The Bountiful Benefits of Breastfeeding
If you're pregnant or have just given birth, you know that you have a sign on your forehead that says to all the little old ladies and strangers in grocery stores, “Tell me all you know about raising a child, because I know nothing.” The sheer amount of unsolicited advice about early childrearing, combined with the shelves and shelves of books in bookstores, and the entire Internet can make certain decisions about your newborn more complicated then they need to be.
Despite all that influx of new information, using your gut instincts is the first act of motherhood. And if your newborn is co-operating, the first instinct they will have when they are placed on your chest, fresh from your womb and blinking uncertainly in the new strange air, is to suckle.
Breastfeeding can and should be a natural and beautiful first step of parenting your young vulnerable infant. The list of pros to support breastfeeding is long and extensive. Starting with the medical aspect, breast milk contains nutrients and high levels of antibodies that help protect against infection; breastfed babies under 12 months of age have a lower incidence of acute diarrheal disease, and recent studies show breastfeeding not only seems to protect against wheezing and respiratory tract illnesses but is also protective against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)
If that isn't enough convincing, the special bond that was started in utero continues on stronger than ever when you breastfeed. Studies show that mothers who breastfeed tend to be more responsive to their infants, and the touching that naturally occurs during the feeding leads to a deeper and greater trust between a mother and child. Having that opportunity to simply just make eye contact with your feeding infant makes the stress and exhaustion of the first days of parenthood seem to melt away.
Of course, breastfeeding isn't all rainbows and confetti. If you don't make it a practice to diligently apply lanolin to your nipples between feedings, or the baby latches incorrectly, your nipples may crack and bleed. Being the sole provider of food means you won't have a life for the first weeks when it seems like the baby feeds every two hours. Once you're comfortable and have a routine, introduce a breast pump to your life and you can pump, freeze and milk for months. This will give you a chance to get out of the house with your partner while a trusted sitter takes care of the baby and still receives your milk, just via a bottle.
If you have your heart set on breastfeeding, but for any number of reasons your milk doesn't come in, you don't necessarily have to give up and reach for the formula on the grocer's shelf.
With a community both online and at home to help you with any and all questions you have about baby and breastfeeding, you should get into the boob groove in no time.
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