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Breastfeeding Benefits Both Mom and Baby

  • Category: General
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Avelino Garcia

Breastfeeding is a fantastic bonding experience that benefits both mom and baby. There are many reasons that breastfeeding is so beneficial. If it is possible, it is encouraged to breastfeed for at least the first six months of life.

Most healthy infants are ready to breastfeed within the first hour of life. It is encouraged to breastfeed a young infant every two to three hours, according to hunger and need. Hunger signs include nuzzling the breast, sucking on hands or fingers and clenching fists. Crying is a late sign of hunger in a baby. Many women are concerned about the baby getting enough to eat. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “once your breast milk transitions from colostrum to mature milk, your baby will soak at least six diapers a day with urine and will have at least three bowel movements a day. [The baby may lose weight, but] After 10 days, your baby will be back up to birth weight.”

Breastfeeding in the postpartum period releases a hormone called oxytocin, which causes the uterus to contract. This helps the uterus return down to its normal size, and reduces the amount of bleeding that might occur after delivery. Breastfeeding helps burn extra calories, which helps return to pre-pregnancy weight sooner than if strictly formula feeding an infant. Women who breastfeed their infants have proven to have lower rates breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding women also have shown to have reduced rates of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Breast milk contains maternal antibodies that help protect infants from infections, illnesses and some allergies. Breast milk is easy for babies to digest and has the perfect amount of fat, sugar, water, protein and minerals needed for appropriate growth and development. Breast milk supply adapts and changes according to the infant’s growing and changing nutritional needs. Even short term breastfeeding has been proven to decrease an infant’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Although breastfeeding is a natural thing and works for most women, many women have trouble and need assistance. If you decide that breastfeeding is what your infant needs, there are many ways you can get assistance. Directly after delivery, hospital nurses can help you find a comfortable position and monitor correct infant latch. Certified Lactation Consultants can help teach you what you need to know to get started with breastfeeding your infant and help you with common problems many women face. Peer counselors, such as people who work with La Leche League or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) can provide support and answer non-medical questions regarding breastfeeding. Your OB/GYN can discuss breastfeeding during pregnancy and can help in the hospital and postpartum period. Your baby’s pediatrician can help answer questions regarding infant nutrition and infant weight gain to keep your baby in optimal health.

MCH Center for Women & Infants has a free drop-in breastfeeding center called the Baby Café that is staffed with Certified Lactation Consultants. Baby Café is every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12 pm in the Center for Women & Infants Classroom. The Baby Café offers free breastfeeding education in a friendly, private environment. For more information, call (432) 640-1714 or (432) 640-1784.