A woman’s body is built to nurse. Babies who are carried in arms or a sling, next to their source of food and comfort, tend to fuss much less and enjoy themselves more. Breastfed babies are more portable and a nursing mother never lacks for the right food, at the right temperature and in the right amount at the right time.
What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding for Your Baby?
Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat – everything your baby needs to grow. It’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma and allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.
The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children. The American Academy of Pediatrics says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Nursing for even the first few days gives a baby the food, immunities, and snuggling which he needs.
Are There Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother?
Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Since you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles, it saves you time and money. It also gives you regular time to relax quietly with your newborn as you bond.
When can Breastfeeding be a Risk?
- If you are HIV positive. You can pass the HIV virus to your infant through breast milk.
- If you have active, untreated tuberculosis.
- If you’re receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
- If you’re using an illegal drug, such as cocaine, marijuana or methamphetamines.
- If you’re taking certain prescription medications, such as some drugs for migraine headaches, Parkinson’s disease, or arthritis.
Talk with your doctor before starting to breastfeed if you’re taking prescription drugs of any kind.
What Are the ABCs of Breastfeeding?
- A = Awareness. Watch for your baby’s signs of hunger, and breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry. This is called “on demand” feeding. The first few weeks you may be nursing eight to 12 times every 24 hours. Hungry infants move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth movements and/or move toward your breast. Don’t wait for your baby to cry. That’s a sign he or she is too hungry.
- B = Be patient. Breastfeed as long as your baby wants to nurse each time. Don’t hurry your infant through feedings. Infants typically breastfeed for 10 to 20 minutes on each breast.
- C = Comfort. This is key. Relax while breastfeeding, and your milk is more likely to “let down” and flow. Get yourself comfortable with pillows as needed to support your arms, head, and neck. A footrest to support your feet and legs helps before you begin to breastfeed.
Where Can I Get Help With Breastfeeding?
You can contact your primary care physician, the Burnett County Public Health/WIC Office and/or the Certified Lactation Specialist at the Burnett County Family Resource Center.
Breastfeeding your baby for as long as a mother and baby are able and willing is one of the best long-term investments you can make into the emotional, intellectual, and physical health of both mother and baby. During the first year or two you will spend more time feeding your baby than any single interaction. Breastfeeding helps you enjoy feeding.
However, making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter. It’s also one that’s likely to draw strong opinions from friends and family. Many medical experts strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. But you and your baby are unique, and the decision is up to you. I wish you and your baby a pleasurable experience!
Submitted by: Kelly Wiltrout, Certified Lactation Specialist at the Burnett County Family Resource Center
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