Human milk provides the most perfect, nutritious food for babies, giving them all the nutrients, energy, and immune protection that they need. Formula just cannot compare to human milk in terms of the benefits to baby and to the lactating parent. Benefits to the baby include fewer infections as an infant and into childhood. Breastmilk decreases the risks of developing lower respiratory tract infections, ear infections, and colds. Breastfed infants receive increased protection from gastrointestinal infections and are less likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease. Breastfeeding reduces the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs). Children that were breastfed have less asthma, obesity, and diabetes as they get older.
For the mother/lactating person, there are both short-term and long-term benefits to breastfeeding/chestfeeding. After delivery, breastfeeding decreases the risk for postpartum depression and postpartum hemorrhage. Breastfeeding reduces the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, and high blood pressure, as well as breast and ovarian cancers.
The disease prevention and health benefits of breastfeeding are increased even more with exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding only human milk and no food or water except for vitamins, minerals, and medications. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, with continued breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by the parent and infant.
It can be hard, in the beginning, to only give your baby breastmilk, especially if you are a new parent. Sometimes new parents are worried that they don’t have enough milk or that the baby is still hungry after feeds. First, your body will produce colostrum for the baby, which is often called “Liquid Gold” because of the extra nutrition and antibodies. Babies are often more alert in the first 2 hours of life. This is a great time to try to get baby to latch for the first time. At the Center for Women and Infants, we place all healthy, term babies in skin-to-skin care (also called Kangaroo Care) and delay newborn procedures in order to help with the first latch. After this initial period, infants usually become sleepy. Try placing the baby skin to skin and gently rousing the baby when it’s time to eat. Babies should be fed on demand when they show hunger cues, and no restrictions should be placed on how often you feed your baby or the length of the feeding. Breastfed newborns often require cluster feeding, which is feeding short amounts of breastmilk but at frequent intervals. The small amounts of colostrum that you produce are perfect for the baby’s stomach size and easier for the baby to manage as he/she learns to breastfeed. It can be tempting to want to supplement the infant with formula, but this is normal behavior and supplementing with formula could decrease your milk supply.
We want your breastfeeding journey to be successful. The Center for Women and Infants has an on-site lactation department available to support you and answer any questions, regardless of where you deliver your baby. They can be reached at (855) 562-6081 for lactation assistance.