Tips For Breast-Feeding

An episode on the CBS television medical drama Chicago Hope Wednesday night may have startled new parents when it portrayed a breast-fed infant who died of malnutrition. While cases like that very rarely happen, CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay explains ways to ensure that breast-feeding is a healthy experience.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips for breast-feeding mothers who want to make sure their baby is receiving enough milk:
  1. Nurse frequently.
    A growing baby needs to eat often. Sometimes babies will need 30 minute feedings as many as 8-12 times a day. Many doctors suggest that mothers breast-feed every two hours.
  2. Look for hunger signs.
    Increased activity, mouthing motions, or pulling at your shirt may be indications that your child is hungry. Don't wait for the child to cry for food - that's a late sign. If you're on a breast-feeding schedule recommended by your doctor, you may have to wake your baby for a feeding.
  3. Listen for swallowing sounds.
    Make sure that the baby isn't just making the sucking motion, but getting no milk. Also, if the mother's breasts feel full before she nurses her child, they should feel lighter afterwards.
  4. Check for wet diapers.
    If a baby is getting enough milk, he or she should have 5-6 wet diaper movements each day. Since today's diapers are super-absorbent, don't expect the diaper to be full. From the third day after birth on, the child should have 2-3 bowel movements every day.
  5. Change in behavior.
    Watch for noticeable changes in your baby's behavior, such as increased crying or decreasing energy. Also, if the baby does not seem content after feedings, call your pediatrician to have the baby examined.
It is recommended that new mothers have their child examined 2-3 days after they get out of the hospital to see if they are getting adequate milk. A doctor or lactation specialist should be able to detect any problems and help the new mother correct them. In some cases, your child may need to have supplemental formula along with breast milk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breast-feeding begin in the very first hour of life and continue for at least a year, reports CBS 'This Morning' Contributor Dr. Bernadine Healy. A mother can prolong breast-feeding beyond a year, if she wishes. The Academy suggests that women feed their baby breast milk exclusively for the first six months - no formula, water, or solids in the baby's diet during that time.

There is scientific evidence that breast-feeding benefits both the baby and the mother. For the baby, breast-feeding for the first several months is strongly associated with a decrease in infant ear infections, allergies, diarrhea, and bacterial meningitis.

Mothers who breast eed for at least six months may reduce their risk of premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer and lessen the chance of osteoporosis. It also helps mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.

Although many people think that the process is instinctive for both mothers and babies, it actually has to be learned. For this reason, some women have trouble breast-feeding. It can be painful for some mothers, and sometimes can cause breast infections.

Education and patience are the best bet for someone who wants to breast feed, but who are having a difficult time. There are books available, and most hospitals offer lactation classes during pregnancy and consultants to teach new mothers.

But the needs of mothers and babies are individual. If a mother is unable to breast feed or chooses not to, she should not berate herself for it, says Dr. Healy. Bad feelings can be harmful to you and your baby.