Q: I’m not sure if I can handle breastfeeding with my first baby (I am only 19 years old). Is it OK to bottle feed and breastfeed at the same time?
A: This is a common concern for first-time moms – regardless of how old they are! And it is related to the general concern of “Am I REALLY ready to be a mom?” That hits most moms, too, regardless of age.
Being 19 is plenty old enough for your body to function as it is designed to carry and then nourish your baby at the breast. Even younger teen moms can successfully breastfeed, so the issue really isn’t whether or not you are physically capable of breastfeeding, it has more to do with whether you want to breastfeed.
I would encourage you to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding during your pregnancy. Read books such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International, and check out their Web site for a wealth of information on breastfeeding. Find an LLL group near you and attend a few meetings to watch other moms breastfeed their babies and to meet some other moms you can turn to when you need an extra boost.
When your baby arrives, try putting him (or her) to your breast soon after delivery and see how it goes. Chances are, he’ll take right to it, and you may find yourself in awe of what your body will do for you! If you need help, ask for it. Many hospitals have International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) on staff to help new moms. See how it goes.
Even one time at the breast does wonderful things for your baby. Your first milk is the perfect first food, and also gives him a dose of immunity and actually coats his intestines to seal them from germs that could make him sick.
It is possible to combine the breast and the bottle, although it is best to wait until breastfeeding is well established (3 to 4 weeks minimum) to introduce the bottle. Bottle feeding is very different from breastfeeding, and it helps to let your baby learn one skill at a time. It also helps to wait that long to make sure your supply is well established as well.
You can always switch from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, but it is very difficult to switch in the other direction. The benefits of breastfeeding – for both you and your baby – are worth at least giving it a try.
By Melissa Clark Vickers
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at Moms & Babies Huntingdon, TN