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Breastfeeding benefits, tips, and products

Breastfeeding is a traditional method of feeding newborns and infants in which the child suckles breast milk directly from the mother's breast. Loaded with antibodies, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, breast milk is an ideal source of food for babies up to 6 months of age and can continue to be part of a healthy diet for a year or more after the introduction of solid foods.

In addition to the health benefits of breast milk, breastfeeding itself offers benefits -- namely, the bonding experience between mother and child during the breastfeeding process. However, some new mothers may have difficulty breastfeeding, and still others are unable to breastfeed at all.

Solutions to Breastfeeding Problems

One of the most common breastfeeding problems is breast refusal or difficulty latching on the part of the child. This may result from physical difficulties for the baby, such as an ear infection, stuffy nose, or teething pain. Treating that underlying cause should solve the problem. If, however, no underlying cause can be found, a lactation coach may be able to help.

Another seemingly common problem, though actually fairly rare, is low milk supply. Many women think they are not producing enough milk for their babies' needs because their breasts no longer feel full or leak, but in fact, these are just signs that the body has adjusted to the baby's feeding needs and schedule. For women who actually have low supply, a doctor can suggest ways to increase milk production and may also recommend supplementing with formula.

Perhaps the biggest problem for breastfeeding mothers is sore or cracked nipples. These conditions not only cause discomfort for the mother but may interfere with the breastfeeding process. Ensuring that the baby is suckling properly can help reduce the incidence of sore or cracked nipples -- consult a lactation coach or medical professional for help. Lanolin cream can also help soothe and protect cracked nipples.

Tips for a Breastfeeding Diet

When you are breastfeeding, just as when you're pregnant, everything you ingest gets passed to your baby. For these reasons, it is important to avoid dangerous substances such as prescription medication, narcotics, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Also be careful with herbal teas and supplements. Herbs such as mint and parsley can dry up your milk supply. However, for the same reason, it is important to eat a variety of nutritious foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as protein and good fats.

Be aware of how your diet affects your baby. If baby shows signs of allergy or discomfort after breastfeeding, examine your diet and consult your doctor or a lactation coach for more information on specific foods to eat and avoid.

The Best Breastfeeding Clothes

To help make breastfeeding the best possible experience -- a time that you can really enjoy with your baby -- purchase some good nursing bras and loose tops that lift easily or unbutton. Some nursing tops have a panel to provide access to the breasts while still covering the torso. Whatever style you choose, make sure it's comfortable and allows you to quickly and efficiently breastfeed your baby.

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