Is This Normal
Common Questions about Breastfeeding
Hopefully, making the decision to breastfeed your baby will be an easy one: it is an investment in the future good health of your child. Although breastfeeding is the “natural” choice, many mothers are surprised at the number of challenges they encounter, especially when first starting out. Things don’t always come “naturally.” Moms ask many questions about breastfeeding, but frequently add on, “Is what I’m experiencing normal?” and if not, “When is it time to seek help?”
Question #1: How can I tell if I am making enough milk?
Bottle feeding offers many people peace of mind about one thing: the measurement markings on the side let us know how much baby had to drink. Unfortunately, breasts don’t come with these. The best way to tell if there is enough milk for baby is to observe how baby is growing and behaving. Lots of wet and poopy diapers are a good indicator of a healthy milk supply. If baby is thriving, then it is safe to assume that there is enough milk. Should Mom feel any concern about this then the help of a professional should be sought out.
Question #2: From a nutritional standpoint, is my milk enough for my baby?
In one word, yes! Mother’s milk is not only nutritionally sufficient – it is superior to anything else that could possibly be given to baby. It is also tailor made to fit the needs of a growing infant, changing as the baby grows and changes. It is even different when produced for a premature infant and then changes according to the baby’s needs.
Question #3: This is painful. Is it supposed to be painful? When will it not be?
Ok, time for some full disclosure: many mothers experience some discomfort in the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding. The key word there is discomfort, not pain. It should not be painful. Any painful or cracked nipples should be seen and evaluated by a lactation consultant or other qualified professional. When properly addressed, these issues are often easily resolved with assistance.
Question #4: How often should I feed my baby?
Pretty much every family member, friend, neighbor and stranger of new mothers has an opinion on this. Often these opinions are shared, whether they are asked for or not. Newborn babies do require frequent feedings, and as breast milk is digested much faster than infant formula, breastfed babies require feeding more often.
A good rule of thumb is to feed as often as baby demands it, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Education about recognizing feeding cues is essential for every new mother, whether she chooses to breastfeed or not. Recognizing the appropriate cues can save lots of time and guesswork. Remember: babies cry to communicate their needs, which go far beyond hunger. Responding to the needs of the baby is essential to his or her development, growth and bonding with parents. Contrary to the beliefs of yesterday, this kind of caregiver responsiveness will not spoil the baby.
While these concerns are quite common, they should be addressed along with any others you might have. Luckily there are many resources in our community to do just that. The hospitals in our area are prepared with skilled lactation consultants on staff to assist new mothers with breastfeeding questions and concerns before being discharged to go home. Once home, these same consultants are happy to continue providing mothers with care and guidance to help make breastfeeding work for every family.
In addition to these hospital-based consultants, there are also other professional consultants in our area who provide private care. The La Leche League is quite active in our area and is happy to provide comfort and support for all breastfeeding mothers. They are also equipped with a wealth of resources and knowledge that they provide to anyone in need. Aside from these people in our community, there are also websites that can answer many questions for parents, such as www.kellymom.com, and www.askdrsears.com.