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Breast-Feeding: Nature's Formula for Success

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The Decision continued...

Breast-feeding definitely wasn't the easy choice for Powers. Alexa stopped breast-feeding as soon as they left the hospital, and it took a month of frustration and sleepless nights before Powers realized that Alexa had poor sucking skills. After another month working with Best-Macia, however, Alexa finally got the hang of things.

There have been some personal trade-offs, too. For instance, hanging on to those last 10 pounds has bothered Powers, who is a personal trainer, "probably more than the average woman," she concedes. "But I'm still choosing to do it -- it's that important. I have to put my feelings about my body aside and do this for my daughter."

Many couples also may worry that if dads can't give a baby a bottle, they'll feel left out of the bonding process. But there are other ways they can enjoy some one-on-one time with their babies, such as being the one who regularly bathes the baby, Best-Macia says.

"I think we really underestimate the role of the father if we think that all he can do is imitate the role of the mother by feeding the baby," she says. "Bathing, especially if babies are in the bathtub with the father, can be a very fun and happy time. ... It's similar to a breast-feeding counterpart because fathers have skin-to-skin contact with their babies."

Technique Is Everything

Despite the benefits of breast-feeding, only a relative few mothers stick with it for the time recommended by experts. About 60% of women start breast-feeding in the hospital, but the number drops to 20% by the time the baby is 6 months old.

One of the biggest reasons women abandon nursing is the gamut of difficulties they may experience getting started, such as inadequate milk supply or sore nipples. But many of these difficulties, often the result of improper positioning and latching technique, could be avoided if women had the support and instruction they need to get off to the right start.

"I think mothers should be patient with themselves. They're learning a new skill," says Best-Macia. "A baby that's positioned and latched well right from the beginning will avoid a lot of the difficulties you hear about," she says.

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