Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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Having a first baby before age 25 lowers your risk for breast cancer, as many studies have shown. But if you wait until you're 25 or older to start your family, you may be able to offset the increased risk by nursing your baby.
When Alexia Scott Morrison's daughter, Audra, was born last November, Morrison wanted very much to breastfeed—but she wasn't sure she could. "I had extremely flat nipples," she explains. Hospital nurses gave her a nipple shield, a thin silicone device that can draw out a nipple and make it more accessible to a baby, but they didn't offer a lot of advice on how to use the shield. Audra tried to nurse but couldn't latch on successfully, even with the device.
Experts agree: Breast milk is one of the greatest gifts you can give your baby. It's brimming with nutrients and antibodies that boost your newborn's immunity, aid digestion and promote brain development. An added bonus: Breastfeeding burns calories like crazy, helping you lose those pregnancy pounds faster. And it reduces your lifetime risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer and postmenopausal osteoporosis.
A large study found that women who breastfed for a lifetime total of at least two years had 19 percent fewer heart attacks later in life than mothers who had never breastfed. The likely reason: By turning fat that's put on during pregnancy into nutrients for the infant, breastfeeding lowers a mother's weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.
Study author Alison Stuebe, M.D., at Harvard Medical School, advises women to feed their babies breast milk exclusively for the first six months and then continue nursing for at least six months longer.
Since "artificial nipples" require babies to use different tongue and mouth positioning than when nursing, they may interfere with breastfeeding. Here's the best advice on integrating pacifiers, bottles and breast shields:
When research suggested that a toxic chemical might leach from polycarbonate plastic baby bottles into breast milk or formula, some parents began stocking up on glass bottles, even going so far as to buy used glass nursers on eBay. The chemical--bisphenol A, or BPA--acts like an artificial estrogen and has been implicated in developmental problems.
It goes without saying: A healthy, well-fed mom produces better milk. Follow these simple tips from Eileen Behan, R.D., author of Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding (Villard), to nourish yourself while nourishing your little one.
• Eat like your baby. Stave off hunger pangs by eating a small meal or snack every two to three hours throughout the day. Don't let yourself get ravenous, or you'll be more likely to overindulge or reach for unhealthy foods.
YES says Betty Vohr, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Brown University and director of the neo-natal follow-up clinic at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island in Providence.
Just like most first-time mothers-to-be, I had a lot of concerns—OK, neuroses—about caring for a newborn. After all, what did I know about changing a diaper (something I hadn't done since babysitting in my teens), let alone cleaning an umbilical cord stump or, most terrifying of all, a fresh circumcision (oy vey)? But I was fairly confident I could master the whole breastfeeding gig.
Breastfed babies may be better equipped to deal with stress later in life than bottle-fed ones. Researchers studied children who were between 5 and 10 years old when their parents separated or divorced and found that those who'd been breastfed were only half as likely to be highly anxious as those who'd been bottle-fed. Breastfeeding may build resilience against stress by encouraging bonding between mom and baby and aiding the development of neural and hormonal pathways that control the stress response, says Scott M.
Most experts recommend caffeine in moderation--that is, one to two cups of coffee daily--while breastfeeding. Since the servings you're having are not the "grande" size, you and your baby should be just fine. (This is one aspect of breastfeeding where cup size does matter!)
Breastfeeding has leapt into the lime light lately, along with a big dose of controversy, thanks to a recent U.S. government campaign that treated the issue as a major public-health concern. "You wouldn't take risks before your baby's born. Why start after?" read advertisements put out by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
While the number of new mothers who are breastfeeding is increasing, cultural and other influences conspire to keep many of them from doing so. Don't let that happen to you. Here are tips to help you overcome some of the common hurdles.