There are many benefits to breastfeeding. Even if you can do it for only a short time, your baby’s immune system can benefit from breast milk. Breast milk is all your baby needs for the first six months of life. Babies need no other food or fluid, including water.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby:
- Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother’s milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein needed for a baby’s growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.
- Breast milk has disease-fighting cells called antibodies that help protect infants from germs, illness, and even SIDS. Infant formula cannot match the exact chemical makeup of human milk, especially the cells, hormones, and antibodies that fight disease.
- When you breastfeed, there are no bottles and nipples to sterilize. Unlike human milk straight from the breast, infant formula has a chance of being contaminated.
Benefits for Mom:
- Breastfeeding uses up extra calories, making it easier to lose the pounds of pregnancy. It protects against obesity. It also helps the uterus to get back to its original size and lessens the bleeding a woman has after giving birth.
- Breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding (no supplementing with formula), delays the return of menstrual cycles. However, breastfeeding is not a dependable form of birth control so talk to us at your postpartum visit about your options.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and possibly the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.
- Breastfeeding can save money. Depending on the brand of formula, new mothers can save between $1,000 and over $3,000 per year by breastfeeding instead of using formula.
- Breastfeeding mothers may have increased self-confidence and feelings of closeness and bonding with their infants.
- Breastfeeding can decrease the incidence of diabetes, depression and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Eat a balanced diet, 500 to 600 more calories per day. That is about 200 calories more than what is needed at the end of pregnancy. It’s the equivalent of adding 1-2 healthy snacks per day. Counting calories, however, is rarely necessary unless you are having problems maintaining a healthy weight. In general, you should simply listen to your body and eat to appetite.
- Continue prenatal vitamins until you stop nursing
- Increase fluid intake
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine
- Wear a good supportive bra
- Expect to breastfeed baby every 2 to 3 hours
- Expect some discomfort in your breast for 3 to 4 weeks
- Uterine cramping is normal for the first 3 to 4 weeks
- Breast milk usually comes in 3 to 5 days after delivery; your breasts will produce colostrum (the first milk) until then
- Always wash your hands before breastfeeding
- Nurse from both breasts with each feeding
- Begin feeding on the breast where the last feeding was completed
- Keep nipples dry after feedings
- Use lanolin cream on nipples 3 to 4 times a day after feeding to keep the nipples from becoming dry and cracked
- If you have inverted nipples, you may be able to wear nipple shields after 37 weeks of pregnancy
- If your baby sleeps longer than 4 hours, you need to wake the baby for a feeding
Take a breastfeeding class, watch videos, and read as much as you can about breastfeeding. Keep a positive attitude.
Lactation consultants are available for your assistance during your hospital stay.
Signs baby is getting enough breast milk:
- At least six wet diapers in 24 hours and 3 to 5 loose yellow stools in 24 hours
- Steady weight gain after the first week of life
- Pale yellow urine, not dark yellow or orange
- Baby sleeping well; baby looks alert and healthy when awake
Your baby’s pediatrician will give you more specific information related to breastfeeding your baby.
Breastfeeding takes patience and time. Give yourself and your baby time to transition, to touch, to relax, to learn together, and to fall in love.