August is National Breastfeeding Month
There’s no doubt about it: Mother’s milk is the best source of nourishment for infants.
So in honor of National Breastfeeding Month, we’re going to take a look at the many advantages of breastfeeding, as well as some helpful tips for expecting or new moms.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
In addition to promoting the bond between a mother and her child, breastfeeding can make babies healthier.
“Breast milk is the perfect food; easily digestible, readily available, [and it] contains antibodies that help babies fight infection,” said Camilla Pharamond, a Certified Nurse-Midwife at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “With rare exceptions, breast milk is all a baby needs during the first 6 months of life.”
Specifically, breast milk has been found to help protect babies against ear infections, respiratory illnesses and obesity. It may also boost the baby’s intelligence, prevent the development of allergies and lower his/her risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Additionally, breast milk contains numerous proteins and essential fats with a molecular structure that allows for better absorption—which means your baby will be able to get these important nutrients with ease.
And it’s not only baby who receives these great benefits. Breastfeeding has been linked to lower stress levels and decreased risk of postpartum depression in moms. It may also lower their risk for certain types of cancer.
Breastfeeding: The Basics
Once you’ve committed to breastfeeding, it’s important to prepare in advance and gain an understanding of what to expect.
When you first begin breastfeeding (which is typically as soon as you hold your newborn for the first time), your body will only produce small amounts of a certain type of milk (called colostrum) that will help protect your baby from infection. As your baby grows, you’ll start producing different milk and more of it.
During the first few weeks, it’s normal for moms to struggle with breastfeeding. However, it gets easier over time and moms should not have trouble once their baby gets the proper latch. “Common problems like nipple pain, engorgement, blocked milk ducts can be addressed so that breastfeeding can continue,” said Pharamond. She recommends that mothers that are having trouble should ask for help.
Ideally, you should nurse as often as possible; eight to 12 times every 24 hours is the goal. Be sure to always feed your baby when she shows early signs of hunger, which can include increased alertness, activity or mouthing. Crying is considered a “late sign” of hunger and babies should be fed before this happens. It’s recommended that babies be breastfed on demand, not according to a schedule.
Most babies nurse 10 to 20 minutes on each breast, so you’ll want to make sure you’re in a comfortable chair and position before you begin feeding.
In some cases, a mom may not produce enough milk to fully meet her baby’s nutritional needs. As a result, you may need to develop a feeding schedule and supplement it with formula when necessary. Any amount of breast milk can still provide baby with health benefits.
What Can You Eat?
Well, for starters, the answer is “more.” According to Pharamond, mothers need “an extra 500 calories per day during breastfeeding.”
A nutritious and balanced diet is all you need when breastfeeding. Eat small frequent meals throughout the day when you’re hungry and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, as they can enter your breast milk if it accumulates in your system.
Although no foods are considered problematic for babies, some may show signs of increased fussiness or gassiness if you’ve consumed certain foods, such as dairy. If this happens, try eliminating the food from your diet to see if the side effects subside.
While some women get used to breastfeeding without a hitch, there are those who may have a difficult time adjusting to the physical and/or emotional obstacles. If you struggle with anxiety, exhaustion or a physical issue such as mastitis (a breast infection), don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor, midwife or a lactation consultant.
By doing so, you can work through these obstacles and get back on your way to providing healthy benefits to you and your baby.