The Benefits of Breastfeeding

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Just recently, several friends and family members of mine had new babies, and it reminded me of how often new moms have questions regarding breastfeeding.  Additionally, a lot of advice is given to new moms and often it may differ – adding to their questions and concerns. Whether you are a new mom or not, questions about breastfeeding are common. Know it is always OK to ask questions and ask for support.

We all have heard about the benefits of breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics and pediatricians advocate breastfeeding in the first 6 months. There are many benefits of nursing. To name just a few:

  • Breast milk has all the nutrients your baby needs in the first 6 months.
  • Breast milk has your antibodies to help your baby fight infections in the first few months.
  • Babies that are breastfeed in the first six months tend to have less ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory infections.
  • For mom, it may reduce risks of breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum depression.
  • For both baby and mom, it creates great bonding.

If you are breastfeeding, I would suggest that you take advantage of your hospital lactation specialist for support after the baby is born, while you are still in the hospital. Often the hospital may not have a separate lactation specialist, but the postpartum nurses are trained to assist with the nursing.

Ask questions!  I’ve seen many new moms home with the baby and unaware of how often to feed, how long or what side to start with, or if the baby is latching on correctly. Seeing this makes it clear why some moms can feel unsure about nursing.

iStock_doctor checking babyYour pediatrician will see the baby in the hospital, and soon after you go home – so take advantage of this time in hosptal to ask the doctor your questions.  Ask for additional support when you go home if you need as well.

Your pediatrician is a good place to start. Pediatricians may also be able to recommend a lactation specialist to assist at your home or their office. Postpartum doulas or baby nurses are other good options.

However, also know that it is your choice as a mom if you want to breastfeed or not.  If you choose not to breastfeed, or need to stop soon after starting for any reason, or cannot breastfeed for medical reasons, moms should know that this is OK. Formula fed babies do great and you shouldn’t feel bad if you are not breastfeeding at all. Some moms feel pressure from others to breastfeed, or feel looked down upon if they give formula.  Try the best you can to not listen to others and know that you are doing what is best for you and your child.

Some tips and general information about breastfeeding:

Typically babies feed every 1½ -3 hours in the first weeks of life.  They should feed 8-12 times per 24-hour day. In the first day or so you produce what is called colostrum before your breast milk comes in. Babies typically have a first wet diaper in the first 24 hours and first bowel movement in the first day or two. Once your milk comes in, babies typically pee and poop every feed or every other feed. This is a great indicator that your baby is getting enough milk.

You can limit the duration of the nursing to 10-15 min/side. As some babies can feed as soon as every 1 ½ hour, if you didn’t limit, the baby would otherwise be on you all day! It is up to you if you want to go longer, but it is good to know that the baby gets most of the milk he will get in that time frame. You determine the length of time between feeds from the start of the prior feed. Also, start with the side you left off with for the next feed.

Frozen mother milk in a bottleAs with the pressure moms feel from others for formula feeding their babies, sometimes if you only breastfeed you may feel pressure from others to add formula. As long as your baby is feeding 8-12 times a day, peeing, pooping and gaining weight, she is doing great and there really is no need.

Your pediatrician sees you and the baby frequently in the first months of life and will check on the baby. Discuss with your pediatrician if formula supplementation is needed.

Hiccups are normal and very common. You can feed the baby with hiccups. Actually, nursing and feeding the baby during hiccups helps to get rid of the hiccups!

Your baby doesn’t need water at this age and during the first months of life. Breast milk gives your baby all the hydration she needs.

Some babies fall asleep between sides.  Try your best to feed both sides during each feed.  Burping the baby or changing a diaper wakes them if they do fall asleep during a feed, and then they will be ready for that other side.  It can be challenging to get a burp, but be patient. It can take time, but surely makes your baby more comfortable after feeding and can complete both sides with a feed.

Splurge on a glider chair or comfortable chair! You will be home and nursing often, so your comfort is important.

Please don’t have the baby sleep with you. This isn’t always easy as often you may fall asleep after nursing while the baby sleeps, so it is important to ensure that the baby is in a safe place while you are feeding.

Breastfeeding has many benefits, and is a wonderful experience for you and your baby, but it is also time consuming. It is a good idea to pump and store milk so others can assist you in feedings. Pumping is a great way to have some time for you.  Find a good breast pump.  Many insurance companies now cover them too.  Be sure to ask for assistance on how to use your pump and storing/feeding pumped breast milk as well.

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Ali is a board certified pediatrician who practiced general pediatrics for five years in a busy private practice in Manhattan NY. She since has moved into the pharmaceutical industry and oversees and mentors many physicians globally. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences as a pediatrician with other moms and dads. Ali’s outside interests include working out, acting, piano, guitar, dance and being a mom! Ali currently lives in NYC with her husband, 3 year old daughter and 1 year old son.

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