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Breastfeeding

Choosing how you will feed your baby is a very important and personal decision. Though both formula and breast milk will help a baby grow, breast milk is considered the best nutrition source during the first year of life.  Many professional organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months, including the American Academy of Pediatricians, American Academy of Pediatric Nursing Associated and Professionals,  World Health Organization, American Medical Association, and American Dietetic Association.  Though formula companies are constantly improving products, a mother has the perfect milk for her own baby with just the right amount of carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins, hormones, and antibodies.  

Below are some findings from research studies about the benefits of breastfeeding:

  • Formula-fed babies are at increased risk for ear, chest, and kidney infections, as well as gastroenteritis, asthma, obesity, and diabetes 1
  • Babies who were breast-fed exclusively for the first 6 months had I.Q.'s 5-10 points higher than babies who were formula-fed 1
  • Breast milk contains amino acids, essential building blocks that help a baby grow and develop 2
  • Premature babies who are breast-fed have better outcomes than premature babies who are fed formula 2

Breastfeeding is not only beneficial for your baby-- you reap benefits as well!  First, you save money on formula (that stuff is expensive!) and electricity used to heat countless bottles. Breastfeeding requires about 500 calories per day, so it is a great way to help lose some of your pregnancy weight. You also have a lower risk of ovarian, cervical, and breast cancers, possible lower risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause, reduced risk of postpartum depression, and lower chance of becoming pregnant soon after delivery because of a contraceptive effect on the body.  Breastfeeding also triggers the release of a hormone called oxytocin which causes the uterus to contract, lessening postpartum bleeding. Lastly, breastfeeding allows time to form a very special type of bond between you and your baby, and gives you the wonderful sense of knowing that you are the only one that can do this for your baby!

In some cases, it is not advised that a woman breast-feed.  You should consult with your physician about your choice, but here are a few examples of when you should not
breast-feed.
          If:

  • You have AIDS, Hepatitis-C, Tuberculosis, Herpes, or other communicable diseases
  • You take certain types of medications that may be passed to your baby (ask your physician)
  • Drink alcohol or use drugs
  • You have had breast surgery in the past for cancer, augmentation, etc. (this may post physical difficulties)
  • Your baby has galactosemia (babies with this disorder must be on a lactose free diet)

 

If you are worried about the difficulty of working a job outside the home while breastfeeding, remember you can use a pump, store the milk, and leave it with caregivers to feed through a bottle while you are away. There are many types of pumps to choose from and stored breast milk still has all the great benefits! If you would rather rent a pump instead of buying one, check with one of the local resources (listed below).  You might need to set a schedule at work to allow time for your regular pumping schedule during the day; however, employers are generally very willing to accommodate this--as they should be!

Some new mothers also worry about leaky breasts, cracked and sore nipples, breast engorgement, pain during feeding, and whether or not their baby is getting enough milk.  These are normal concerns but should not keep you from breastfeeding.  Believe it or not, one of the best solutions for all of these problems is frequent feeding! Also, important to remember: If your baby is latched correctly, breastfeeding should not be painful.  A lactation consultant or your physician can answer your questions and provide more ways to ease these worries.

Luckily, there are a number of wonderful resources for learning about breastfeeding and how to make it work for you and your baby.  TIPS encourages you to seek out these resources and give yourself and your baby the benefits of breastfeeding! 


1National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. (2007). "Research on Breastfeeding."

2National Women's Health Information Center. (2007). Benefits of breastfeeding.

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