Postpartum Nursing: Why Breast is Best

Nursing, or breastfeeding, is commonly known to be what is best for infants. But nursing is also exceptionally beneficially for postpartum mothers as well.

There are many programs, books, and coaches out there that will paint a lovely picture of postpartum nursing that will make it seem like an easy task that comes naturally to mothers and babies. But, nursing your newborn is hard for both you and baby.

There are rules to follow on storage, feeding, dieting, alcohol, medication, and following your baby’s cues—all of which can be very overwhelming to new, and even repeat moms.

However, once you and your new baby develop a routine and get to know one another, nursing your baby will become a natural part of your everyday life in no time.

Why is Breast Best?

Making the decision to breastfeed is very personal and you will no doubt gather many unsolicited opinions from friends, family, and even complete strangers on whether to nurse your baby, use bottles, supplement with anything.

You’ll even hear horror stories of cracked, bleeding nipples from people you’ve just met on the streets, followed by their tried and true remedies that you “have just got to try” to cure this painful side effect of a bad latching baby.

You’ll also, hopefully, hear stories of the close bond that develops between a mother and her baby, a sense of comfort and easy bedtime routine, a more relaxed mom and baby and other great, cozy stories that make you feel good about your decision to nurse.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology both stand by breastfeeding being the best choice for feeding your newborn. Breast milk has been proven to provide the ideal nutrition for your infant with a blend of vitamins and nutrients, fat, and protein specifically designed for your baby by your body.

Breast milk is also easier to digest than formula, and contains powerful antibodies that will develop your baby’s immune system and help him fight disease and infection, and reduce his risk for ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and stomach problems.

According to Womenshealth.gov, infants who are breastfed, also have a lower risk of SIDS and Leukemia. There have also been studies linking higher IQ’s to being nursed as an infant and having fewer problems with obesity as they grow up which also reduces the risk of cancer and diabetes.

Another great benefit of nursing is that in the case of an emergency you always have a food supply for your baby. You don’t have to worry about access to clean, sterile water to mix formula, electricity to store unused formula in, hot water to wash and sterilize bottles in, or having to purchase or find formula if your supply runs out in the case of a disaster.

postpartum feeding

Benefits for Mom

Physical

Breastfeeding burns extra calories, as many as 200-500 per day, and signals the releases of oxytocin. This is the hormone that makes your uterus contract and returns to its natural pre-pregnancy size and shape.

Nursing moms lose weight and tone up at a much quicker rate than moms that use formula in many cases. Moms that breastfeed often end up in better shape than they were in before they got pregnant.

Nursing also reduces the amount of time spent experiencing uterine bleeding postpartum. Nursing has also been proven to reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and possibly osteoporosis.

Nursing also can delay the return of a woman’s natural menstrual cycle. This is the body’s natural way of spacing out pregnancies and can also help conserve iron in the mother’s bloodstream. This greatly decreases a mother’s risk of developing an iron deficiency or anemia.

Breastfeeding is also particularly beneficial to mother’s who suffered from gestational diabetes, because nursing your infant helps to keep your blood sugars lower.

Another hormone released in a nursing mother is prolactin. This hormone is what produces breast milk, but also has a unique calming effect on a mother’s psyche and decreases a mother’s emotional response to adrenaline spikes. Which in turn helps her to manage stress and anxiety better.

Household Budget

Nursing, rather than formula feeding, also has an added benefit of being able to save your family hundreds of dollars. Breastmilk is free!

Breastmilk is produced naturally by our bodies and, except in rare cases, our bodies produce more as the baby eats and needs more. Not only will you not have to purchase formula – which ranges from $16-$40 a can – with infants going through upwards of 10 cans a month. Bottles and nipples are expensive also.

Not to mention the amount of money families can save in long term medical costs. Breastfed babies are at less risk for developing some of the most common illnesses. Such as respiratory infections and stomach irritation.

Environmental Waste

There is also a HUGE environmental impact that formula feeding has that many people do not think about. These plastic bottles and nipples will eventually end up in the landfill.

Bottle liners are tossed in the garbage after every use, it takes a lot of water to constantly be washing and sterilizing bottles and feeding supplies, and formula cans don’t always end up in the recycle bin—who has time to sort garbage when you have a newborn?

What to Do to Prepare To Nurse Your Baby

Although breastfeeding seems like a natural and easy way to feed your baby, it is not as easy as just whipping the nipple out when it suits. You will need to do a little preparation to ensure you are equipped with all you need before the baby comes along.

Here are a few tips, tricks, and products that you should consider stocking up on to ensure a positive and productive experience for everyone.

Nursing Bras

As your breasts grow and fluctuate in size while breastfeeding, your normal bras will no longer work for everyday wear. Nursing bras are comfortable, stretching, soft, and come with flaps that are discreet and easy to undo when it is time for feeding.

Don’t purchase these bras too soon, however. Wait until the final weeks of pregnancy or even right after the baby is born when your breasts are at their full, post-partum size.

Check out our full list of Nursing Bras here.

Nursing Covers

If you plan to feed in public then it can be handy to have a Nursing cover, or scarf specifically designed for this purpose.

A scarf is a more stylish option that can be worn to compliment your regular outfit. Check out our full list of scarves here.

A nursing cover will give you broader coverage when feeding. A good cover will have a stiff boned neckline to allow you to keep your baby in full view. The wide apron of the cover should also have straps to the side to ensure it remains securely in place.

Nursing Shirts

Just like bras, there are special tank tops and shirts that you can buy to make breastfeeding more convenient and discreet. These tops have flaps that fold over to allow easy access for baby while keeping you covered and modest.

Check out our full list of Nursing Tops here.

Breast pads

Nursing breasts leak and breast pads will be a lifesaver to you. Even when your baby is not with you, a crying baby, or holding a baby may signal the letdown reflex and cause your milk to leak out. Stock up on several boxes of nursing pads.

Nursing Pillow

There are many variations of these pillows, so try a few out in stores to see which are most comfortable for you.

Along with the nursing scarf or cover, these will ensure that breastfeeding your baby is comfortable for you and him!

Breast Pump and Supplies

A breast pump may not seem like a necessity, but if you are planning to go back to work and continue nursing a pump will be essential to keeping your supply up. Pumps can range from less than a hundred dollars to a few hundred depending on the model and features.

If you don’t plan to pump regularly, a manual hand pump can be beneficial to keep around in case of engorgement, or if you need to pump for a bottle before going out for a couple of hours.

You should also consider Lanolin ointment to relieve sore nipples and hot/cold packs to help with sore breasts as well.

nursing mom

Breast Feeding Challenges

Lactation Consultants, your obstetrician or nurse practitioner, and pediatrician can all be valuable resources to use when it comes to breastfeeding or nursing challenges. Although every mom and baby will face their own unique set of successes and challenges when it comes to feeding, there are some common problems that many new moms run into.

Sore Nipples

Breastfeeding should feel comfortable and not hurt. If your nipples are becoming sore, cracked, bleeding, or hurting while nursing, it is most likely due to a poor latch or positioning.

Make sure that the infant is suckling from the entire areola, not just the nipple, try changing positions, and use lanolin cream to soothe your nipples.

Engorgement

This occurs when your breasts become larger, heavier, and painful due to milk build up. Usually occurring around 3-5 days postpartum, engorgement can happen at any time and can lead to plugged ducts or a breast infection.

Hand expression or pumping can relieve engorgement you can also place the baby to breast to feed, massage your breasts, use cold compresses in between feedings, and keep on a pumping schedule.

Mastitis

This common breast infection is soreness or a lump in the breast that causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, nipple discharge and pain. Breast infections are caused by cold infections or flu from other family members or plugged ducts caused from engorgement.

Some infections need to be treated with antibiotics. It is always necessary to see your doctor if you suspect you have a breast infection.

Final Word

Postpartum nursing is the best choice for both you and your newborn. Although there may be some challenges along the way, don’t be afraid to rely on your doctors, lactation consultants, and women that you trust and depend on to give you support and advice during this exciting new time in your life.