Monday, April 5, 2010

The Feminine Art of Breast Feeding

Every mother has the potential to succeed and make breast feeding a wonderful experience. Support from husbands, sisters, mothers, health care providers and employers is critical to the success of the new mom. Once you have started to breastfeed, keep trying! There are many people and organizations who can support you in your effort to give your baby the best start.
The benefits of breast feeding to mothers and infants are well established. Human milk is an elegantly designed natural resource. The composition of the milk is designed not only to nurture, but to protect infants from infectious diseases and certain chronic diseases. It is considered the "most effective preventative means of reducing the death rate of children under five." Breast milk contains more fat and calories than cows milk. This fat provides the essential fatty acid DHA, critical for brain and kidney development. Several reports have linked increases in cognitive development and increased IQ levels to breast milk. Nursing babies experience less GI upsets, asthma and respiratory infections, and food allergies. Breast feeding is also linked to fewer occurrences of SIDS, leukemia, diabetes, and obesity. Moms who breast feed reduce their chances of ovarian and breast cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression.
A breastfeeding woman needs 200 more calories per day than she did during pregnancy, and it is important that the calories come from nutritious foods. Breastfeeding women usually lose 1 to 4 pounds per month without restricting their calorie intake. Avoid strong flavors (onions, garlic) and spicy or "gassy" foods since they have been known to cause episodes of colic in newborns. Some foods such as fresh strawberries can produce mild allergic reactions in newborns. Fluid intake has no bearing on milk production, though fluid demands increase during lactation. Drink fluids to thirst. The amount varies with climate, body size, physical activity, etc.
The suggested daily intake of calcium is 1,300 milligrams per day. Reading nutrition labels can help ensure that you are getting enough calcium. For example, one cup of milk or yogurt contains 300 milligrams of calcium. Iron is also important; about 9-10 mg a day is sufficient, and 120 mg of Vit C a day. Vitamin D is extremely important; 63% of infants born in the U.S. are deficient. 400 IU is recommended, in addition to the 2000 IU recommendation for non-pregnant women. Ask your health care provider to recommend the right supplement for you and your new baby. Discuss all medications with your doctor, as alcohol, drugs, and herbal remedies are passed through breast milk.
As with most things, breastfeeding becomes easier with practice. A lack of confidence cannot undo what nature has equipped humans to do since the dawn of time. Nurture this healthy relationship with your baby and enjoy this wonderful time of life.
~ Nature Reviews Immunology, 2004

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