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Breastfeeding: 7 Things You Might Not Know

Interesting Breastfeeding Facts
-- By Jenny Sigler, Pregnancy & Parenting Writer

Breastfeeding is the perfect food for a growing baby, full of nutrients, antibodies, and a perfect balance of fat and calories. Nursing can also be a rewarding and healthy experience for mom too.

Preparing to breastfeed takes time, research and support. Although breastfeeding is a natural and healthy process, it doesn't come naturally (or easily) to everyone. Here are seven other facts that you may not have heard about breastfeeding, including its benefits, complications, and protective laws!

Fact #1: Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
Recent studies showed that pre-menopausal women who breastfed their children were 50 percent less likely to develop breast cancer, compared to women who did not nurse their children. This research also supported a strong correlation between a woman's duration of breastfeeding and her risk reduction rate--especially for women who nursed longer than one year. Additional research has shown a correlation between women who were breastfed as infants and a lower risk of breast cancer later in life.

Fact #2: Your breast size has nothing to do with the amount of milk you can produce.
The size of your breasts is determined by the amount of fatty tissue they contain. There is no evidence to suggest that women with small breasts (or nipples for that matter) have more problems with low milk production. Milk is produced in the mammary glands that are present in all women's breasts. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of breast sizes, rest assured that their girth (or lack thereof) will have no impact on your ability to produce enough milk for your baby.

Fact #3: Nursing mothers are protected by U.S. Laws.
The Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, signed into effect by President Clinton in 1999, included language that protects a woman's right to breastfeed anywhere on federal property. Other examples of federal laws that protect a nursing mother's rights are:
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act Amendment, which protects nursing women from being fired or discriminated against for expressing breast milk during their breaks.
  • The Breastfeeding Promotion Employers' Tax Incentive Act, which provides tax breaks to companies who create nursing stations at the workplace.
  • The Safe and Effective Breast Pumps Act, which developed federal-regulated standards for breast pumps.
Several states provide immediate jury duty exemptions for lactating mothers, and in almost every state, a woman's right to nurse in public is legal and exempt from indecency prosecution. State laws vary, so be sure to research your own. Know your rights and if you are comfortable nursing in public, exercise that right!

Fact #4: Breastfeeding can be difficult, even with the best intentions.
You may have preconceived notions that nursing will be an easy and natural transition for you and your baby. For some, breastfeeding comes easily and without complication. But for other women, it becomes a real struggle. Babies born to mothers who received pain relief (especially through the use of narcotics) often experience delayed success in nursing because they are sedated. Other contributing factors that can disrupt a nursing relationship are: a traumatic birth, pain from a C-section, early separation of infant and mother after delivery, improper latching, thrush, male circumcision, early introduction of bottles, and the use of pacifiers. If you are having difficulties breastfeeding, contact your local La Leche League or a lactation consultant. The ability to breastfeed your baby is well worth the fight!

Fact #5: Your baby can smell the unique sent of your breast milk.
Babies are born with an instinct to suck and root for food, but a newborn's sense of smell is a strong sense that helps a baby bond with her parents. While baby can smell both of you, she can also detect the distinct smell of her mother's milk! By simply holding your baby near your chest, she'll turn her head and root for your breast if she's hungry. This is nature's design for a strong nursing relationship!

Fact #6: Your breasts will be ultra sensitive and responsive.
When your milk comes in, you can expect a monumental leap in your breast size and sensitivity--no matter how large or small your breasts were before. Your partner will quickly learn that most breast stimulation will result in at least a partial letdown (some even experience full on spraying!), especially in the first few weeks. "Engorgement" can be painful. If you aren't nursing your baby enough, your breasts may swell up, becoming lumpy and heavy with milk. Many women report their breasts leaking if they think about their baby or hear him crying! Consider pumping and storing that extra milk to help decrease the pain and swelling.

Fact #7: The inability to produce enough milk for your baby is rare.
Although uncommon, some women don't produce enough milk to avoid supplementing with formula. Usually this deficiency is related to prior breast trauma, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), rapid weight loss or extreme calorie restriction, hyperthyroidism, pregnancy, or the use of hormonal birth control. You can still improve upon what nature gives you. Women with low milk production are encouraged to nurse as often and as long as their baby desires, even if he is just comfort sucking. Any stimulation tells your body to make more milk, which is what you want. Other ideas to increase your supply include: drinking more water, increasing your caloric intake (about 500 more calories than your pre-pregnancy intake), getting more rest, pumping between nursing sessions, or taking a galactagogue (a fancy word for a medication, substance, or herb that increases your milk production). Common galactagogues include oatmeal, blessed thistle, fenugreek, alfalfa, and prescription medications such as Reglan or Domperidone. **Always consult your health care provider before taking any herb, substance or medication.


The right and privilege to breastfeed a baby is irreplaceable and the benefits of nursing are innumerable both for the health of you and your family. For more breastfeeding tips from other BabyFit members, read "What I Wish I Had Known about Breastfeeding".

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Member Comments About this Article
"Hi, I'm sorry, but I think fact #7 is not a fact. I had an extremely low milk supply (never produced more than two ounces at a time) and I did everything humanly possible to get my milk supply to increase, but it never did. We had to supplement because my son was losing tons of weight and was dehydrated. I have had my thyroid tested and do not have any of the "causes" of low milk supply. I had planned on exclusively breastfeeding for a year but that was completely impossible for me. It was a hea..." -- SLD2416
"I was only able to breast-feed all my babies for a short while. I used formula then. All four of my kids are 4 and under. They are good eaters and have no weight issues. I support those who breast-feed and also the ladies that use formula. Motherhood is wonderful!" -- SUNSHINEGIRL7
"I fed my first child formula and he's not chunky. He's 6 now and thin like me and his father. So don't blame the formula. I'm pregnant with second, and I'm planning on breastfeeding because I work from home now, so its gon be easier for me this time.!" -- MILA2012
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About The Author
Jenny Sigler
Jenny is a stay-at-home mom to her young children, Augustine and Olive. She enjoys writing about pregnancy and child care topics to empower women to make healthy choices.

 


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