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Breastfeeding: The First 12 months

Breastfeeding: The First 12 months

The first days and weeks of breastfeeding often boil down to sheer survival: getting your baby to latch onto (and stay on!) your breast; functioning on what often feels like mere minutes of sleep; and willing yourself to keep going if you're having problems.

Yet at some point down the road, when you and your baby have made it through the getting-to-know-each-other period, you're likely to have different questions and concerns.

Here's a look at some of the breastfeeding issues you're likely to face throughout the first year.

Month 1:

Is getting a proper latch is essential for successful breastfeeding. Is it really that important?

Yes, it's that important. If you don't have a proper latch, your baby may not get enough milk, and you could develop sore and cracked nipples.

·         Position your baby so he is lying on his side, his belly flush against yours.

·         Prop up the baby with a pillow and hold him up to your breast; don't lean over toward him.

·         Using your free hand, place your thumb and fingers around your areola (the dark area surrounding the nipple).

·         Tilt your baby's head back slightly and gently touch him with your nipple just above his upper lip.

·         When his mouth is open wide, scoop your breast into his mouth. Place his lower jaw on first, well behind the nipple.

·         Tilt his head forward, placing his upper jaw deeply on the breast. Make sure he takes the entire nipple and at least 1½ inches of the areola in his mouth.

Month 2:

Is your baby is getting enough milk?

This is a common question among breastfeeding mums, because unlike with a bottle, you just can't tell how much milk your baby is getting. To make sure you're both on the right track, your paediatrician will monitor his weight closely, especially for the first several weeks.

In the meantime, pay attention to his diapers: He should have six to eight wet ones and at least two "seedy," mustard- coloured stools daily by the time they’re 7 days old. Also keep this in mind: As long as your baby is gaining weight consistently and his diapers show that he is eating enough, you can assume that he's getting plenty of milk. If you're still concerned, schedule a weight check with your paediatrician.

Month 3:

Going back to my full-time job and keeping breastfeeding. How to handle pumping?

First off, alert your employer about your plans so that you can work together to find the best place for you to pump. It will help things go more smoothly if you can figure out where and when you will pump before you actually get back to work. You should have begun pumping when your baby was 3 weeks or 4 weeks old, both to get him used to taking a bottle and so you'll have a supply of breast milk stored in the freezer. If you haven't started, get going!

Since you'll be returning to work full time, you'll probably want to rent or buy a double electric pump (From Nursing Angel) because it expresses both breasts at once and therefore cuts down on pumping time. When you return to work, try to pump as often—and at about the same times—as your baby normally nurses.

Month 4:

Having an occasional glass of wine. How long to wait after drinking before nursing your baby?

In general, the alcohol from one drink—8 ounces of beer, 6 ounces of wine or one shot of hard alcohol—tends to be metabolized (and thus absent from your milk) within two to three hours, at which time it's safe to nurse your baby. But a better guideline is this: As long as you're feeling any effects from the alcohol, even if you are just a bit tipsy or giddy, don't put your baby to the breast. Want to be even more sure?

Month 5:

 Do Breastfed babies usually take longer to sleep through the night?

First, keep in mind that "sleeping through the night" at this age actually means five or six hours, not eight or nine. Second, every baby is different. Some will start sleeping through at 3 months old; others won't until much later. Babies sleep through the night when they're ready, whether they're breastfed or not.

That said, because breast milk is digested so completely and more quickly than formula, breastfed babies do tend to eat—and therefore wake—more frequently than formula-fed babies. (Tip: Don't look at the clock! Feed the baby whenever they’re hungry, day or night.)

Month 6:

Is your baby ready for solids? How and when should I introduce them?

Breast milk still is the most important part of your baby's diet at this age, so breastfeed right before you offer cereal or other foods.

When you do offer solids, start with rice cereal and gradually add a cooked or mashed fruit or vegetable. Many paediatricians believe it's fine to start with a finely puréed fruit or vegetable, or even meat; check with your doc to see what she recommends. Be sure to wait three to five days before introducing a different food so you can trace the cause of any allergic reaction.

Month 7:

Taking birth-control pills whilst breastfeeding.

Yes you can. But opt for a progestin-only 'mini-pill,' since pills containing estrogen can decrease milk supply. Depo-Provera—an injection given every three months— is another progestin-only contraceptive that is safe to use while breastfeeding; wait six weeks after childbirth before beginning use.

Month 8:

Getting clogged milk ducts? What causes them, and what can I do to treat them?

One of the risk factors for clogged ducts is a change in a baby's feeding pattern. If your baby is nursing less frequently because he's eating more solids, milk 'stasis'— when milk sits in the breast—can occur and cause the ducts to clog. The best way to treat clogged ducts is by nursing or pumping often from the affected breast, applying warm compresses, and getting plenty of fluids and rest. If you have a fever or flu like symptoms, see your doctor; you may have mastitis, an infection that often requires antibiotics.

Month 9:

Baby biting? How can I make it stop?

Take your baby off the breast as soon as he starts to bite, say, "No biting!" and keep them off the breast until the next feeding. Also, be alert: Biting usually happens toward the end of a feeding, so if you can tell that your baby is almost finished nursing, remove him from the breast before he clamps down.

Month 10:

Baby starting to be uninterested in nursing?

This is completely normal at this age. Babies are curious about their world and really start to explore now. Your budding toddler may be distracted by every noise he hears, which causes him to pull away from the breast; or he may be crawling, in which case he really wants to explore. While this might be a frustrating time for you, it should pass; it typically doesn't mean that the baby is ready to wean.

Month 11:

Baby is eating more solids. How many times a day should they be nursing?

Around four times a day is about normal, keeping in mind all babies are different. A baby this age should be getting about 450 to 600 millilitres of breast milk daily. At the end of the first year, half of a baby's calories should be coming from breast milk.

Month 12:

Ready to wean. Are there any good reasons to breastfeed for longer than a year?

There are many reasons to continue nursing, but one of the best is your baby's health: Breast milk continues not only to protect him from many illnesses, but it also will help him recover more quickly if he does get sick. As long as your baby is drinking breast milk, he's getting all the immunological benefits nursing provides.

Also, a nursing mother and her infant have a special bond, and there is no reason any woman should be in a hurry to give it up. As long as mum and the baby are happy, there is no reason to wean.