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Breastfeeding - self-care

Nursing mothers - self-care; Breast feeding - self-care

As a breastfeeding mother, know how to take care of yourself. Keeping yourself well is the best thing for breastfeeding your baby. Here are some tips about taking care of yourself.

Eat to Stay Healthy and to Feed Your Baby

You should:

  • Eat 3 meals a day.
  • Try to eat foods from all the different food groups.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements are not a substitute for healthy eating.
  • Know about food portions so that you eat the right amount.

Eat at least 4 servings of milk foods each day. Here are ideas for 1 serving of milk food:

  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) of milk
  • 1 cup (245 grams) of yogurt
  • 4 small cubes of cheese or 2 slices of cheese

Eat at least 3 servings of protein-rich foods each day. Here are ideas for 1 serving of protein:

  • 1 to 2 ounces (30 to 60 grams) of meat, chicken, or fish
  • 1/4 cup (45 grams) cooked dried beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of peanut butter

Eat 2 to 4 servings of fruits each day. Here are ideas for 1 serving of fruit:

  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) fruit juice
  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) cut up fruit, such as watermelon or cantaloupe
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) dried fruit

Eat at least 3 to 5 servings of vegetables each day. Here are ideas for 1 serving of vegetables:

  • 1/2 cup (90 grams) cut up vegetables
  • 1 cup (70 grams) salad greens
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) vegetable juice

Eat about 6 servings of grains like bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. Here are ideas for 1 serving of grain:

  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) cooked rice
  • 1 cup (60 grams) cereal
  • 1 slice bread

Eat 1 serving of oil each day. Here are ideas for 1 serving of oil:

  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) low-fat mayo
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) light salad dressing

Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Stay hydrated when you are nursing.
  • Drink enough to satisfy your thirst. Try to drink 8 cups (2 liters) of fluid each day.
  • Choose healthy fluids such as water, milk, juice, or soup.

DO NOT worry about your food bothering your baby.

  • You can safely eat any foods you like. Some foods may flavor your breast milk, but babies are often not bothered by this.
  • If your baby is fussy after you eat a certain food or spice, avoid that food for a while. Try it again later to see if it is a problem.

Caffeine, Alcohol, Smoking, and Breastfeeding

Small amounts of caffeine will not hurt your baby.

  • Limit your caffeine intake. Keep your coffee or tea at 1 cup (240 milliliters) per day.
  • If you drink larger amounts of caffeine, your baby may get agitated and have trouble sleeping.
  • Learn how your baby reacts to caffeine. Some babies may react to even 1 cup (240 milliliters) a day. If that happens, stop drinking caffeine.

Avoid alcohol.

  • Alcohol affects your milk.
  • If you choose to drink, limit yourself to 2 ounces (60 milliliters) of alcohol a day.
  • Talk to your health care provider about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding.

Try not to smoke. There are many ways to help you quit.

  • You put your baby at risk if you smoke.
  • Breathing in smoke increases your baby's risk for colds and infections.
  • Get help to quit smoking now. Talk to your provider about programs that can support you to quit.
  • If you can quit, you will feel better and decrease your risk of getting cancer from smoking. Your baby will not get any nicotine or other chemicals from cigarettes in your breast milk.

Know about your medicines and breastfeeding.

  • Many medicines pass into mother's milk. Most of the time, this is safe and OK for your baby.
  • Talk with your provider about any medicines you take. DO NOT stop taking your medicine without first speaking to your provider.
  • Medicines that were safe when you were pregnant may not always be safe when you breastfeed.
  • Ask about drugs that are OK to take while you are breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Drugs keeps a list of these drugs. Your provider can look at the list and talk to you about medicines you take when breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Contraception

You can get pregnant when breastfeeding. DO NOT use breastfeeding for birth control.

You are less likely to get pregnant while breastfeeding if:

  • Your baby is younger than 6 months old.
  • You are breastfeeding only, and your baby does not take any formula.
  • You have not yet had a menstrual period after having your baby.

Talk to your provider about birth control. You have lots of choices. Condoms, diaphragm, progesterone-only pills or shots, and IUDs are safe and effective.

Breastfeeding delays the return of normal menstrual periods. Your ovaries will make an egg before you have your period so you can get pregnant before your periods begin again.

References

Lawrence RM, Lawrence RA. The breast and the physiology of lactation. In: Resnik R, Lockwood CJ, Moore TR, Greene MF, Copel JA, Silver RM, eds. Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 11.

Niebyl JR, Weber RJ, Briggs GG. Drugs and environment agents in pregnancy and lactation: teratology, epidemiology. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 8.

Seery A. Normal infant feeding. In: Kellerman RD, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2018. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:1192-1199.

    • Breast engorgement

      Animation

    •  

      Breast engorgement - Animation

      It's normal during the first week after a baby is born for a mother's breast to become heavy, and tender, and full as the milk is coming in. And even before that as the blood flow is expanding and the lymph flow is expanding to allow the milk to come in. But sometimes that progresses to something we call engorgement. I'm Dr. Alan Greene and I want to talk briefly about engorgement. What causes it, how you can prevent it, and what to do if engorgement does happen. We call it engorgement if the pain becomes really severe because the milk is so full in the breasts that it squeezes shut some of the blood and lymph vessels. So causes swelling in the tissues. It's not just too much milk. It's real swelling of the breasts. And it can be quite painful and make nursing kind of difficult. Probably the best way to prevent engorgement is frequent, early feeding. If you feed as often as the baby wants to, and at least every 2 to 3 hours when the baby is awake during the day, and no longer than 4 or 5 hours one stretch at night during that first week will often prevent engorgement. Engorgement is less common, too, if you don't do supplemental feedings. But even if you do everything perfectly, some women will still become engorged. It's not a guarantee. If you do and don't do anything, the engorgement will likely last for 7 to 10 days. But if you take steps to treat the engorgement, usually it will be gone within maybe 24 to 48 hours, at least the worst part of it. So what does treating engorgement mean? It's a couple of very simple steps. The first one is really to try to empty the breasts completely. Again, going back to frequent feeding and to encourage the baby to nurse to finish the first breast first. Don't try to switch breasts in between, but start and let them empty as much as they can. And then only after they come off it their timing, try the other breast. Then start with the opposite one next time. Then you can do a lot with cool and warm compresses. Doing a cool compress in between nursing can help reduce the swelling and reduce the tenderness. And then a warm compress you want to switch to in the 10 to 15 minutes before nursing to help encourage let down and help the breast drain more fully. You can actually get compresses that are made for this purpose that you can warm or you can cool. And they can fit inside a nursing bra. Another thing that can be very helpful are cabbage leaves. There have been a few studies suggesting this and a lot of personal experience people have had just taking a cabbage leaf out of the refrigerator and wearing it as a compress. There seems to something in there that does help. Whatever you do, you may also want some pain relief, something like acetaminophen. And if that's necessary don't hesitate if that's something that's going to keep you nursing because breast milk is the very best thing for kids.

    • Breastfeeding

      Animation

    •  

      Breastfeeding - Animation

      How you feed your baby is a personal decision, but if you breastfeed you're choosing to give your child a natural, nutritional food source that can benefit you AND your baby. Let's talk about breastfeeding. Many women ask me, What's so good about breastfeeding? Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby. It contains just the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. And they vary over time within each feeding and over the months as your baby grows, tailored. Breast milk also gives your baby the digestive enzymes, minerals, vitamins, hormones and flavors they need. Plus your baby gets antibodies and other immune factors from YOU that can help your baby resist some infections. Infants who breastfeed are less likely to have allergies, ear infections, gas, diarrhea, and constipation, skin problems, stomach or intestinal infections...and are also less likely to experience wheezing, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Breastfeeding helps mom too! You form a unique bond with your baby. You might lose pregnancy weight faster and, you have a lower risk of breast cancer, some types of ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis. Your baby will need to be fed a lot, often nearly around the clock during the first few weeks after birth. It's perfectly normal. Some mothers find that bringing the baby in bed for feedings at night or placing a bassinet within reach, allows them to meet the child's needs while losing minimal rest. During the day, nap after feedings if you can. If you need to return to work soon after your baby is born, or you're a stay-at-home mom that needs some time to herself, there are plenty of pumping and storage systems available that let you continue to breastfeed your baby as long as you want. Breastfeeding goes smoothly for most people, once mother and baby get the hang of it. For others, it may take time and practice. If you run into any problems, contact a lactation consultant, a person who specializes in breastfeeding.

    • Breast engorgement

      Animation

    •  

      Breast engorgement - Animation

      It's normal during the first week after a baby is born for a mother's breast to become heavy, and tender, and full as the milk is coming in. And even before that as the blood flow is expanding and the lymph flow is expanding to allow the milk to come in. But sometimes that progresses to something we call engorgement. I'm Dr. Alan Greene and I want to talk briefly about engorgement. What causes it, how you can prevent it, and what to do if engorgement does happen. We call it engorgement if the pain becomes really severe because the milk is so full in the breasts that it squeezes shut some of the blood and lymph vessels. So causes swelling in the tissues. It's not just too much milk. It's real swelling of the breasts. And it can be quite painful and make nursing kind of difficult. Probably the best way to prevent engorgement is frequent, early feeding. If you feed as often as the baby wants to, and at least every 2 to 3 hours when the baby is awake during the day, and no longer than 4 or 5 hours one stretch at night during that first week will often prevent engorgement. Engorgement is less common, too, if you don't do supplemental feedings. But even if you do everything perfectly, some women will still become engorged. It's not a guarantee. If you do and don't do anything, the engorgement will likely last for 7 to 10 days. But if you take steps to treat the engorgement, usually it will be gone within maybe 24 to 48 hours, at least the worst part of it. So what does treating engorgement mean? It's a couple of very simple steps. The first one is really to try to empty the breasts completely. Again, going back to frequent feeding and to encourage the baby to nurse to finish the first breast first. Don't try to switch breasts in between, but start and let them empty as much as they can. And then only after they come off it their timing, try the other breast. Then start with the opposite one next time. Then you can do a lot with cool and warm compresses. Doing a cool compress in between nursing can help reduce the swelling and reduce the tenderness. And then a warm compress you want to switch to in the 10 to 15 minutes before nursing to help encourage let down and help the breast drain more fully. You can actually get compresses that are made for this purpose that you can warm or you can cool. And they can fit inside a nursing bra. Another thing that can be very helpful are cabbage leaves. There have been a few studies suggesting this and a lot of personal experience people have had just taking a cabbage leaf out of the refrigerator and wearing it as a compress. There seems to something in there that does help. Whatever you do, you may also want some pain relief, something like acetaminophen. And if that's necessary don't hesitate if that's something that's going to keep you nursing because breast milk is the very best thing for kids.

    • Breastfeeding

      Animation

    •  

      Breastfeeding - Animation

      How you feed your baby is a personal decision, but if you breastfeed you're choosing to give your child a natural, nutritional food source that can benefit you AND your baby. Let's talk about breastfeeding. Many women ask me, What's so good about breastfeeding? Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby. It contains just the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. And they vary over time within each feeding and over the months as your baby grows, tailored. Breast milk also gives your baby the digestive enzymes, minerals, vitamins, hormones and flavors they need. Plus your baby gets antibodies and other immune factors from YOU that can help your baby resist some infections. Infants who breastfeed are less likely to have allergies, ear infections, gas, diarrhea, and constipation, skin problems, stomach or intestinal infections...and are also less likely to experience wheezing, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Breastfeeding helps mom too! You form a unique bond with your baby. You might lose pregnancy weight faster and, you have a lower risk of breast cancer, some types of ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis. Your baby will need to be fed a lot, often nearly around the clock during the first few weeks after birth. It's perfectly normal. Some mothers find that bringing the baby in bed for feedings at night or placing a bassinet within reach, allows them to meet the child's needs while losing minimal rest. During the day, nap after feedings if you can. If you need to return to work soon after your baby is born, or you're a stay-at-home mom that needs some time to herself, there are plenty of pumping and storage systems available that let you continue to breastfeed your baby as long as you want. Breastfeeding goes smoothly for most people, once mother and baby get the hang of it. For others, it may take time and practice. If you run into any problems, contact a lactation consultant, a person who specializes in breastfeeding.

      Self Care

       

      Review Date: 9/25/2018

      Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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