Planning to breastfeed your baby? You should. Nothing compares to the intimate moments between a mother and her nursing child, and nothing—nothing—helps a baby get off to a healthier start in life.
Hundreds of studies have proved the short- and long-term benefits of nursing: It decreases the incidence not only of diarrhea, ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in babies, but also of diabetes, obesity, asthma, leukemia, bacterial meningitis and even some forms of lymphoma later in life. What’s more, research has shown that premature babies who are fed breast milk do better on tests of mentaldevelopment later in childhood than those given formula. These benefits likely apply to full-term babies as well.
There are plenty of proven perks for mothers, too: Breastfeeding reduces a woman’s lifetime risk of developing ovarian and breast cancers, as well as osteoporosis. Convinced? Keep reading and find out virtually everything you need to know to get off to a good start.
Top Keys to Success
To help you get off to a good start with breastfeeding, lactation consultants recommend following a few vital steps:
Plan ahead. “You need to prepare,” says Mary Lofton, a former public relations manager for La Leche League International. “You wouldn’t throw a dinner party without planning the menu, shopping and even preparing dishes ahead of time. Think of those first few breastfeeding sessions as the most important dinner party of your and your baby’s life.” The best way to prepare for this party is by taking a breastfeeding class, either through La Leche League (llli.org) or at a birthing center or hospital.
Choose the right hospital. If there’s a “baby-friendly” hospital or birthing center in your area, consider having your baby there. These facilities are certified by the World Health Organization and UNICEF as offering optimal lactation services. (For a list of certified facilities, visit baby friendlyusa.org.) If you don’t have a site near you, choose a hospital that has certified lactation consultants on staff.
Breastfeed ASAP. Most newborns are alert and ready to nurse right after birth but fall into a sleepy period for the next 24 hours or so, which can make it more difficult for them to feed. So let your baby nurse within 30 to 60 minutes of delivery—and be sure to inform the nurses of your intentions before she’s born. Also request that your baby be allowed to “room in” with you throughout your hospital stay so you are able to nurse as often as she wants.
If you have a Cesarean section, ask the nurses to bring your baby to you as soon as possible after delivery. They or your partner may need to help you hold her due to the effects of your anesthesia, but there is no reason you can’t breastfeed.