7 surprising things about breastfeeding your baby

By: Yuki Hayashi Author: Canadian Living Credits:


7 surprising things about breastfeeding your baby

By: Yuki Hayashi
Breast is best. The World Health Organization, Canadian Paediatric Association and scores of other experts agree breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for baby. Eighty-five percent of new moms try it. Yet only 17 per cent of us breastfeed exclusively for the six months that experts recommend. The numbers don’t add up. Here’s one reason: breastfeeding is hard work. Yet, it’s worth it. It’s best for baby (lower childhood obesity rates, better immune systems), as well as new moms (what other bonding experience will burn off 500 extra calories per day?).

Read on for nursing tips and surprising facts and remember, it gets easier every day you do it.

1. Formula and breastfeeding can mix -- even from Day One
The day after my baby was born, I was in my hospital room freaking out because my milk still hadn’t come in and I thought my baby was going to starve. I was trying to get her to latch on to take in some colostrum (that’s the nutrient-dense “pre-milk” your breasts secrete), but I was doubtful as to whether I even had any, and besides, she wasn’t latching on at all. None of the nurses even uttered the word “formula.” And my mother-in-law was insinuating that if I didn’t abandon nursing and reach for the formula, my baby was done for. I was thinking it was time to throw in the towel.

Then my new-mom friend Sonja phoned. “Just ask the nurses for formula,” she said. “You can give her that until your milk comes in -- just don’t use a bottle or she’ll never latch on.” Bingo. While none of the nurses offered formula to me, once I asked, I got it, a whole six-pack, in fact. I gently tipped tiny sips of formula from a paper cup into my newborn’s mouth. It was messy, she hardly ingested any, but it was enough to keep us going until my milk came in a half-day later. But to avoid feeding problems -- nursing from a bottle and breast use different mouth actions -- don’t use a bottle to feed formula to a newborn. (Though you can introduce a bottle for extracted breast milk, or formula, down the road, once nursing has been comfortably established).

Page 1 of 3 -- Learn about special tools for breastfeeding on page 2

2. You’ll be hungry when you breastfeed
Nursing burns an extra 500 to 600 calories per day. The obvious plus is that you’ll lose your baby fat faster than if you bottle feed. The downside is: you’re always hungry. So go with the flow (pun intended) for now. Eat three wholesome meals per day, and if you’re hungry in between (you will be!), nosh on nutritious snacks like fruit, cheese, yogurt, trail mix and whole-wheat toast, and make sure to drink plenty of fluids (especially water and milk). Indulge in occasional treats like antioxidant-containing dark chocolate, or a milky chai latte, but don’t use your extra caloric allowance to pig out on high-fat, nutritionally empty chips or pop.

3. You’ll have to keep your milk contained
How can we say this delicately? Your breasts will produce a lot of milk. Sometimes it overflows. It may even spray when lovemaking. So nurse baby before any grown-up play dates with your hubby. And for day-to-day dryness, wear nursing pads. They’re like little mini pads for your bra.

4. Props are a nursing mom’s best friend

• A nursing bra will make feedings easier and provide support for your vastly larger breasts. Wear it with loose, flowy shirts for the most discreet access, or throw a baby blanket over your shoulder and baby’s head if you’re shy (though there’s no reason to be: there’s actually not much that’s not obscured by your baby’s head).
• A nursing pillow (a sort of half-doughnut pillow that rests around your midsection while you sit) will help you position your baby, and provide some support if you want to read a magazine.
• A breast pump will relieve engorged breasts when your baby’s sleeping or you’re at work (freeze the milk for bottle feeding, or if you’re particularly productive, consider donating some to a milk bank that provides milk to babies whose mothers cannot nurse for health reasons. See The BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre’s breastfeeding website for more info.)

5. Two words: cracked nipples
At some point, your nipples will get red and cracked. You can rub them with breast milk after nursing, or use a lanolin-containing nipple cream like Lansinoh (sold at drug and baby stores). Yes, it hurts to get baby latched on, but the actual nursing part won’t be unbearable. And the cracking will go away. Proper placement and latching is essential for preventing chapping and cracking, so contact a lactation specialist for help. But if your nipples are also itchy and have white patches, get thee (and babe) to a doctor: you might have a common and easily treated yeast infection called thrush.

Page 2 of 3 -- Learn about complications that can arise from breastfeeding on page 3

6. One awful word: mastitis
Clogged milk ducts can lead to an infection called mastitis. You’ll know you have it if your breast becomes engorged, feels tender and very sore, and you experience flu-like symptoms like exhaustion and chills. To prevent mastitis, nurse your baby frequently (even if she isn’t actually crying for milk, she’ll nurse) and avoid sleeping on your stomach. To treat mastitis, alternate cold and warm compresses. Use a cold pack, or frozen veggies wrapped in a pillowcase, to provide cooling relief, and take a bath or shower (or apply a warm washcloth) to improve circulation while gently massaging the area. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief. Keep nursing on both breasts.

Just as importantly, get off your feet and into bed. Drop all housework and get your partner to take care of you with healthy foods and ample liquids. If you experience recurring episodes of mastitis, or feel sicker by the hour (or your fever is going up), see a doctor. You may need antibiotics.

7. You need a support network
Once you decide to breastfeed, you need a support team. So line up your own pro-breastfeeding support squad to answer your questions and keep you motivated. Get other moms you know who nursed onto your speed dial. Your mom/mom-in-law and hubby can support you by bringing you warm tea (not hot for the obvious safety reasons), water or juice during your nursing sessions. And check out these websites for more information on breastfeeding:, a resource-rich site from renowned Canadian breastfeeding advocate Dr. Jack Newman., a site rich in articles as well as video content showing correct latching-on techniques and common mistakes and their fixes.

Get more tips on making your breastfeeding experience the best it can be.

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7 surprising things about breastfeeding your baby