The advantages of breast-feeding for both mother and baby cannot be overstated. Breast-fed babies experience fewer food allergies, ear infections, and colds, plus reduced incidence of conditions such as childhood obesity and diabetes. Breast-feeding provides antibodies that may reduce the incidence of viruses, certain cancers, and asthma. Although formula has come a long way, it cannot fully duplicate breastmilk, which is specially designed for your baby.

Breast-feeding provides moms with quicker weight loss, reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and easy bonding time. You'll be able to feed your baby anywhere without worrying about bottles and formula.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breast-fed until six months of age, at which time solid foods may be introduced. If possible, breast-feeding should continue at least through baby's first year. To get breast-feeding off to a good start, breast-feed as soon as possible after birth and feed your baby whenever he's hungry. This will not spoil your baby and will lead to a better milk supply. Your baby will let you know he's hungry by sucking his hands, searching for the breast, or fussing. Breast-fed infants eat more frequently than bottle-fed infants, since breastmilk is easier to digest.

If you experience nipple pain while breast-feeding, check your baby's positioning and latch technique. A nurse or doctor can help evaluate your technique. If you need additional help with breast-feeding, seek out some of the many breast-feeding books or a local breast-feeding support group for advice and support.

Marlene Veloso