Breastfeeding your baby is the ultimate gift you can give to both of you – it’s the best product intended by nature. It is a unique resource that can not be fully reproduced by any infant formula. Breast milk has many essential nutrients and vitamins for your baby; more importantly it carries with it your antibodies and strengthens your baby’s immune system. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed your baby at least for the first year and exclusively for at least the first 6 months. You should continue to breastfeed past the first year until you both are ready to stop. Breast milk changes over time, even during the day, to provide the nutrition that your growing baby needs. Research studies site numerous benefits of breastfeeding:
- Skin-to-skin contact promotes bonding between mother and baby
- Stronger immune system with fewer respiratory and other illnesses later on in life
- Lower occurrence of SIDS in breastfed babies
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity and hypertension and reduces the risk of juvenile diabetes by 34%
- Breastfed babies have lower average blood pressure later in life
- Immunizations are more effective for breastfed babies
- Breastfeeding reduces the occurrence and duration of ear infections, so common in infants
- Breastfed babies have fewer allergies
- Breastfed babies have higher IQ
- Breastfed babies develop fewer dental cavities later in life
- Stronger connection with your baby
- Since you burn hundreds of calories during nursing, breastfeeding speeds up your weight loss
- Breastfeeding helps your uterus shrink to its pre-pregnancy size and helps tone the uterine lining
- Lower risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer
- Breast milk is always ready, always fresh and does not cost a penny – perfect for travel
- Breastfeeding mothers have a much lower chance of getting pregnant while breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance of osteoporosis later in life
- It’s good for the environment – less waste
Breastfeeding does not come easy and it takes some patience and determination. The less pressure you put on yourself about succeeding, the sooner you will be able to master this art. Some lucky moms get this right away, for others it takes skill. There are some things you can do to help you:
- Experiment with different hold positions – try a football hold or breastfeed lying down. Find one that makes you the most comfortable and your baby will take the clue.
- Pump when you can. This will stimulate the production of milk and you can freeze the extra supplies for someone else to feed the baby when you need a break or go to work.
Invest in a good quality pump, such as Medela and this process will be much easier.
- Get as much rest as you can and drink plenty of fluids. When you are relaxed and hydrated, you will produce more milk.
- Know that the benefits of breastfeeding last when the baby is weaned – so your efforts don’t stop when you stop breastfeeding.
If you are not sure your baby is getting enough milk, there are a few check points for you to be absolutely confident nature is doing its job:
- Your baby has 8-10 wet diapers a day
- Baby’s urine is very light in color. If he is not getting enough nutrition, his urine will be darker and contain gel-like crystals.
- 4-5 bowel movements a day. The color should be light as well.
- When you are breastfeeding, you can hear your baby gulping and swallowing the fluid.
- Baby is happy overall and does not cry hungry.
- Your breasts are engorged – more milk flow is produced when milk is used – so if your baby is drinking enough of it, you will feel more being produced.
- In the first 3 months you will likely breastfeed every 2 hours. Take clues from your little boss, he will tell you when he is hungry. With time, the feedings will become less frequent and you will get more sleep.
If you choose to breastfeed your baby 100%, baby’s food will always be with you. However, many people will balk at you outside. This is shocking knowing how natural this process is and how many benefits there are to breastfeeding.
But whether on a park bench or on a plane, be prepared to see the furry brow. One thing you should know is that the law is on your side. 39 US states have laws specifically protecting mother’s right to breastfeed in any public or private location.
There is also a federal law from 1999 that guarantees a woman’s right to nurse anywhere on federal property. If you are shy or don’t want to confront the people that will object (which is a sad reality), you can take a few preventive measures:
– Wear a shawl or blanket around you and baby when breastfeeding
– Find a nursing mother’s room, any private room or a secluded location
– Feed the baby before you leave the house
– Remember this is the most natural process. Nobody will object to a grown man eating a sandwich, so why should anyone object to a baby getting fed?
With the introduction of formula and aggressive advertising, many mothers in the US were influenced to forego breastfeeding, and as a result the US has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.
According to the New York Times, 70% of moms start breastfeeding right away but only 20% are exclusively breastfeeding 6 months later. Sweden is one of the countries with the highest awareness of breastfeeding benefits and highest breastfeeding rate – at 75% around 6 months. Make your best try to exclusively breastfeed your baby, at least for the first 6 months and you will reap the rewards for years to come.
Perhaps you are not physically able to breastfeed, whether due to an illness, inadequate milk production, or time constraints. You can choose formula – the next best bet for both of you. Some mothers choose to supplement breast milk with formula, to have more time to relax and make the transition to the bottle easier from the start. Talk to your pediatrician about the best option. Any amount of breastfeeding is good for your baby, but if you choose formula, know that your milk supply will likely decrease (unless you are pumping), since milk production is not as frequently stimulated.
Formula feeding still has similar emotional advantages – a closer connection with your baby when you gaze into his eyes while feeding him the bottle, sucking reflex which promotes jaw development, nutrition (baby has to eat!) and DHA now present in most formulas. Plus, if your baby is lactose-intolerant, you can choose soy formulas and other variations. Formula companies, such as Similac or Enfamil have many helpful resources for moms – visit their sites and subscribe to mailings. Interestingly, just like with diapers, many moms will stick with the brand that you try at the hospital, but be open-minded and look at all the options for your baby.
As with breast milk, take clues from your baby to know how frequently he needs to eat. But there are some suggestions we can give you, only as guidance – check with your pediatrician to be sure you do what’s right for your baby.
- 1-3 weeks – 8 feedings in 24 hours, 3 oz each time
- 4-8 weeks – 6 feedings in 24 hours, 4 oz each time
- 3-6 months – 5 feedings in 24 hours, 6-7 oz each time
When you choose formula, it’s important to pick the bottle and nipple that your baby will like best. Smart moms will not buy sets of bottles right away, but rather buy 1 bottle from 3-4 different brands each and then see which one your baby prefers. Then, get a set of the bottles chosen by the little one. Don’t forget to get a bottle brush and/or a dishwasher caddy. Boil the bottles and nipples when you first get them to disinfect properly. You can use cooled down boiled water when mixing formula, or use tap water if it’s of good quality and you drink it yourself. Try to not use bottled water, as it will not contain fluoride so important for baby’s future teeth.
Feeding your little baby is both a skill and a great joy – enjoy it while it lasts (until he gets independent enough to eat himself). No matter what your choice is, though we hope it is breastfeeding, do not stress about it and do what comes naturally.
What to Expect The First Year
Caring for your Baby and Young Child
Your Pregnancy & Birth
Continued: FEEDING YOUR BABY: 6-12 months