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Nutritional Health During Reproductive Years
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Human milk is optimally designed to meet your baby's needs for growth and development. Aside from the nutritional and digestive superiority of breastmilk over infant formulas, it also contains immune substances, growth factors, hormones and enzymes. Cellular components of breastmilk appear to enhance baby's vision, digestion, and brain development. Several nutrients, including zinc and iron, are more easily absorbed from mother's milk than formulas. Breast-fed infants are less likely to develop infections, such as colds, ear infections and diarrhea, while they are young. Studies also indicate that other protections may extend throughout their lives. Those who were breast-fed as infants appear to have a lower risk of developing Type 1 diabetes, food allergies, colon diseases, and are less likely to become obese. And, last but not least, intimate contact during breastfeeding fosters maternal-infant bonding. Emotional benefits of bonding early in life last a lifetime.

Mother's that breastfeed their babies may also gain health benefits. Breastfeeding helps a woman's uterus shrink back to pre-pregnancy size and helps mobilize fat that has been stored during pregnancy. A woman's risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis later in life is also thought to be lowered by breastfeeding. While not a secure form of birth control, while a woman is exclusively breastfeeding her infant, ovulation appears to be suppressed and future pregnancy delayed.

Preparing to Breastfeed
The best time to start learning about breastfeeding is before your baby is born. Take advantage of classes that are offered by the resource center where you receive your prenatal care. Ask your prenatal care provider about breastfeeding. Take advantage of the special knowledge that your labor and delivery nurses have. They can help you get started breastfeeding in the hospital and provide you with phone numbers for lactation support should you need help once you get home.

Rest and Activity
It is important that lactating women get adequate rest and sleep, since maternal fatigue is the most common cause of inadequate milk production. Woman with other young children, a job outside the home, or who have other demands on their time are at greatest risk of excessive fatigue. Adequate rest during the first 6 weeks of lactation are especially important, to ensure success with breastfeeding. Help and support when needed should be secured.

High intensity exercise does not reduce milk production, but it can change its flavor. This is because lactic acid, a bitter flavored byproduct of muscle metabolism, can pass into milk. Some women report their infants are more 'fussy' when they breastfeed following a strenuous workout. Expressing a little milk prior to nursing the baby may be helpful following intense exercise.

Nutrition Tips for Lactating Moms
Nutrient needs for lactation are similar to pregnancy needs except the need for iron is much less. Lactating women usually don't menstruate so their need for iron is even less than that of a non-pregnant woman that is having regular menstrual cycles. The pregnancy diet guide is a good place to start for helping with basic food selections. Here are some additional tips:

Nutrition During Lactation
Calories A breastfeeding woman needs to consume a minimum of 1800 calories per day. If you are breastfeeding twins or more, you may need a lot more calories. If you are losing more than one to four pounds per month while breastfeeding, you may not be eating enough. Overweight women, or women who gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, may be able to lose four to six pounds per month without compromising their breastmilk production, but rapid weight loss should be monitored by their physician.
Protein Protein needs are increased for breastfeeding moms. Be sure you are including a healthy portion of protein with at least two meals each day. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, tofu, and many dairy products are good sources of protein.
Calcium Calcium needs for lactation remain elevated as in pregnancy. Continue to choose at least 3-4 calcium-rich foods daily. Teenage mothers should consume 4-5 servings.
Fluid Producing breastmilk requires water. Drink at least 8 - 10 cups of fluids each day. Remember, your urine should be pale or colorless when you are well hydrated. Drinking extra fluids will not increase your milk supply.
Chemicals Both caffeine and alcohol are passed through breastmilk and negatively effect breast-fed infants. Cigarette smoking can reduce a mother's milk production, and smoke is an environmental toxin effecting infant lung development. All illicit drugs should be avoided, as they are hazardous to both mother and infant. Prescription and over-the-counter medications should be approved by your physician and the baby's pediatrician.

Are There Any Reasons Not to Breastfeed?
For some women, breastfeeding is not be recommended as the best or exclusive feeding mode for their baby. Certain diseases, like HIV, may be transmitted to your infant by breastfeeding. Women who take medications for any reason need to check with their prenatal care provider or pediatrician to see if they can safely breastfeed while taking their medication.

Premature babies, twins or more, or infants born with certain health conditions may have special feeding needs that prohibit breastfeeding. In some of these cases you might be able to express your breastmilk to feed to your baby.

For more information visit StorkNet's Breastfeeding Cubby

Not all exercises or diets are suitable for everyone. Before you begin this program, you should have permission from your doctor to participate in vigorous exercise and change of diet. If you feel discomfort or pain when you exercise, do not continue. The instructions and advice presented are in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling. The creators, producers, participants and distributors of this site disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the exercise and advice provided here.

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