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If Breast Is Best, Why Do Many New Mothers Give Up?

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The pressure of returning to work also is an issue, Vogel says: In the study, "younger women [under 25] and those returning to work full time in the first year were relatively likely to stop, as were those who originally planned to stop by age 6 months."

Doctors agree that any amount of breast-feeding -- even during just the first few weeks -- offers the baby a host of health and developmental benefits. To help new mothers get past the barriers to long-term nursing, WebMD turned to a lactation consultant and a pediatrician for advice.

How can mothers know whether they are producing enough milk?

Lactation consultant Cynthia Garrison, BS, IBCLC, of Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, tells WebMD: "We often send mothers home with a "feeding log," a real simple chart where they can keep track of the numbers of feedings, wet diapers, and dirty diapers in a 24-hour period, so they see that it's falling within the ranges of normal.

"Because what goes in must come out, we instruct mothers that if baby is having 4-6 wet diapers within the first day, increasing [along with the baby's milk intake] to six to eight, and they're having at least two dirty diapers every day, then life is going quite well. They can be a little more relaxed and understand that as the baby matures, they will start spacing feedings out; they won't need to feed as often. The babies' stomachs are getting bigger."

Babies' elimination habits can vary, adds Andrea McCoy, MD, chief of pediatric care at Temple University Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. "So even though the baby may stool with every feeding, I caution mothers not to be overly concerned if the baby doesn't stool every day."

A good medical follow-up is essential for babies, because assuring that they are gaining enough weight is the best way to be sure the mother has an adequate milk supply, McCoy tells WebMD.

How can new mothers get past nipple problems?

The baby's position while nursing is key, Garrison says. Mothers need to put them in a position in which they can reach the area an inch to an inch-and-a-half around the nipple. Otherwise, the baby is feeding on the end of the nipple, which causes the mother pain.

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