Dangers Of Breastfeeding

Published: 06th August 2006
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It is universally acknowledged that breastfeeding your baby gives her the best start in life. The nutrients and antibodies in the mother's bloodstream are passed onto her child through breastfeeding, thus helping her baby to develop its own natural defences against infection. However there are some dangers and risks of breastfeeding that mothers should be ware of.

Breastfeeding dehydration most often occurs in babies who are born to first time mothers. This is usually brought about because of a difficult delivery or because medication was used before or soon after the baby was born. This can lead to a less vigorous or sleepy baby and thus, inadequate feeding at the breast. In the most severe cases, dehydration can lead to brain damage. However, this is very, very rare and most times this problem is picked up before the mother and child leave hospital. Treatment is simply to give the baby bottles of water or baby formula milk. Encouragement and support is also given to the mother after leaving the hospital and most times breastfeeding improves and the baby flourishes.

Smoking is best avoided when breastfeeding. The birth of a child is an emotional and unsettling time for many mothers, so giving up cigarettes is not always possible for some. Mothers who breastfeed and smoke do pass on some nicotine to their baby. The amount a child absorbs depend on how much a mother smokes and when she smokes. A mother should never smoke in the same room as her baby as the baby will inhale her mother's smoke. Also, it is best to smoke after breastfeeding: smoking before breastfeeding raises the levels of nicotine in the bloodstream and breast milk. Pacthes can be a good substitute, however never use patches and smoke and you are increasing the amount of chemicals that will be passed into your baby's bloodstream.

Drinking of alcohol needn't be a problem for a breastfeeding mother provided the amount consumed is relatively small. Any alcohol found in the mother's bloodstream will be passed onto her child through her breast milk, but if the amount is small, it should do no harm to the baby. Also, if a mother knows she is going to drink alcohol, she can plan ahead and express her milk beforehand. This can then later be given to the baby when the mother knows her bloodstream will still contains traces of alcohol. Just as in adults, too much alcohol intake for a baby can lead to liver and brain damage.

Illegal drug use should be avoided at all times. Not only can illicit drugs lead to major health issues for a baby; it can also lead to a baby being taken away from its mothers and being placed in care.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast and is most commonly associated with breastfeeding. About 1 in 5 breastfeeding women will develop mastitis sometime during their babies six months of life. Whilst this condition can be painful for the mother, there is no need to stop breastfeeding. There is no danger of the baby being passed this infection. In fact continuing to nurse may even help the condition to clear up without any medical intervention. A baby may sometimes refuse to feed because the breast milk may taste sour. When this happens, a mother can still feed from her other, unaffected breast or express the milk from the breast with the mastitis.

Thrush is a fungal infection, which begins in the baby's mouth and can spread to the breast, making your nipples feel sore and itchy. Thrush is present in or on everyone's body - it's a normal part of the digestive system and generally bacteria keep it in check. A nursing mother have thrush if she has sore or cracked nipples, have deep, shooting pains after nursing, or have vaginal thrush. Signs to look for in baby is a white coating in the mouth that does not easily wash off. Thrush thrives in warm, moist, sugary environments, which your baby's mouth provides in abundance. If you suspect that either you or your baby have thrush then seek medical advice. But in the meantime, thoroughly was all toys, soothers, breast pumps or anything else that comes into contact with baby's mouth. Wash your nipples using only plain water - before and after feeding and try to keep them as dry as possible. You can also add lactobacillus acidophilus (available in pill form or in acidophilus yogurt) to your diet to re-colonise your digestive tract with the friendly bacteria that keep thrush in check. If you do have thrush, continue to breastfeed.

Thankfully most mothers do not experience any infections or other complications when they breastfeed their child. Most conditions are easily treatable, the important thing being to be vigilant and to get help sooner rather than later.

Robin O'Brien is a successfully webmaster and founder of breast-feeding-information.com. He provides help, support and advice on any breastfeeding problem a mother may have.

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