Breastfeeding is one of the most effective (and cheapest!) ways to give your baby the best from the very start. Breast milk naturally contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antibodies to help your baby develop both physically and mentally. Breastfeeding can be challenging in the beginning, but the rewards are many.
By holding your baby close to your body, talking to them and interacting with them you are giving them a strong emotional foundation. When you feed them on demand, you are teaching them that their needs matter and that they can trust you to be there for them. Breast milk provides so much more as well. Breast milk changes in composition as your baby grows. It is extremely digestible so your baby's tummy does not need to work as hard. The antibodies in breast milk help your baby's immune system to get off to a good start and studies show that babies who are exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months are likely to have fewer allergies as they get older.
In addition, you will save money by not having to buy formula. You never need to wash bottles or worry about running out of formula. You will also lose the baby weight faster if you breastfeed.
It is a good idea to read a good resource about breastfeeding before your baby comes. There are a number of good books out there and the La Leche League offers free and reasonably priced information. Knowing what to expect can make the whole process much easier and allow you to relax and enjoy your baby. You'll know what to look for in getting the baby latched on properly as well as learn how to tell if the baby is getting enough to eat.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it is not always easy. Some babies have trouble latching on correctly. Some mother's are nervous about the process and need a little extra help to get it right. For thousands of years breastfeeding was taught by grandmothers, more experienced mothers, aunts and others in a new mom's circle of support. Today, those family members and friends may not be available. If you need extra help, be sure to find a lactation consultant or La Leche League volunteer in your area who can guide you.
Increasing Milk Supply
Do not believe your doctor or any consultant who says you simply can't breastfeed or that you are not producing enough milk until you have talked to more than one specialist. In most cases some simple guidance about proper latching - combined with feeding on demand - will increase supply. There are several safe herbs such as fenugreek that can also increase milk supply. Not all women can or should breastfeed, but far too many "experts" discourage women from breastfeeding when the solutions are readily available. Even those who truly do have reduced supply can use a supplemental nursing system to feed formula while the baby nurses.
In addition to reading and getting support from your local La Leche League or natural parenting group, these tools can make breastfeeding easier:
A breastfeeding support pillow can help reduce strain on your back while you nurse a tiny baby.
Purified lanolin or nipple cream can help soothe sore nipples.
A baby carrier such as the (a href="http://littlefornow.com/catalog.php?category=39">Moby Wrap can make breastfeeding easier by freeing your hands while baby nurses.
A good cosleeper can make breastfeeding so much easier. Mothers who are able to breastfeed easily without getting out of bed for each feeding are much more likely to continue breastfeeding long enough to achieve the maximum benefits. The Humanity Family Bed Cosleeper is an inexpensive cosleeper that offers much longer use than the bedside models. While most bedside cosleepers are not safe after the baby learns to pull up to sitting, the Humanity Family Bed Cosleeper can be used until your toddler is ready for their own bed and can even help make the transition to a "big kid" bed feel more comfortable for your child. Since the bolster on the Humanity Family Bed can also be used as a pregnancy pillow, you can get several years use out of the Humanity Fmaily Bed as opposed to a few months worth of use from an Arm's Reach or similar cosleeper.