Archives for June 2016

The New Rules for Starting Solids

Starting solids is an exciting time for your baby and the entire family.  Now your little one can join the rest of your clan for family meals at the table.  She may not be able to feed herself right away like everyone else, but she’s on her way to learning to enjoy food, meal time togetherness and healthy eating habits.

The rules about starting solids have changed in recent years.  What once were rigid instructions that disregarded a family’s and baby’s preferences are now replaced with a more flexible timeline and options for introducing solid foods.  Today we’re reviewing the new rules for starting solids.

Timing

The American Academy of Pediatrics once recommended starting solids at six months and to exclusively breastfeed up until that time.  Now the guidelines have been revised to starting solids between four and six months if your baby shows readiness.  What does readiness look like?  If your baby can sit up with assistance (as in, sit in a high chair), can hold up her head and shows interest in food (like watching you eat or reaching towards food), she’s probably ready to give it a go.  Exclusive breastfeeding should continue until you start solids and breastfeeding along with solids should continue until at least one year of age.  At one babies can start drinking cow’s milk if you choose to discontinue breastfeeding.

Where to Start

The New Rules for Starting SolidsThe old method of starting solids suggested beginning with rice cereal and other grain cereals, followed by vegetables, meats and then fruits.  This strategy reduced the risk of allergic reaction since rice and other grains are less likely to be allergens.  Also, starting sweet fruits later was believed to encourage a palate for vegetables and meats.  Now, almost anything goes.  You can start with meat, fruit or vegetables if you like, and you can skip the grains altogether.  Grains tend to be high in iron which many breastfed babies lack, but so are other healthy lean meats and produce.

Allergies

New studies show that delaying the introduction to foods due to potential allergies does not reduce risk of reaction.  Rather, introducing nut products, eggs and fish sooner can actually decrease risk of allergies.  There are only a few exceptions here:  If a close family member has allergies, consult your physician about your baby’s risk as allergies may be genetic.  Also, never give honey to a baby under one and beware of foods that are choking hazards like whole nuts or grapes.

The Wait Rule

Experts have varied opinions about waiting three or four days between introducing new foods to your baby.  On the one hand, waiting several days can help you identify an allergy if your baby does have a reaction to something she’s eaten.  However, that prolongs the process of trying new foods, drawing it out over many many months.  You will have to be the judge of what makes you comfortable and how your baby responds to various foods.  Remember, she will have her entire life to eat so rushing it is not necessary.  However, if she is enjoying food, experimenting can be fun and exciting.

A Chow Schedule

Shortly after your baby starts solids is a great time to initiate a meal schedule.  Your baby may be ready to eat during normal meal times with a set breakfast, lunch and dinner time as well as two snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  This consistency will help acclimate your baby to socialized eating and help ensure your baby isn’t grazing all day.  Constant snacking can result in poor meal-eating and picky eaters because they fill up on less healthy snack foods and aren’t hungry from substantive foods during meal times.

Starting solids is a wonderful opportunity to begin a lifetime of healthy eating.  Help your baby enjoy the flavors of fresh produce, lean meats and delightful food combinations.  Health is a journey which you started off on the best foot by breastfeeding.  Continue your hard work as your baby begins a new adventure with solid foods.

 

How Long Should a Breastfeeding Session Last?

Knowing how long a breastfeeding session should last depends on several factors:  the age of your baby, the size of your baby, number of times your baby feeds per day, the time of day and your baby’s breastfeeding “style.”  Breastfeeding sessions generally take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on all of these elements.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when determining how long should a breastfeeding session last:

  • Newborns feed very differently than older babies so the length of a breastfeeding session will vary based on your baby’s age.  A newborn may feed several times an hour or every hour for short periods of time.  Newborns tend to be very sleepy so they may feed for as little as 5 minutes and then fall asleep at the breast.  This may mean shorter, more frequent feedings.  As your baby gets older, he will likely progress to longer breastfeeding sessions less times a day.
  • How Long Should a Breastfeeding Session Last?After one month, babies usually consume 19 to 30 oz. per day, with the average being 25 oz.  Therefore, if your baby is drinking less per feeding, you may have shorter breastfeeding sessions more times daily.  However, some babies continue to “snack” feed often throughout the day.
  • When your baby starts solids at six months of age, breast milk consumption usually drops.  You may only feed four or five times a day because your baby is filling up on solids. Breast milk is still important for your baby’s growth and development, however, so weaning at this time is not recommended.
  • As babies become more aware of their surroundings, they can often be distracted during feedings, which can cause them to take longer than usual.  It is best to create a distraction free environment for feedings whenever possible.  This includes turning off music and the television, not having conversations and perhaps diming the lights to make your session calm and soothing for your baby.
  • Knowing the signs that your baby is full and satisfied can be helpful in determining how long should a breastfeeding session last.  When your baby slows suckling and swallowing, relaxes his body and pulls off the breast on his own, he may be done nursing.  Give him a minute to digest by placing him on your chest or burping him.  Then offer the other breast.  If he is still hungry, he will continue to nurse.
  • Most babies nurse on both breasts during a feeding.  New information about breast milk suggests that it is best for a baby to drink mostly from one breast to nurse through the foremilk and get to the hindmilk.  Then offer the other breast as a “snack” until your baby is completely satisfied.  Start on the opposite breast with the next feeding.
  • Babies tend to be fussier later in the day.  Milk supply also tends to be lower in the afternoons and evenings.  This is by design.  Allowing your baby to suckle longer at the breast will soothe him when he is fussy.  That means afternoon and evening breastfeeding sessions may go longer because it will take longer for your baby to nurse to satiate himself and he will enjoy the comfort of being at the breast.

Knowing how long should a breastfeeding session last is as individual as your baby.  Let your baby be your guide.  Well-fed babies grow steadily, have consistent wet and dirty diapers and are generally happy after feedings.  Happy Breastfeeding!

 

Pool Time with Baby

Pool Time with BabyThis summer may be your baby’s first opportunity to take a dip in the pool.  Pool time with baby can be exciting for everyone.  Some babies are natural-born fish and enjoy the water immediately.  Others need more time to get acquainted with the concept of submersion.  But if your child is like most, they will eventually learn to love visiting the pool no matter what his swim level.  Today we’re giving you some tips on pool time with baby to help you have a great first summer pool experience with your little love.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend swim lessons until around age four when children have the physical capability to stay afloat during swimming.  Until then, acclimating your baby with the water and making pool time with baby fun is the name of the game.

Teaching Baby to Like the Water

Bath time is a good opportunity to “test the waters,” so to speak.  Make bath time enjoyable by singing, laughing and playing with toys.  Don’t be hesitant to get your baby’s head and face wet and to splash around to get him used to the concept.  If your baby doesn’t like it, try it a few times during every bath and then go back to having fun. If your baby does like getting his face wet, continue to do it throughout the bath.

In and out of the bath you can teach your baby to hold his breath by blowing in his face.  Call his name and then count to three or say “ready, go” and then blow gently.  He will probably make a funny face but he’ll learn to not swallow the air, and therefore water, when he hears your cue.  After you think he gets the hang of it, try doing it in the bath: give the cue, blow and then pour water over his face.  Eventually you won’t have to blow; he’ll know to hold his breath from the verbal cue.

When you do venture out to the pool for the first time, make it a super fun experience.  Ensure your baby is well rested and well fed before the outing.  Being in a good mood will help your baby enjoy this new adventure.  Wear your smile and be as animated an excited as possible. If you are nervous, don’t let it show.  Any sight of apprehension on your part may sway your baby.  Keep the encounter short, even if your baby is having fun.  One to two hours at a pool is all an infant can handle.  It is a grand sensory experience plus his body will be working hard to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Babies have an innate need to feel safe and secure.  When it comes to water, you should also make safety your baby’s top priority.  Hold onto your baby tightly in the pool.  Squirmy babies may try to get free of your grip so make sure you have a good handle on your baby.  Never leave your baby unsupervised around a pool or any body of water.

Best Pool Games with Baby

Playing games in the pool will help ensure a good time for everyone.  Most games require just a little imagination on your part.  Here are a few to get you started:

Humpty Dumpty:  Sit your baby on the side of the pool while holding on to him.  Sing Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall and when you get to the fall part, lift your baby off the side and into the pool.

Ring Around the Rosey:  Twirl your baby to the lyrics of Ring Around the Rosey.  When you get to the end say “splashes, splashes, we all fall down,” and gently dip your baby a little deeper into the water.

Pass the Baby:  If you have family or friends at the pool with you, play a game of pass the baby.  Each person can take turns dipping, twirling or splashing with baby before passing him to the next adult.

Peek-a-boo:  Delight your baby as you hide under water and then pop up for a fun game of peek-a-boo.

Hokie Pokie:  Get your baby acclimated to the pool and his body parts by playing this fun interactive game. Splash each body part in the water when you call it out.

Best Pool Toys with Baby

You don’t need many toys to entertain your baby at the pool.  A few squishy animals that collect water that you can squeeze out are always fun.  Small plastic cups, watering cans or even measuring cups can be exciting too.  Once your baby has good head control, you may want to get a baby float where your baby can sit in the middle and you can take him for a spin around the pool.  Most come with an overhead shade to block the sun.

Enjoy pool time with baby this summer!!

How Does Breastfeeding Work – Part 2

As you breastfeed your baby and ponder the meaning of life, you may also wonder to yourself “how does breastfeeding work?”  Truth be told, it is a complex and miraculous process of the female body.  As we discussed yesterday, lactation begins as a hormonal function.  Today we’ll discover that breastfeeding quickly becomes a labor of love based on supply and demand in part 2 of our series on how does breastfeeding work.

Once your milk supply is fully in, the name of the game is supply and demand.  The more the breast is stimulated and emptied, the more milk you will produce.  Here’s how it works:

how does breastfeeding workWhen your baby latches and starts stimulating your breast, two hormones are released: prolactin and oxytocin.  Both are essential for milk production.  Prolactin receives nutrients from your body via your blood to produce milk.  Oxytocin contracts the cells in the mammary glands to push milk out of the nipple and into your baby’s mouth.  This is known as the milk ejection reflex or let-down.

Mammary glands are made of channels where milk travels called milk ducts and alveoli, a group of tissues that secrete milk.  Inside the alveoli are cells that produce milk called lactocytes.  On lactocytes are prolactin receptors that have the ability to signal the production of breast milk.  To make milk, the hormone prolactin must meet its receptors to get the party started.  When milk fills the alveoli, the shape of the walls change and blocks the receptors so the signal cannot be given to make more milk. More receptor sites mean more potential milk production.  Researchers believe frequent breastfeeding in the first few weeks after childbirth can increase prolactin receptors.

Additionally, breast milk contains Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation or FIL that helps maintain milk supply.  When the breast is full of milk and therefore FIL, breast milk production slows.  Conversely, when the breast is drained and FIL is not present, production is stimulated again.

Both prolactin receptors and FIL work on a supply-and-demand basis.  Therefore, if you feel your milk supply is low, breastfeeding more often to drain your breast will cause your body to automatically refill it.  Women are often mistaken about breast size and milk supply.  Women of any size breasts can produce adequate milk for their babies.  Moms with smaller breasts may drain them faster but they will regenerate milk as long as breastfeeding continues.  Women with larger breasts may be able to store more milk at one time.

Breastfeeding is an amazing biological and emotional experience.  Now that you know how breastfeeding works, use this knowledge to your advantage for successful breastfeeding.

Did you know…

  • Let-downs can occur when you think about your baby, when you hear your baby or another baby cry, or when it is a normal feeding time.
  • You have multiple let-downs during every feeding although you may not feel them at all.
  • One study indicated that babies only drink about 75% of their mother’s milk in a day.
  • Breast milk production can continue indefinitely if breasts continue to be stimulated.
  • Substances enter breast milk through the bloodstream as it flows past the mammary glands.

Sources: Kellymom.com, LaLecheLeague and Sutter Health

 

How Does Breastfeeding Work – Part 1

How Does Breastfeeding Work Breastfeeding is a phenomenal journey unlike any other in your life.  Bonding with your baby and providing the best nutritional and emotional start to life is an amazing gift you can give your precious child.  Understanding the biology and mechanics of breastfeeding is not only fascinating, it can help you successfully breastfeed.  If you’ve ever thought “how does breastfeeding work” during a breastfeeding session, you’ve come to the right place.  We’re breaking it down for you here.

Early Breast Milk Production

Breast milk production starts as a function of the hormones you produce during pregnancy.  Your body begins producing breast milk as early as your second trimester.  While it is unlikely that you would be able to express it, the lactation process starts during pregnancy to ensure you are ready to feed your baby the good stuff when he arrives.  This early milk is called colostrum and that is what your baby will drink for the first few days after birth.  Colostrum develops through a specific cocktail of hormones that you are brewing during pregnancy.  However, progesterone, another hormone you have during pregnancy, prohibits it from being expressed.

Having a baby changes everything, they say. And this is true for the lactation process too.  When you give birth, your progesterone, estrogen and other hormone levels drop and prolactin levels increase which signals your body to release colostrum for your baby to enjoy.  Although it doesn’t seem like much, colostrum is usually a sufficient source of nutrients for most babies.  It is full of fat and protein that babies need to survive their first few days of life.

Cue the Breast Milk

Two to three days after giving birth, you will start to feel your breasts getting full.  This is when your milk “comes in” and mature breast milk production begins.  Again, this is a by-product of hormones.

When your baby latches, she creates a suction on your milk sinuses that causes milk to flow.  This is one reason why proper latch is so important.  Your baby cannot drink milk adequately without a good latch.  Latch may become more essential when your milk supply levels off a few weeks later and milk is not so abundantly available.  Babies without proper latch and a good suck may then struggle to get milk.

If you thought your breasts were getting large during pregnancy, you may be surprised that they can expand even further to accommodate breastfeeding.  Many new moms experience breast discomfort at this stage because their breasts feel very full and are sometimes engorged.  Feeding or pumping often can help relieve the pain and prevent plugged ducts.

Also, as you and your baby get the hang of breastfeeding and work on proper latch, your nipples may feel sore and tender.  Rubbing breast milk on your nipples and letting them air dry is the best way to heal and soothe sore nipples.  As both of you become more familiar with breastfeeding, the pain usually subsides.  If breastfeeding is extremely painful at any time or if sore nipples persist for more than a few weeks, seek help from a lactation consultant.

These two early stages of breastfeeding are hormonally driven.  They occur whether a baby breastfeeds or not.  It’s not until the next stage that breastfeeding takes on its true persona – a process of supply and demand.  We will dive into this aspect of breastfeeding tomorrow.

Did you Know….

  • The areola becomes dark and enlarged during pregnancy and breastfeeding to help your baby find your nipple.
  • There are 15 to 20 holes on the nipple that can express breast milk.
  • The areola is a self-cleaning device!  The bumps you may notice excrete oil that helps cleanse your breast to keep it free of bacteria and anything else that may cause infection.
  • You produce two types of mature milk: foremilk is thinner and higher in calories while hindmilk is thicker and has more fat.

Sources: Kellymom.com, LaLecheLeague and Sutter Health

Preparing for Baby: 3 Things to Do for your Baby before Giving Birth

Newborns are magnificent and amazing beings.  When your baby arrives you may find yourself staring at her for hours, fascinated by the miracle of human life.  Your baby, on the other hand, will be busy with her own agenda which primarily includes breastfeeding, soiling diapers and sleeping.  Therefore, preparing for baby should include making sure you have everything you’ll need to take care of your baby’s basic needs.  Here are 3 things to do for your baby before giving birth:

Preparing for Breastfeeding

Your baby will probably be eager to try breastfeeding as soon as she is born so be ready to rock and roll right away.  Fortunately, you don’t need much to breastfeed your baby!  If you’ve already made the decision to breastfeed, you’ve probably done some research.  You know it is the single best nutrition for your newborn and has many benefits for you as well.  Hopefully you’ve taken a breastfeeding class to teach you the mechanics of proper latch and breastfeeding positions and to explain hunger cues and other details you’ll want to know to adequately and lovingly feed your baby.

preparing for breastfeedingBeyond being armed with knowledge, you’ll want to purchase a few supplies.  Nursing bras are essential for successful breastfeeding.  You should buy a few nursing bras in your third trimester or whenever your regular bras are feeling too tight.  Nursing bras make excellent maternity bras!  Be sure to start with nursing bras that are made from breathable, flexible material that will allow for fluctuations as your milk comes in.  A sleep/leisure nursing bra is helpful for nighttime nursing because it features a front-closure for easy breastfeeding access and no uncomfortable back closures during sleep. Nursing tanks are also great for nursing day or night.

As for other breastfeeding supplies, many new moms find breastfeeding easier with a nursing pillow.  You may also need lanolin cream in case you have sore nipples in your early nursing days.  Washable nursing pads are great to have too.  They offer modesty and prevent embarrassing leakage.

Preparing for Diapering

Get ready for 8 to 15 diaper changes a day when your baby arrives.  You will need diapers (of course), as well as wipes or a wet washcloth and a diaper barrier cream.  Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation of a diaper rash cream so you can have it on hand in case your baby needs it.  Most parents set up a diaper changing station in their baby’s room and some have another one on a different level of their home too.  The changing station should be a comfortable height for both parents to change diapers.  You’ll want a soft diaper changing cushion and a few covers for it.  Consider having hand sanitizer nearby for quick cleaning.  Some parents also opt for a wipes warmer and overhead mobile to distract the baby during diaper changes.

Preparing for Sleeping

Your baby will need a safe place to sleep as soon as you get home from the hospital. Experts recommend that babies sleep in the same room with their mothers for the first few months of life, but not in the same bed.  Having a basinet next to your bed is a great choice.  Eventually your baby will move to her own crib so it’s wise to have it assembled before your baby arrives and have the appropriate size mattress as well.  Check consumer reports for crib safety features and individual crib ratings.  Remember, nothing should be in your baby’s crib.  Use only a bottom fitted sheet beneath your baby.  You may want to put a waterproof pad beneath the fitted sheet to avoid leakage onto the mattress.

Your baby doesn’t need much at the beginning of life.  Preparing for baby by collecting the knowledge and supplies you need for breastfeeding, diapering and sleeping takes care of most of your baby’s basic needs.  Add a lot of love and your baby will be lucky to have you as her mom!

How Dads can be Involved in Pregnancy

When you’re expecting, you may feel like everything is changing in your life…really fast!  Well, it may not be as obvious, but things are changing for your husband as well.  His belly may not be protruding as much as yours (although some expectant dads do grow along side their wives) and he may not experience every jolting hormonal stage (actually, he probably will but on the opposite end from you), but he is wrapping his head and his heart around having a baby too.  To help keep both of you on the same page as you grow and change to prepare for your baby, we’re sharing how dads can be involved in pregnancy.

Announce Together:  Sometimes moms-to-be are so excited to share the news of their pregnancy, they leave dad out in the cold.  It took two to get you pregnant so the announcement should be about both of you, and the baby of course!  Tell friends and family together or come up with a clever way to share the joyous news such as a funny video, picture or practical joke.

Invite Him to All Prenatal Appointments:  He may not be able to make every one of them, but encourage your husband to be at the big ones including all ultrasounds.  Seeing your bump grow is terrific, but watching your baby flip and her little heartbeat in an ultrasound is out of this world for dads.  Remind him when an appointment includes and ultrasound so he can try to be present.  Also, allow him to ask questions, especially about his own concerns or symptoms he sees in you that you may not realize.

How Dads can be Involved in PregnancyLet Him Feel the Excitement:  Share your baby’s movements with dad to help him experience the joys of pregnancy.  When you’re together and your baby is active, let him gently place his hands on your belly to feel the baby move.  He can even engage the baby in a back-and-forth game of kicking and punching as long as it doesn’t cause you any pain, of course.

Make Decisions Together:  Obviously you’re going to decide on a name together, but dads can be involved in pregnancy way beyond naming your child.  Even if he’s not the decorating type or isn’t too concerned about color schemes for your playroom, ask his opinion and help when decorating the nursery and registering for car seats, learning toys and other baby supplies.  He may surprise you by caring more than you think.  Either way, he’ll feel good getting to lend his voice to fun decisions for your baby.

Celebrate Together…or Separately:  Some parents-to-be opt for a couple’s shower, which is a fun way to get all of your friends together to share in this exciting time in your life.  If showers are not your husband’s bag, let your girlfriends throw you a baby shower and get his guy friends to give him a dad party, often called dadchelor party.  He can have one last hurray with friends before the baby arrives.

Learn about Babies Together:  It’s a great idea to take prenatal classes to learn about childbirth, breastfeeding, baby care and CPR/First Aid.  Your husband will need to learn about all of these topics as well so plan to attend prenatal classes together.  Yes, he should even come to the breastfeeding class because you’ll want all the support you can get when the time comes to feed your baby.  Plus, prenatal classes are a great place to meet other expecting parents in your area.

Exercise Together:  If your hubby’s bump is trying to keep up with yours, get active together.  Obstetricians recommend daily exercise for pregnant women, although there are a few limitations.  Grab your guy and go for a walk or a swim.  You can even hit the gym together.  Keep each other on track and challenged with your workouts so you’re both healthy and energized when your baby arrives.

Share these ideas of how dads can be involved in pregnancy with your husband and get excited about welcoming your new baby together!

Weaning Part 2: How to Stop Breastfeeding

Weaning is a very personal decision that should not be taken lightly.  Yesterday we discussed baby-led weaning and mother-led weaning as well as recommendations from experts in breastfeeding and baby development. Today we’re sharing information on the mechanics of how to stop breastfeeding.

Here are a few tips for how to stop breastfeeding:

  • Weaning:  How to Stop BreastfeedingWhen your baby starts solids you’ll probably breastfeed your baby and then let her taste new foods.  When your baby shows signs of wanting to stop breastfeeding, switch the order and give the solids first. This will help him fill up on the nutrients from food and then fill in with breast milk.  Ultimately he should be drinking less milk, which will give your body time to slowly wind down the milk production.
  • If your baby is 12 months or older, introduce cow’s milk along with breast milk.  Again, this will fill your baby and give him the satisfaction and nutrients of milk.  Start with it in a bottle if he’s used to getting breast milk from a bottle occasionally.  Then move to a sippy cup when he’s ready.  You can even mix breast milk and cow’s milk together.
  • Also at 12 months or older you can give your baby water from a bottle or sippy cup.  Water is filling as well, and it’s great to ensure your baby is well-hydrated when he is breastfeeding less often.
  • Breastfeed fewer times a day.  Many moms who wean end up saving the first morning feeding and nighttime feeding as the last two.  Then they drop the morning feeding and eventually the nighttime feeding.
  • Shorten your breastfeeding sessions by a few minutes every few days.  Your baby can still enjoy breast milk and being close to you while gradually moving towards not breastfeeding.
  • Hold off on breastfeeding if you know your baby can fill up on solids.  Postponing feedings may make your baby forget about breastfeeding altogether.  Distraction is a wonderful thing!
  • If you think your baby breastfeeds only for comfort, try other ways of comforting him.  Massaging, rocking, singing and cuddling are all ways to comfort your baby without breastfeeding.  These activities still offer the closeness and security of breastfeeding sessions.
  • Don’t pump unless you have to.  Pumping stimulates your breasts to produce more milk.  If your goal is to wean, you need to train your body to stop producing milk.  If you feel engorged, pump a little until the pain subsides but don’t empty the breast.
  • Avoid weaning during eventful times in your baby’s life.  If you are getting a new nanny, moving to a new city or your baby is learning a critical new skill, don’t try to change yet another thing.  Instead, get over the current hurdle and then start the weaning process.  Babies often need to focus on one thing at a time.
  • Don’t wean just because your baby turned one or you feel pressured to do so by other people.  Weaning is a decision between you and your baby.  You shouldn’t allow anyone else to interfere or influence your choice.
  • Make sure you and your baby are ready to wean before you begin the process.  Once your milk supply decreases, in can be very difficult to get it back again.  Don’t make the decision hastily.

When breastfeeding comes to an end, reflect on the experience with pride.  You should feel amazing about offering your baby the very best nutrient and a terrific start to life!

Weaning Part 1: How to Stop Breastfeeding

Weaning:  How to Stop BreastfeedingWhen the time comes for breastfeeding to end, you should approach the weaning process carefully.  Breastfeeding has been a mutual experience for you and your baby which means that weaning should probably be a mutual decision as well.  Today we’re exploring how to stop breastfeeding to ensure you and your baby wean healthily and lovingly.

Breastfeeding is a journey like no other in life.  The bond you’ve solidified with your baby and the perfect nutrition with its vast benefits will last a lifetime.  But as they say, “all good things must end.”  Knowing how to stop breastfeeding and when to stop breastfeeding can be somewhat complicated since both of your bodies and your emotions are attached.  Before you wean, consider the following:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby’s life.  After around six months you can introduce solids but the AAP recommends continuing breastfeeding along with solids for at least one year.  If you have to wean before one year, your baby will need formula and then can switch to milk when he is one.  When making the transition from breast milk to formula, do it slowly.  Try to mix the two together to get your baby acclimated.  Prior to one year, experts only recommend you stop breastfeeding if it is a medical necessity or if your baby refuses to nurse to the point that his health would be jeopardized.

Once you introduce solids at six months, you may notice a change in your breast milk supply.  As your baby becomes more familiar with eating and continues to eat more solids, he will begin getting more and more nutrients from food and might need less breast milk.  However, your baby also will grow a great deal and become more active so breast milk is still necessary and a terrific source of nourishment for your baby.

Experts recommend baby-led weaning, which means that you follow the lead from your baby.  If you find that he’s no longer interested in breastfeeding after he’s gotten the hang of solid foods, this may be a sign he’s ready to wean.  This often occurs at some point around or after 12 months when your baby is getting plenty of nutrients from solids and is more active.  However, keep in mind some behaviors may not actually be signs of weaning.  Nursing may be more challenging when your baby is working on a new skill, is sick, or is anxious or distressed.  Before making the decision to wean, be positive that your baby is giving you the signal to stop breastfeeding because reversing the process is very difficult.

Mother-led weaning is when you as the mother decide when to stop breastfeeding.  This should be done gradually to help you and your baby adjust.  Never abruptly stop breastfeeding because it could cause your baby to suffer nutritionally or emotionally.

Weaning quickly may also have side-effects for you.  Your breasts may get engorged which is very uncomfortable and may cause plugged ducts and even mastitis.  You also may suffer from extreme emotions as your hormones fluctuate from weaning.

Weaning can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.  It all depends on how your baby reacts.  In the case of baby-led weaning, things may go faster because your baby is calling the shots.  Mother-led weaning can be paced based on everyone’s needs.

Tomorrow we will take a look at exactly how to stop weaning to ensure it is a healthy physical and emotional experience for you and your baby.

Chemical Exposure and the Risk of Early Breastfeeding Termination

A Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) study conducted out of Brown University found links between chemical exposure and the risk of early breastfeeding termination.  They studied the effects of perfluorooctanoic acid, often referred to as PFOA and C8, on breastfeeding length and discovered a strong correlation to an end to breastfeeding when PFOA levels were highest.

PFOA is a chemical used to manufacture many consumer goods.  It was introduced in the 1940s and is now prevalent in 98% of the American population.  Products such as cookware, carpeting, cleaning solutions and food containers are made with PFOA.  PFOAs are also found in food, water and are especially high in microwave popcorn bags.

early breastfeeding terminationThe chemical has been deemed toxic and carcinogenic.  Prior studies show that people living near manufacturing plants that emit PFOAs are at higher risk for certain types of cancer, high cholesterol, digestive disorders and thyroid conditions.

The recent study published in Environmental Research and reported on by Science Daily followed 336 pregnant women who lived near a plant that emits a good deal of chemicals.  On average the women had twice the level of PFOAs than pregnant women in other areas of the country.

While PFOAs are dangerous for mothers and their developing babies, this study found that the chemical impacts length of breastfeeding.  The research shows that new moms with the highest 25% of PFOAs in their bloodstream had 77% increased risk of terminating breastfeeding by three months and 41% risk of ending breastfeeding by six months.  This was compared to women in the study with the lowest 25% of PFOAs in their bloodstream.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for at least one year.

Based on animal studies researchers believe that PFOAs may alter mammary glands, which makes breastfeeding more difficult.  These chemicals may also disrupt hormones and milk-protein genes in lactating mothers, which could change the taste of breast milk and reduce milk supply.

While further studies are necessary to determine exactly why breastfeeding is interrupted by PFOAs, this recent study shows a strong correlation between chemical exposure and risk of early breastfeeding termination.  Reducing PFOA exposure may help.  This can be done by filtering water that may be contaminated and eating fresh produce and meats that are not containerized.