You and your baby are unique, and the decision to breastfeed is up to you. You may be conflicted about whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed. Although infant formula is a nutritious substitute for breast milk, breastfeeding offers certain undeniable benefits that you should consider.
Benefits of breastfeeding for baby
Breast milk has a unique biology. It contains everything necessary for your baby's growth and development, all in a digestible form. This includes antibodies that ward off bacteria and viruses. Breast milk can protect your baby against ear, throat and sinus infection past infancy. Studies indicate that breastfed babies are also at a lower risk of having allergies or asthma.
Another reason for considering breastfeeding has to do with weight gain in babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthy breastfed babies typically gain weight more slowly than their formula-fed peers in the first year of life. Babies on a formula-fed diet tend to gain weight more quickly after three months of age. The differences in weight patterns persist after the introduction of complementary foods.
Benefits of breastfeeding for mom
Many women may not realize the life-long benefits of breastfeeding for themselves. Your body burns an extra 500 calories per day while making the breastmilk needed for your baby. This helps with weight management after delivery and helps you feel energized while caring for your newborn.
Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of severe anemia and urinary tract infections and reduces the risk of experiencing postpartum depression. Decreased risk of ovarian cancer and lower risk of developing breast cancer are also added benefits of breastfeeding for new mothers.
Your body is designed to provide just the right balance of nutritional needs for your baby while helping you stay healthy during your life journey.
Increases bonding between mother and child
Breastfeeding is a bonding time that babies look forward to, as their mothers lovingly hold, stroke and feed them. Your baby begins to recognize you as their source of safety, comfort and nourishment. Your touch and voice fulfill their physical and emotional needs, aiding their steady development.
Babies are biologically programmed to fall asleep at the breast. Nursing your child has a calming effect and induces sleepiness, helping you more easily manage their feed times and your daily schedule.
The skin-to-skin contact and soothing words you whisper to your baby aids their scent and voice recognition. It doesn't take long for your baby to recognize you by your scent and voice. When your child feels threatened or uneasy, your close presence and voice will instantly comfort them.
Breastfeeding is one of the great joys of motherhood. It is the earliest bonding ritual you have with your baby, creating cherished memories that you carry with you for life. Nursing your baby is a relaxing experience for you too, although it can be a bit painful if you’re having trouble getting into a comfortable position. Check out the tips below to position and support your child for a good latch.
Tips on breastfeeding
Babies are hardwired to latch themselves to the breast, although some may need gentle guidance. Position your baby properly and bring them near your breast. Your baby will open and close their mouth, and latch at your nipple when they find it. If they’re having a bit of trouble, here's what you can do:
- Position your baby such that their nose is opposite your nipple.
- Touch your baby's lips with your nipple to encourage them to open their mouth wide.
- When your baby's mouth is wide open, quickly bring them close to your breast, having their chin touch your breast first. This will give their lips access to a large portion of your areola.
- Support your breast from underneath as needed until your baby starts sucking and swallowing.
- If your baby does not latch on properly or you experience pain after your baby has started swallowing, ease your finger gently between their gums to break the suction and reattach.
Once you get into the groove, so to speak, breastfeeding your baby will be seamless and stress-free. Signs that they are getting enough milk are:
- The baby is settled after most feeds. Daily unsettled periods are normal too, so don’t be discouraged if that’s the case.
- They are alert and content when awake.
- They have adequate weight gain.
- They wet at least 4-5 disposable diapers/5-6 cloth diapers every 24 hours.
- They have at least one loose, yellow bowel motion every day.
How long should you continue breastfeeding?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation, you should feed your baby only breast milk for the first six months after birth and not any additional foods or fluids unless recommended by your doctor. You can continue breastfeeding until your baby is year old while also introducing solid foods into their diet. After one year, it is up to you to decide whether you wish to carry on nursing your child. The World Health Organization (WHO) also endorses breastfeeding for the first six months after the baby's entry into the world and up to two years of age or older.
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Breastfeeding as the Norm for Infant Feeding, Center for Disease Control
The effect of lactation on ovulating and fertility, National Library of Medicine