The hidden costs of breastfeeding

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2012 — Pediatricians and other breastfeeding advocates often encourage
new mothers to breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of their infants’ lives based on the purported health benefits to both mothers and children. Many breastfeeding proponents also argue that
breastfeeding has financial advantages over formula-feeding—breastfeeding is free, they say. But,
according to a new study, the notion that there’s no cost associated with breastfeeding for the
recommended amount of time is patently untrue.
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Midnight Wakeups

We have a newborn and my wife and I are both exhausted. Who do you think should take care of the baby when he wakes up at 3 a.m.? Do both of us have to suffer? Does our infant really need both of us there in the middle of the night?

If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night hungry, and your partner is breastfeeding, you might as well stay in bed and let her take care of things. Sounds pretty boorish, but really and truly, there’s not much you can do to help. In fact, your sleeping through the feeding may actually benefit your partner. That way you get a full night’s sleep and you’ll be fresh for the 7 a.m. child-care shift, and she’ll get to spend a few more precious hours in bed.
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Dads and Breastfeeding

Everyone says that new mothers should breastfeed their babies but I’ve never really known why. Isn’t formula just as good for our child? And, I know this sounds nuts, but is there anything I can to do to stay involved while my wife is nursing? I feel so left out.

Before their babies are born, just about any expectant father you’d ask would say that breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby and that his partner should nurse their child for as long as possible. And why not, just consider some of these advantages:
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Overcoming Jealousy

I used to be the center of my wife’s universe. We had a great relationship, we did things as a couple, and we communicated all the time. Now that we’ve had a baby, I’m jealous of all the time mom and baby spend together and I feel left out. Not only am I jealous as a husband, but I’m also jealous as a father. Is this normal and how can I overcome my feelings?

First of all, it’s completely normal to be jealous of your wife’s relationship with your new baby–especially if she’s breastfeeding. But who’s really making you jealous? Your wife because of her close relationship with the baby and all that extra time they spend with each other? Or is it really the baby for coming between you and your wife, for taking up more than his "fair share" of her attention, and for having full access to her breasts when they may be too tender for you to touch? Probably both.
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Depressed pregnant moms much less likely to breastfeed

A study just published in the Journal of Human Lactation found that women who took certain antidepressants during pregnancy were significantly less likely to breastfeed their babies compared to women who didn’t. One might reasonably ask why I’m reading Journal of Human Lactation at all. Simple answer: It’s a magazine about breasts. Do I really need any other excuse? Sadly, unlike Playboy–another magazine about breasts that people also read for the articles–this one has no pictures. Or cartoons, for that matter.

The drugs in question are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs, which include Prozac, Zoloft, and many others. And the researchers found that women who took SSRIs at any point during the pregnancy were 60 percent less likely to begin breastfeeding than those who didn’t take any at all.

“While the benefits of breastfeeding an infant are very clear, this study suggests that women who are taking antidepressants in pregnancy are not engaging in this behavior as often as we would like to see,” said Christina Chambers PhD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego and co-author of the study. “Whether this is due to the mother’s fear of harming her baby by breastfeeding while taking the medication, or due to the mother’s depression itself is unclear.”

Let Me Sleep on It…

Dear Mr. Dad: Our six-month old baby has some serious sleep problems. We’ve tried everything—different bedtimes, skipping naps so he’ll be extra tired, changing lullabies, having him nurse just before bed and putting him down asleep, even getting blackout curtains for his room, but he still gets up in the middle of the night and has a terrible time going back to sleep. My wife and I are both exhausted all the time. What can we do?

A: One of the most important things you can do is to establish a bedtime routine—and stick with it. Babies love—and crave—routines, and constantly changing what you’re doing will just confuse your baby and make it harder for him to figure out when to go to sleep. Actually, routines aren’t just for babies. If you’re like most adults, you probably have a nighttime routine of your own, a pattern of activities that you do to help get yourself ready for sleep: read a few chapters of a book, catch up on your DVR, maybe have sex. It’s pretty much the same for babies: bedtime routines make them tired because they associate the activities with sleep.

A routine doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be something as simple as a snuggle, a story, a minute or two of baby massage, a quick nightcap, and some peaceful music. The number and order of the activities aren’t important. Just make sure you’re consistent. Here are a few other ideas that should help.

  • Play a lot when he’s awake. Getting plenty of exercise during the day will help your baby sleep.
  • Don’t mess with the schedule. It might seem logical that skipping daytime naps would help your baby sleep more at night, but the opposite is true. Your baby takes naps because he needs them. When he doesn’t get enough rest during the day, all the extra dopamine and adrenaline running around his system will make it harder for him to fall asleep at night.
  • Make a distinction between day and night. During the day, you’ll pick up your baby, sing, clap, pay games, and do all sorts of things to engage him. In nighttime mode, you’ll do much less talking, much less physical activity, and generally tone things down.
  • Don’t go overboard. Turning the lights down and making the house a little quieter is fine, but you need a baby who can fall asleep with the lights on and some background noise. Trying for total silence and total darkness will backfire.
  • Put him to bed drowsy but not completely awake.
  • Be patient. Babies can be pretty noisy at night. And like us, they wake up many times and look around to make sure the world is still spinning on its axis. So before your dash in to respond to every whimper or cry, take a deep breath and wait a minute. Chances are your baby will fall back to sleep on his own.
  • Get the toys out. Some babies wake up at night, see all their toys, and decide that they want to play—and, of course, it’s more fun to play with you than alone.
  • Take turns. It’s very chivalrous of you to share the midnight wakeups with your wife, but don’t. Have her take the first few while you get some sleep. Then you take over in the early morning and let her sleep.

Speaking of toys, I just returned from a week in New York seeing (and playing with) hundreds of new toys and games I’ll be sharing some of the highlights over the next few weeks.