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Breastfeeding! Common questions, fast answers.

What is breast milk? How does breastfeeding work? Does it really make your child a genius? We’ve got a few answers to some frequently asked questions.
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What is breast milk? Unlike the stuff in the dairy aisle of the grocery store, breast milk is actually alive! Not only does it have protein, fats and sugars, but it also contains living cells and antibodies that help a baby fight illness. Overheating breast milk can actually make it less healthful, so don’t microwave or boil pumped milk. Instead, submerge a sealed pumped bottle in a bowl of warm water for a minute and then swirl it gently. Repeat as needed until the milk is body temperature.

How does breastfeeding work? Basically, specialized glands in a breast make milk from a mom’s blood and bodily fluids. Breastfeeding is a feedback cycle between mom and baby: The action of the baby’s tongue stimulates the glands to make more milk.

Is it supposed to hurt? It’s normal to have nipple pain in the first few days of breastfeeding as your milk comes in. Having an improper latch can also cause pain, so make sure the baby is sucking on the whole nipple, not just the tip. After the first few days, breastfeeding should be completely painless. If it’s not, consult with your pediatrician or a certified lactation consultant.

Does breastfeeding make babies smarter? Several long-term studies have suggested that breastfed babies average about two to five more IQ points than their bottle-fed counterparts. But it’s nearly impossible to know if such a small difference is the result of breast milk itself or other factors, like babies having more time to interact with their moms or breastfeeding moms being healthier to begin with.

Will breastfeeding make my baby healthier? Breastfeeding can’t keep your baby from ever getting sick, but the extra antibodies do make breastfed babies statistically less likely to get sick in the first year. Also, for reasons not fully understood, breastfed babies are less likely to become obese or suffer chronic diseases as adults.

Sandy & Marcie Jones are the authors of Great Expectations: Your All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy & Childbirth. Order your copy from Barnes & Noble.

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