In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we will be sharing a series of articles promoting breastfeeding. This next one is about the “ABC’s” of breastfeeding – a brief overview of the basics you should know, republished in full from WebMD.
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, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. And breastfeeding for a year at least with other foods which should be started at 6 months of age, such as vegetables, grains, fruits, proteins.
But you and your baby are unique, and the decision is up to you. This overview of breastfeeding can help you decide.
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. And 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 or 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.
Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. What’s more, 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 AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It’s been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers as well, but more research is needed.
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. It may lower your risk of osteoporosis, too.
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.
Will I Make Enough Milk to Breastfeed?
The first few days after birth, your breasts make an ideal “first milk.” It’s called colostrum. Colostrum is thick, yellowish, and scant, but there’s plenty to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Colostrum helps a newborn’s digestive tract develop and prepare itself to digest breast milk.
Most babies lose a small amount of weight in the first 3 to 5 days after birth. This is unrelated to breastfeeding.
As your baby needs more milk and nurses more, your breasts respond by making more milk. Experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. If you supplement with formula, your breasts might make less milk.
Even if you breastfeed less than the recommended 6 months, it’s better to breastfeed for a short time than no time at all. You can add solid food at 6 months but also continue to breastfeed if you want to keep producing milk.
What’s the Best Position for Breastfeeding?
The best position for you is the one where you and your baby are both comfortable and relaxed, and you don’t have to strain to hold the position or keep nursing. Here are some common positions for breastfeeding your baby:
How Do I Get My Baby to ‘Latch on’ During Breastfeeding?
Position your baby facing you, so your baby is comfortable and doesn’t have to twist his neck to feed. With one hand, cup your breast and gently stroke your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. Your baby’s instinctive reflex will be to open the mouth wide. With your hand supporting your baby’s neck, bring your baby’s mouth closer around your nipple, trying to center your nipple in the baby’s mouth above the tongue.
You’ll know your baby is “latched on” correctly when both lips are pursed outward around your nipple. Your infant should have all of your nipple and most of the areola, which is the darker skin around your nipple, in his mouth. While you may feel a slight tingling or tugging, breastfeeding should not be painful. If your baby isn’t latched on correctly and nursing with a smooth, comfortable rhythm, gently nudge your pinky between your baby’s gums to break the suction, remove your nipple, and try again. Good “latching on” helps prevent sore nipples.
What Are the ABCs of Breastfeeding?
Are There Medical Considerations With Breastfeeding?
In a few situations, breastfeeding could cause a baby harm. You should not breastfeed if:
Talk with your doctor before starting to breastfeed if you’re taking prescription drugsof any kind. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision based on your particular medication.
Having a cold or flu should not prevent you from breastfeeding. Breast milk won’t give your baby the illness and may even give antibodies to your baby to help fight off the illness.
Also, the AAP suggests that — starting at 4 months of age — exclusively breastfed infants, and infants who are partially breastfed and receive more than one-half of their daily feedings as human milk, should be supplemented with oral iron. This should continue until foods with iron, such as iron-fortified cereals, are introduced in the diet. The AAP recommends checking iron levels in all children at age 1.
Discuss supplementation of both iron and vitamin D with your pediatrician Your doctor can guide you on recommendations about the proper amounts for both your baby and you, when to start, and how often the supplements should be taken.
Why Do Some Women Choose Not to Breastfeed?
The time commitment, and being “on-call” for feedings every few hours of a newborn’s life, isn’t feasible for every woman. Some women fear that breastfeeding will ruin the appearance of their breasts. But most breast surgeons would argue that age, gravity, genetics, and lifestyle factors like smoking all change the shape of a woman’s breasts more than breastfeeding does.
What Are Some Common Challenges With Breastfeeding?
it can cause fatty portions of the breast milk to become super hot. Thaw breast milk in the refrigerator or in a bowl of warm water instead.
Where Can I Get Help With Breastfeeding?
Images of mothers breastfeeding their babies make it look simple — but most women need some help and coaching. It can come from a nurse, doctor, family member, or friend, and it helps mothers get over possible bumps in the road.
Reach out to friends, family, and your doctor with any questions you may have. Most likely, the women in your life have had those same questions.
SOURCE: WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 5, 2017
News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.
Baker, R. Pediatrics, November 2010.
American Academy of Pediatrics: “Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.”
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Breastfeeding Your Baby.”
CDC: “Proper Handling and Storage of Human Milk.”
National Women’s Health Information Center: “Benefits of Breastfeeding.”
National Women’s Health Information Center: “Questions and Answers About Breastfeeding.”
National Women’s Health Information Center: “How Lifestyle Affects Breast Milk.”
La Leche League International: “How Do I Position My Baby to Breastfeed?”
American Academy of Family Physicians: “Breastfeeding: Hints To Help You Get Off to a Good Start.”
National Library of Medicine: “Overcoming Breastfeeding Problems.”
KidsHealth.org: “Feeding Your Newborn.”
American College of Nurse-Midwives, GotMom.org: “Breastfeeding with Confidence.”
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