According to the World Health Organization, under half of infants under 6 months old are exclusively breastfed.* Many women understand that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for most infants; however, many barriers like lack of knowledge, stigma, social norms, and health disparities can prevent mothers from breastfeeding. Whether you are an expecting mother, mother of a newborn baby, or simply curious to learn more about breastfeeding and its effects on mom and baby, continue reading to learn more about this fascinating experience.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Benefits for Baby
Breast milk is the perfect blend of protein, sugar, fat, and most vitamins for your baby, making it the best source of nutrition for infants. Breast milk is easy to digest for your infant and has many benefits like:
- Lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Increased resistance to diarrhea, respiratory infections, and ear infections
- Transfer of mother’s antibodies to the baby – increasing the infant’s immune system
- Less gas, constipation, and feeding problems because breast milk is easily digestible for the infant
- Later in life, breastfed children are less likely to experience obesity, suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and stroke
- And more!
Benefits for Mom
In addition to the many benefits of breastfeeding for newborns, breastfeeding can be a rewarding and beneficial journey for mothers too. Breastfeeding is a unique experience for each mother, but it can have many benefits including:
- Aids in weight loss because breastfeeding burns calories
- Reduces stress and promotes shrinkage of the uterus after pregnancy due to the release of a hormone called oxytocin
- Saves time and money because there is not a need to prepare formula
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure
- The physical closeness is a natural way to bond with your baby
Find What Works
Breastfeeding is often seen as a “natural and easy”. However, breastfeeding is also an art that must be learned by both the mother and baby. Every mother will have a different experience, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to breastfeed. Simply, strive to find what works best for both you and your baby.
View the video below to explore 5 breastfeeding positions.
We recognize that many mothers are not able to breastfeed for a number of reasons and that’s OK! Formula is a great alternative. The purpose of this blog is to share the benefits of breastfeeding.
When you are breastfeeding, you are providing the nutrients your baby needs to be healthy and grow. How you fuel your body plays an important role in your baby’s health. Consider the following nutrition recommendations, by the Mayo Clinic, while breastfeeding. Note: Before changing your diet, please consult your doctor to learn what will work best for you.
You may need about an additional 330-400 calories per day while breastfeeding, but where you get these calories is important. Opt for nutrient-rich foods. An example of a well-balanced snack could be whole grain bread, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a banana or apple, and 8 ounces of yogurt.
Think variety! To help fuel your milk production and support your baby’s growth, aim to consume a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as protein-rich foods like lean meat, eggs, lentils, etc. Eating a wide variety of foods changes the taste of your breastmilk, exposing your baby to different tastes, which may help them accept solid foods more easily later.
In general, you should avoid a diet that is high in added sugars, fats, and salt but there are a few other foods and drinks you should be cautious of when breastfeeding.
While breastfeeding, it is recommended that you avoid alcohol, excessive caffeine, and seafood that is high in mercury.
While breastfeeding it is especially important that you include enough iron, protein, and calcium in your diet. Some examples of iron-rich foods are lentils, leafy green vegetables, dried fruit, and enriched cereals. Our body absorbs iron best when we also consume foods containing vitamin C, like citrus fruits. When it comes to plant protein, consider soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, and dairy. Lastly calcium is found in dairy products, dark green vegetables, tofu, and other calcium-enriched products.
When it comes to staying hydrated while breastfeeding, simply remember to drink when you are thirsty. Pay attention to signs of dehydration like dark yellow urine, infrequent urination, headache, etc. You may find it helpful to drink water every time you breastfeed to ensure adequate hydration. Additionally, steer clear of the sugary drinks and juices as well as caffeine. Too much sugar can contribute to weight gain and other adverse health affects and caffeine may interfere with your baby’s sleep.
Since you are your baby’s only source of nutrition in the first months of life, your diet plays a big role in their health. There is no need to go on a special diet while breastfeeding, simply focus on making healthier nutritional choices overall. However, pay attention to if certain foods and drinks cause your baby to become irritable or have an allergic reaction. If this is the case, consult your baby’s health care provider.
*For more information about breastfeeding nutrition, view this resource.
How often should I breastfeed my baby?
On this table below, you will see the recommended feeding frequency by age. For more information about breastfeeding frequency visit the CDC website.
Feeding Frequency by Age
|Frequency per 24 hours
|Birth – 1 month
|8-12 feedings/24 hours
|7-10 feedings/24 hours
|6-8 feedings/24 hours
|6-8 feedings/24 hours
How do I know my baby is getting enough breast milk?
Here are some signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk:
- They sleep for a couple hours after feeding
- They usually breastfeed for 15 minutes or longer per breast
- You may hear a rhythmic suck/swallow/breathe pattern during feedings
- The baby usually breastfeeds at both breasts
- Your breasts feel full before feeding and softer afterward
- The baby appears settled and no longer hungry after feedings
How is growth assessed for breastfed infants?
The growth rate of every infant and child in the United States ages 0-2 years old is assessed based on the World Health Organization (WHO) Growth Standard Charts. You can learn more and view the growth charts here.
What legal rights do breastfeeding mothers have?
If you are a nursing employee, your employer is required by law to “provide a reasonable amount of break time and a space to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing employee, for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child.” To learn more about pumping breast milk at work, view this resource by the U.S. Department of Labor.
If you are an expectant mother, take advantage of this free program that is designed to help you have a healthy pregnancy. Additionally, receive a free breast pump through CareCentrix. Learn more about this program and how to receive a free breast pump by clicking the button below.
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