Benefits abound when it comes to breastfeeding, from protecting baby's immunity to lowering risk of breast cancer for mom. Chances are, however, that your breastfeeding experience isn't going to be as smooth as you think it will be. With so many factors working for and against you, no breastfeeding situation is the same, even within the same family. Here are 11 things new moms should keep in mind as they prepare to feed their new baby.
1. You should avoid certain birth control methods. Birth control containing estrogen should be avoided if you're breastfeeding. Studies show that women who used birth control that contained estrogen were able to breast feed for a shorter amount of time, and had less milk production overall. There have been no documented effects on the baby, however.
2. Breastfeeding protects the baby. By breastfeeding your child, you actually protect them against future diseases by reducing their risk of leukemia, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and asthma.
3. Breastfeeding lessens your chances of cancer. Get this: If you breastfeed your baby, you will have a much smaller chance of getting breast cancer. The longer you breastfeed, the smaller your chances of obtaining cancer will be. Nursing a little girl? You're reducing her risk of breast cancer too!
4. It helps you get your pre-baby body back. Breastfeeding burns serious calories, anywhere from 300 to 1,000 calories a day, depending on how hungry baby is. This is nature's way of helping you return to your normal size, while simultaneously making your child grow. (Don't forget to do some postpartum exercises and replenish your body with enough vitamins and nutrients!)
5. Breastfeeding gives baby healthy teeth. Breastfeeding gives baby the nutrients they need to grow strong teeth, making them less likely to form cavities than a child who fed on formula.
6. Breastfeeding can grow your breasts by two cup sizes. Your breasts will grow up to two bra sizes when they're filled with milk, which is pretty impressive! Make sure to plan ahead and stock up on nursing bras to get you through this milky period.
7. Your nipples will chafe. Breastfeeding isn't always easy going! Imagine a little mouth gnawing away at your nipple for months on end and you can imagine things are going to get a little raw. Buy a nipple shield for that very purpose. It helps with chafing and rubbing, making your experience much more pleasant! Buy one here.
8. Hold back on the booze. Make sure to keep alcohol consumption at a minimum! If you have a buzz, chances are that it could pass into the milk. We hate the thought of pumping and dumping, so make sure enough time has passed between when you drank alcohol and when you feed baby. This takes some planning ahead! Also keep in mind that moms that drink produce less milk overall.
9. No more fast food. You are completely in control of what nutrients your baby gets — and doesn't get. Eating fast food, sugar and processed meats doesn't seem like a big deal for you, but for a little baby that's not very nutritious! Focus on eating fruits and vegetables, as well as protein and fiber. If you needed motivation to eat healthy, here it is! These nutritious foods will help them build a stronger immune system, which means your baby won't get sick as often!
>> Read more: Clean Eating 101: How To Start Clean Eating
10. Your breast milk might change color. It's true that breast milk tends to change color, but don't be alarmed! This is totally normal. The milk that comes out at first tends to look clear, even bluish. This is called the foremilk, and it's traditionally lower in fat. As baby starts to nurse, thicker milk will produce which has a higher fat content and is creamier in nature. This is called the hindmilk—and this is the good, nutritious stuff. Breastmilk has a tendency to change color depending on your diet, medications you take and whether or not you eat a lot of spinach, so don't be alarmed if it looks a little browner, greener or redder than usual.
11. Can't breastfeed? That's OK. If you aren't able to breastfeed, you shouldn't feel ashamed. That's just life! It's time for Plan B: formula! Check out Consumer Report's Baby Formula Buying Guide to stay educated when choosing the formula that's best for your baby.
Remember, if you sense that something is out of the ordinary, call your pediatrician and set up an appointment.