy and enthusiasm to feed your baby breast milk exclusively, especially if you return to work full time and need to fit pumping into your already hectic day. Yes, breast milk is undeniably the best food for all babies, but if finding the time to pump is stressing you out and you decide to give your child an occasional bottle of formula, pat yourself on the back for what you’ve already given your baby—a healthy dose of the most perfect food in the world—and move on. Keep in mind that what your child drinks is only part of his overall health picture; genetics and environment also play a role.
“I try to be sympathetic to women’s situations,” says Harvey. “Some breast milk is better than none.”
Many nursing moms throw in the breastfeeding towel when they see their baby’s weight drop a few days after birth. Hear this: Some weight loss is normal in your baby’s first days of life. He should return to his birth weight within two weeks of delivery; after that, he should gain about 1∕2 to 1 ounce a day until about 4 months of age. If he doesn’t and you suspect he’s not getting enough milk, see your pediatrician.
Be a milk maven Want more information to help you become a breastfeeding pro? Visit fitpregnancy.com/breastfeeding.