Your Breast Knows Best

Among the many changes that happen to your body, your breasts are doing their share of the work to get ready for that baby.  They’re plumping up. The areola (dark area of skin surrounding the nipple) usually darkens even more and gets larger, as does the nipple. Between weeks 16 and 22 your breasts begin to make colostrum, the super-concentrated first milk produced for your baby.  Even now, you may notice some clear, yellow or white drops of colostrum leaking from your nipples.

Your body is getting ready to breastfeed, and so should you!

Benefits for Baby

Once your baby is born, it takes about 2 weeks for breast milk to become “mature milk.”  Colostrum, the first stage, is highly nutritious, concentrated, and packed with antibodies that your baby needs to stay healthy. The colostrum coats baby’s stomach, creating a barrier that keeps out many types of bacteria and viruses, decreasing your newborn’s risk of infection. It helps protect his digestive tract, mucous membranes, throat, lungs and intestines, and helps prevent him from becoming sensitive to the food you eat. In turn, it lessens his risk for future food allergies. This protection remains for as long as you are breastfeeding.

Believe it or not, your breasts produce only about 3 to 4 tablespoons of colostrum in the first 24 hours after birth. This is actually all your newborn needs, as his stomach can only hold about 2 to 3 teaspoons of milk per feeding. This is also why newborns need to nurse quite frequently (every couple hours or so). These  frequent feedings help increase the volume of milk you produce, ensuring that you’ll always have enough milk to feed your baby.

Benefits as they grow

Research has shown that the benefits of breastfeeding carry throughout your child’s life.  Breastfed children have decreased risk of diabetes, obesity, juvenile leukemia, heart disease, asthma and ear infections.  They have also been found to have better jaw and eye development than those who are not breastfed.

Benefits for you, too

Directly after childbirth, breastfeeding helps your uterus return to its normal size. It may help you lose your pregnancy weight, and studies have shown that it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Right after birth, have your newborn baby placed on your chest, skin-to-skin, and you’ll be amazed as he latches on to your breast and starts feeding. If you keep him close to you as much as possible over the next few days, you may find that you both take to breastfeeding with ease.

But if you do experience problems, you’re not alone. Breastfeeding is an art that often needs to be learned. Talk to a lactation consultant or contact your local La Leche League. A prenatal breastfeeding preparation class is also helpful in understanding the process and getting ready for that first special bonding.

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  1. Thanks for this article. I have been on the fence about breast feeding because my mom hated it so much. She never breast fed my brothers or my sister. But after reading this article, I just can’t say no! Those are some very important benefits and I will definitely be breast feeding!

  2. my wife nursed all four of our kids, including twins. i’m sure that it was better for their health, but without question it was great for her connection to them. there’s no greater act of kindness than literally making a person. nursing let her be intimately part of that for years after they were born. it was just great loving bonding time for her with her babies.

    another plus is that, at least in her case, burning the zillions of calories it takes for nursing, means she always ended up thinner and fitter after babies than before.

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