Breastfeeding has benefits for both mother and baby, and getting off to a good start makes all the difference. It can take some time to establish a good breastfeeding relationship.
"A good breastfeeding relationship typically takes six weeks to establish, give or take," said Laureen Klein, certified lactation educator for Trinity Health of Minot. "If you stick to it and get through those initial ups and downs, like engorgement, soreness and growth spurts, things are generally going to go well."
"A big part of breastfeeding is support from her family. Mom will be tired, because nursing does take extra calories," Klein added. "Community, job and family support are all essential to making it work."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Laureen Klein, registered nurse and certified lactation educator for Trinity Health, demonstrates how a positioning pillow can help keep a baby closer to mom during breastfeeding.
North Dakota has passed legislation that allows mothers to breastfeed anywhere the public can be. For those mothers concerned about discretion, cover-ups and capes can do the trick.
"A cape allows for discreet nursing in public," Klein said. "It won't fall off like a blanket might, and it has an opening at the top so the mother can look down at the baby."
"There are a lot of products out there that can help. It can be as simple as a bra pad, so the mother isn't soiling her clothes when she's at work or on the go; or a good pump that allows her to go to work and continue to breastfeed," Klein added.
For those just beginning to nurse, avoiding a few common pitfalls can help mother and baby get off to a good start.
Klein said good positioning at the breast is important to allow babies to maximize the amount of milk they're getting.
"If mom is uncomfortable, she won't transfer milk as effectively," Klein said. "A malpositioned baby who is not latching on correctly often causes the mother to get sore nipples. A common reason for discontinuing breastfeeding is soreness and discomfort."
"Babies are meant to be held very close while nursing, and baby positioning aids can help," she said.
Products are available that can help with breastfeeding positioning such as pillows or slings.
"The sling would allow a busy mother more convenience, so she can feed her baby on the go," Klein said. "And it's taking the weight of the baby off her shoulders and bringing the baby close so she can feed discreetly."
New mothers can also attend a Breastfeeding Basics class at Trinity Health, taught by Klein, to learn proper techniques.
"Even if you're thinking you know proper latch on, it's good to take a class before you have a baby so you can be taught some techniques. If you can't make it to a class, you can always seek help when you're in the hospital. There are many nurses there that know proper positioning who can help," Klein said.
Also important to the new breastfeeding relationship is establishing a good supply and demand. Babies will eat more when they're going through a growth spurt, and sometimes well meaning family members or friends may encourage the mother to supplement with formula during those times.
"A common mistake would be supplementing with formula too soon," Klein said. "Another reason for quitting breastfeeding is the perceived inadequacy of milk supply."
"Some well meaning relatives may say the baby's nursing too much and you need to supplement," she said. "When you supplement, it confuses the supply and demand. Breast milk is completely supply and demand, and the baby should be allowed unlimited access in the first few weeks to establish a supply."
Another piece of misinformation mothers may receive is that milk isn't available when the baby is first born.
"When breastfeeding first starts, the milk is called colostrum," Klein said. "Colostrum is the first milk, and it has a high percentage of antibodies to protect the baby from infections."
"It takes 2-1/2 to four days for the milk to transition from colostrum to mature milk, and mothers should allow the baby to nurse frequently to help that transition take place," she added.
For mothers who give birth prematurely, getting breastmilk to their babies is still possible. The mother can pump milk before and after she leaves the hospital.
"We do get preterm babies started in the hospital," Klein said. "We make sure the mother has all the information she needs to continue pumping after she leaves the hospital, and we give her information on where she can buy or rent quality pumps."
The family is also encouraged to practice "kangaroo care," which is skin-to-skin contact, for stable preterm babies.
"There's no better way (than kangaroo care) to enhance that bonding," Klein said. "It also enhances milk supply more than anything."
For those who do choose breastfeeding, there are benefits for mother and baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast- feeding until a baby is six months old, with continued breastfeeding for the first year as the main nutritional component of a baby's diet.
Because breast milk contains protective antibodies, breastfeeding has been shown to help protect babies against upper respiratory infections and influenzas, gastrointestinal illness, ear infections and pneumonia. Some evidence even suggests it helps protect against obesity, Klein explained, because the baby controls the amount of food they're getting.
Breast milk also offers good nutrition for baby.
"One of the amazing things about breast milk is that it does have the perfect blend of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for the human baby," Klein said. "Human milk has very high levels of alpha omega fats that are essential for the human nervous system and brain."
"Formula companies have recently added DHA and ARA, two of the hundreds of amino fatty acids that human milk has," she added.
For mothers, the benefits of breastfeeding can include a decreased risk of breast cancer, the benefit of reaching her pre-pregnancy weight faster, and enhanced bonding with the infant.
"As the mom continues giving nutrition from her own body, it's very empowering to women, knowing that they're contributing to their infants' well being and growth," Klein said.