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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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  • Rated 0 out of 5 by 31reviewers.
    Rated 0 out of 5 by I love being able to breastfeed. It's one thing I can do for our daughter that my husband cant!!:P I didn't/don't want to give her a bottle even with milk I've pumped. The nurses at the hospital also told me to at least wait 2-3weeks (or don't give one at all) before giving her a soother because, it can create nipple confusion which can make breastfeeding harder. Breastfeeding gives us time to bond as well. Not to mention all of the benefits to her from being breast fed. It is exhausting. Especially at first because she was up so often through the night and only I could feed her. Well worth it though. It does get better! They do start to go longer through the night without eating. Best decision I made hands down! :) September 12, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by Breastfeeding for me has been extremely HARD. My baby biy was born May 6, 2014...and I am having a Very difficult time. I know its only been about 4 days-but my breasts Really hurt and my right one seems to be expressing colostrum just fine, but my left one doesn't even pump out-nor can I get my baby to latch on..My nipples are huge and my left breast is extremely hard. I just moved to Okinawa, Japan for my husbands duty station (he's a Marine) in March. I don't know anyone here and have been having an extremely difficult time with this whole breast feeding thing. I WANT to breastfeed because I know of the great benefits it provides my baby. I went through labor with no pain medication and want everything geared towards a healthy baby and the best way to do this is through breastfeeding..but I had no idea it would be this hard. I tried to see a lactation consultant in the hospital-but she had other appointments and couldn't see me...I'm sooo lost!!! I've tried googling to find out what to do-and every site I went to said that I may hav a clogged duct and that I need to add heat to my breast to make it express during pumping-Ive done this ..but im still only expressing very few drops...not anywhere close that my right breast is expressing?? I wish there was someone to talk to about this. My breast is soo sore and soo hard. Ive tried massaging it and applying heated water and a heat pad and still such a minute amount and no let down. Its still rock hard and I cant even get the nipple which is so engorged into the babys mouth.. May 9, 2014
    Rated 0 out of 5 by I have been breastfeeding for a little over a month now. There are days I want to quit because Im exhausted but I keep doing it because I love the bond between me and my little girl and I love feeling like i am giving her whats best! :-) October 1, 2013
    Rated 0 out of 5 Love it! I'm so glad I chose to breastfeed. This article confirms what I hoped my goals would be! August 27, 2013
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