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Double Satisfaction

Reader Sheila U. writes:

"My little one loves to eat breast milk.  I remember the first time in the hospital when I held her in my arms and fed her.  I felt such an overwhelming love for her.  I could not believe how much satisfaction I got from knowing that I was giving her something that she needed.  I was really glad that I had done this."

Wonderful, Sheila!   Breast feeding helps prevent development of some allergies, gives immunity to many infections and contributes to bonding of mother to baby and vice-versa.   It's cheaper too, and easy to prepare!  Sure beats sterilizing things and getting up at night to heat a bottle.  Read "The Best Baby Food" to see more about what a valuable heritage you are providing for your baby!

Sheila continues:

"One of the things that really troubled me though was that all of a sudden at 2 months she started to have problems with her bowels and would not go at all.  I started to feed her a little bit of cereal and that started her going again.  I have one question though.  When is it a good time to start a baby on baby food that is in a jar?  My little one seems to have some problems with it at 4 months."

I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this question.  Cereal is good, but if your family is very prone to allergies you may wish to avoid wheat cereal too soon.  Scraped fresh ripe banana is tolerated early by most babies.   While my son tried to eat everything in sight very early on and tolerated everything (see Hints from Mum), my first daughter got rampant diarrhea and eczema from almost everything except breast milk which fortunately I had loads of.  The only other food we could give her was banana and rice cereal.   She didn't outgrow this until nine or ten months of age.

My third child was put on solid food at four months because my milk wasn't quite up to par at that point, due to overwork mostly.  Fortunately she did well, and by nine months I was able to stop nursing.

Here's some guidelines:

*   Eat a really nutritious diet yourself, with lots of liquids, because you'll be passing it on in nutrient-rich milk to your baby.  This protects your health and baby's.  I would take vitamins and minerals, too, but standard stuff, no herbal supplements without consulting a doctor.  Weigh yourself a couple times a week, and don't let yourself drop weight unless you happen to be already pretty overweight.  Especially get LOTS and LOTS of calcium, to start building your baby's bones and protect your own in later life.   If you start menstruating again while nursing, you'll probably need iron, too.   (By the way, nursing isn't an acceptable form of birth control, but you probably know that!)

*   You may have to avoid asparagus and/or an excess of cruciferous veggies in your own diet (see "What's up with the Cruciferae?") if they give your baby colic.   Some people have reported this problem with beans, too.

*   In very hot weather, your baby may need water in addition to your milk.  If she rejects the rubber nipple, try giving a half-teaspoon at a time of sterile and/or filtered water.  This possibly may have been the reason for your baby's constipation.

*   The more you feed your baby other foods, the less he or she may need to nurse, and this will diminish your milk supply.  Giving too much other food too soon might start your milk into a decline.  Don't start giving juices early on or this may spiral into loss of your supply, plus insufficient calcium and some other nutrients for baby.

*   If you have lots of allergies in your family, delay the introduction of other foods.  If you maintain a nutritious and abundant milk supply, your baby doesn't really require other food for some months, although most people recommend starting them on strained foods fairly early.

*   Don't think you have to stop nursing on someone else's timetable.  As long as you maintain your health, it's good for both of you.  Sooner or later either you or baby will want to stop. 

My mother's cousin, Catherine Brashear,  worked a couple of blocks from home where I also took a brief summer job.  At lunch time, someone always walked her 2 year old daughter over for a pre-nap snack.  Catherine had asked her pediatrician over a year earlier what would happen if she kept on nursing her.  The doctor replied, "Well, pretty soon she'll be able to ask for it."  And indeed that's what went on for quite a while.  I nursed my first daughter to 14 months, and I was also nursing my sister Debbie at the same time who was over a year and a half old.  I had to stop only because I started rapidly losing weight and became anemic.   My daughter Cathy was in the Navy, and ran herself ragged managing to run back and forth and nurse until her daughter Jackie was 5-1/2 months old, when the doctor ordered her to stop to protect her own health.

You'll know when it's time to quit; don't let anyone else influence you unless it's your own doctor.    

*   Consult your pediatrician!  But realize that your own instincts and research is sometimes the best guide as to what is the best diet for your healthy baby.

A funny family story is that my first daughter was born fat and continued that way although almost her entire diet was breast milk.  Back then very few women in the USA breast fed, although almost everyone in our family did.  During a doctor's home visit for my brothers and sisters who had bad colds, Doc glanced at my daughter and commented, "That baby is far too fat.  What is she eating?"   "Just milk," I told him.  "Well, feed her less."  "How am I supposed to do that?" I asked.   "Just poke small holes in the nipples with a needle so she needs to work harder to get her milk," he suggested, and then turned red when I reactively covered both my breasts and shuddered.  "I guess I can't suggest reducing the fat content of the milk either, can I?" he quipped, before rapidly leaving.

As you have discovered, nursing is a case of double satisfaction; yours and baby's.  And congratulations on making such a great, intelligent choice, Sheila!

See related resources:

The Sneaky Kitchen
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