Many nursing mothers find breast feeding gratifying because they feel they are giving part of themselves to their baby. While breast feeding, you and your baby are in constant skin contact, and your baby responds to the smell of you and your milk. Like other aspects of parenting, however, there are some sacrifices involved. Because the food you eat becomes the milk that nourishes your baby, your personal nutritional choices are as important now as when you were pregnant. Some babies have reactions to dairy products or leafy green vegetables, and some may even have acid reflux (link to the coolest newborn reflux article ever written) which would require some changes to your diet. These changes, however, are generally minor and not always needed.
As we learn more about the incredible health benefits of breast feeding, the cultural trend favoring bottle-feeding is reversing. Breast feeding has never been more supported or nurtured, and there has never been a better time to be a breast feeding mother. You'll find organizations (such as the La Leche League) ready to help and you'll find other breast feeding mothers (past and present) eager to support you in your decision. If you are concerned, for example, about how you will manage breast feeding in social settings, the advice of these women can be very beneficial. As they'll tell you, tastefully, no nursing mother ever need expose herself in a way that is uncomfortable to herself or others. Options like specially-designed clothing and neat tricks the pros use to be discreet make modest breast feeding completely possible. Read Nursing Discreetly for tips on nursing in public.
The most important factor to remember, however, is that breast feeding is a very natural function of mothering. Your infant's healthy development is far more important than a stranger's uninformed opinion. Many mothers before you have paved the way to make this incredible gift of mothering socially acceptable. Your commitment to breast feeding will make it even easier for generations to come.
Almost every woman can produce milk after her baby is born, and almost every woman can breastfeed successfully. Counter-intuitive as it seems, no woman is born knowing how to breast feed. Mother Nature gives you the ability to nurse, but not the "know-how", and it involves study, learning, patience, and practice.
Unfortunately, few new mothers of this generation have had the chance to learn about breast feeding by watching other women nurse. With today's families scattered across the country, grandmothers and aunts are no longer available to teach new mothers how to breast feed. Hospitals and mother's groups know how important nursing is and have filled this gap by training professional peer counselors and lactation consultants to help you. Your obstetrician's office, midwife or Labor and Delivery Department should be able to connect you to local lactation professionals who teach classes, refer you to reading materials, and even make hospital or home visits to assist you.
The amount of milk you can produce for your baby and or his/her ability to nurse does not depend on the size or shape of your breasts or nipples. Breast size is determined by the amount of fatty tissue surrounding the milk glands, not by the size of the glands themselves. Breastmilk production follows the laws of supply and demand, the more a baby nurses, the more milk the mother makes. Regardless of the size of her breasts or her baby, a breastfeeding mother almost always can produce enough milk for her newborn baby.
One factor that may require some special preparation before delivery are those women who have very flat or inverted (turned in) nipples. The baby may have difficulty attaching properly to the breast. This condition can be modified while you're pregnant by wearing special nipple shields inside your bra and by performing exercises.