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Breastfeeding can be a wonderful opportunity for new parents to physically and emotionally nourish their infants. However, it can also present challenges. In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month, Bassett Healthcare Network’s Chief of Pediatrics, Dr. Monica Brané, shares these reassurances for new parents.

Why breastfeed? Are there advantages?

Dr. Monica Brané

Breastmilk is overall the best source of nutrition for infants. Studies have shown positive impacts on the development on babies’ gastrointestinal and immune systems, as well as fewer infections in breastfed infants. Breastfeeding also provides early skin to skin contact, which can help to decrease crying and irritability in infants. There are maternal benefits as well, including less bleeding after delivery and some longer-term benefits, such as a decrease in certain cancer risks, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It is far less costly than buying formula, and often more convenient as well.

What's the biggest challenge you see new parents facing when they start breastfeeding?

The biggest challenge I see when initiating breastfeeding is difficulty with latching and sore nipples. Parents often feel very stressed and pressured about breastfeeding when it does not go easily in those first one to two days, and that tends to make the process even harder. It is not uncommon for parents to give up during that time, out of concern that the baby is not getting enough nutrition.

If you could tell all new or expecting parents something about breastfeeding, what would it be?

Be patient with the process. It takes one to three days for the milk to come in. It is normal for babies to lose some weight during that time. It can be very stressful and concerning for parents trying to feed their baby. However, they should feel some reassurance. The baby will get colostrum initially. That’s the thicker, yellower breastmilk initially produced by mammary glands. Colostrum provides concentrated nutrition that can jumpstart an immune system.

After that, as long as the baby is going to the breast every two to three hours (8-12 times per day), has a good latch and suck, and is making wet and dirty diapers, they will usually do well and start gaining weight by day four or day five.

Mothers should also remember to take care of themselves by drinking plenty of fluids, eating a healthy diet, and getting rest whenever the baby is sleeping to help reduce fatigue and stress. Having support from a partner or parent whenever possible is always helpful.

How might interested parents learn more?

Bassett regularly offers virtual breastfeeding classes. Visit our events page and search for “breastfeeding” using the keyword search. And, of course, the caregivers on your birthing team are also ready to offer coaching and encouragement whenever you need it.