At this point in your pregnancy, you may be contemplating the best choice for feeding your baby. While each woman must make her decision based on what is best for her and her child, a substantial body of evidence points to numerous breastfeeding benefits for both mom and baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women breastfeed for at least the first 12 months of a baby’s life for both parties to reap breastfeeding’s benefits. For babies, breast milk provides a healthy balance of nutrients that aid growth and protect against common childhood illnesses. Breastfeeding helps moms develop a bond with their little ones and experience less postpartum depression. A hormone released in response to an infant’s sucking stimulates the uterus to get smaller, and some evidence even suggests that women who breastfeed are at less risk for certain types of cancer. Breastfeeding moms also burn calories each day as their bodies use stored fat to generate energy to nourish their babies.
Learning the Basics
A baby is born with the instinct to suckle at his or her mother’s breast, and when the time comes to do so, the mother’s body knows exactly what to do. When a baby begins to suck, the mother’s let-down reflex kicks in: nerves in the nipple notify the brain, which releases hormones that signal ducts in the breast to let down the milk to the nipples. This typically occurs a few days after a baby’s birth. While the let-down reflex passes without notice by some women, others may feel temporary tingling in their breasts.
Breastfeeding should always begin the same way. When your baby is ready to nurse, cup your breast in your hand, stroke your baby’s lips with your nipple and quickly center the nipple in your baby’s mouth when it opens. The entire nipple and most of the areola should be inside your baby’s mouth when he or she begins sucking, which should be smooth and even. You should feel a slight tugging and perhaps some mild discomfort for a few days, but no pain. Whether you cradle your baby or lie on your side during breastfeeding, always ensure his or her whole body is turned toward you. Most of all, enjoy this special time together.
- One of the best ways to clear the mind and invigorate the body during pregnancy is with massage from a certified prenatal massage therapist. Expectant mothers can undergo massage at any point during pregnancy and enjoy benefits that include reduced pain, fewer symptoms of depression and relief for aching muscles and joints. Many professionals recommend Swedish massage for pregnant women, as this method uses mild pressure applied to muscle groups to reduce tension and improve blood circulation. If you have any concerns, speak to your healthcare provider before scheduling a massage.
- Certain smells can be comforting and relaxing during pregnancy and especially during labor. While you should stay away from overpowering fragrances, simple scents such as lavender from candles or incense can help reduce stress.