Education key to successful breast-feeding
May 2, 1999
From Parenting Correspondent Pat Etheridge
(CNN) -- Breast-feeding can be tricky and challenging for new mothers, but new moms and lactation specialists agree that education can make all the difference.
By the time Sherry Strott left the hospital with her newborn, Kelsey, she felt well-prepared to breast-feed her baby.
"I have had a very good experience thus far, and I feel a lot of that is education," Strott said.
Julie Duncan is a lactation specialist at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. She said breast-feeding isn't always easy and doesn't always come as naturally as everyone thinks it does.
"It's so awkward. Mothers don't know where to put their arms and how to hold the baby. So this is the part of breast-feeding that has to be learned," said Duncan.
One of the biggest fears of new mothers is: Is the baby getting enough milk?
"I think every new parent worries.... You can't actually see the milk coming out, so you don't know how much they're getting," Duncan said.
The best way to see if a baby is getting enough to eat is to check the diaper. Wet diapers mean the feedings are going well. A pediatrician can give a new mom a good idea of how many wet diapers her baby should have in a specific period of time.
Most women can successfully breast-feed their babies, but in rare circumstances, complications arise.
For example, women who have undergone any kind of breast surgery should be carefully monitored when attempting to breast-feed a new baby.
"If some of the ducts have been either cut or reduced, the production of milk is going to decrease, and therefore the baby may not be gaining the weight that is needed," said Paulina Smith of the breast-feeding support group La Leche League.
The first few weeks can be especially trying. Babies differ in their ability to suck, and many mothers give up when their breasts become swollen and sore. It's crucial to get feeding advice whether the baby is breast- or bottle-fed.
"I think when a mother gets worried or concerned, she needs somebody to call, because hospital stays are short," Duncan said.
There's no question that breast milk is best. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers nurse their babies for the first year of life.
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