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Breastfeeding Is Tough but Worthwhile

Rebecca D. Williams

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For all its health benefits, breastfeeding isn't always easy. In the early weeks, it can be painful. A woman's nipples may become sore or cracked. She may experience engorgement more than a bottle-feeding mother, when the breasts become so full of milk they're hard and painful. Some nursing women also develop clogged milk ducts, which can lead to mastitis, a painful infection of the breast. While most nursing problems can be solved with home remedies, mastitis requires prompt medical care see "Tips for Breast-Feeding Success".

Women who plan to go back to work soon after birth will have to plan carefully if they want to breast-feed. If her job allows, a new mother can pump her breast milk several times during the day, and refrigerate or freeze it for the baby to take in a bottle later. Some women alternate nursing at night and on weekends with daytime bottles of formula.

In either case, a nursing mother is physically tied to her baby more than a bottle-feeding mother. The baby needs her for nourishment, and she needs to nurse regularly to avoid getting uncomfortably full breasts. But instead of feeling it's a chore, nursing mothers often cite this close relationship as one of the greatest joys of nursing.

If a woman is unsure whether she wants to nurse, she can try it for a few weeks and switch if she doesn't like it. It's very difficult to switch to breastfeeding after bottle-feeding has begun.

If she plans to breastfeed, a new mother should learn as much as possible about it before the baby is born. Obstetricians, pediatricians, childbirth instructors, nurses, and midwives can all offer information about nursing. But, perhaps the best ongoing support for a nursing mother is someone who has successfully nursed a baby.

La Leche League, an international support organization for nursing mothers, has chapters in many cities that meet regularly, to discuss breastfeeding problems and offer support.

Most La Leche League chapters allow women to come to a few meetings without charge. League leaders offer advice by phone as well. To find a convenient La Leche League chapter, call 1-800-LA-LECHE (1-800-525-3243) or contact the organization's world wide web site at www.lalecheleague.org.

Rebecca D. Williams is a writer in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Isadora Stehlin is a member of FDA's public affairs staff.

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