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Breast-Feeding Basics
Provided by the American Dietetic Association: Your Link to Nutrition & Health

A breast-fed baby is a well-fed baby. But breast milk offers more than just food. It gives babies important immune protection, as well as overwhelming health and emotional benefits. A mother's decision to breast-feed is a personal one, dependent on many factors. If you decide to breast-feed, keep good nutrition on the top of your "to do" list. Your energy and nutrient needs are actually higher during this time than when you were pregnant.

Your fuel supply for milk production comes from two sources: energy stored as body fat during pregnancy and extra energy from food choices. Your body uses up about 100 to 150 calories a day from its own energy stores to produce breast milk. That's why breast-feeding helps many new mothers lose the weight gained during pregnancy - often without trying. To maintain the nutrients you need, add an extra serving every day from each of the five food groups.

Drink enough fluids to satisfy your thirst and prevent dehydration. As always, you need at least eight to 12 cups of fluids daily - more if you feel thirsty. Sip a glass of water, milk or juice while nursing your baby. Milk and juice also supply some of the extra nutrients needed for breast feeding.

When should I breast-feed my baby?

If there are no complications with delivery, the best time to start breast feeding is within 20 to 30 minutes of the baby's birth. For the first few days, feedings may last about 10 minutes on each breast. Later, feedings will last about 10 to 20 minutes at each breast. It's normal for a baby to nurse every one-and-a-half to three hours for the first few weeks. Newborns need to eat often because they have small stomachs and breast milk is easily digested. Eventually the time between feedings may lengthen to three or four hours.

Is my baby getting enough milk?

Good ways to tell if your baby is nursing:

* has six or more wet diapers and two to three stools each day

* shows a steady increase in weight (check baby's weight one to two weeks after delivery)

* has an alert, healthy appearance

When can I introduce my baby to solid foods?

Most babies are physically ready to begin eating solid foods at four to six months. However, each baby is different and age is only a point of reference. Watch for these milestones, which may suggest the time is right to introduce solid foods:

* baby can sit with little support

* baby shows interest in foods others are eating

* baby can turn away to signal "enough"

When can I wean my baby from the breast?

Sometime between nine and 12 months of age, breast milk will no longer be a baby's primary source of nutrition. You will probably nurse only three or four times a day, usually first thing in the morning and around nap and bedtimes. When the time comes to wean your baby completely from the breast, do it gradually and with love. Complete weaning will take several weeks, depending on how often your baby has been nursing.


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