One of the earliest decisions as a new parent will be what to feed your newborn. Will your baby be breast- or bottle-fed? Both the Office of the Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. This means your baby needs no other source of food or drink, including water, formula or cereal. Babies ideally should continue to nurse for the first year or longer, or as long as mom and baby both desire.
The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous. Even in today’s high-tech, fast-paced world, breastfeeding makes more sense than ever.
Breast milk contains live antibodies, which protect infants from illnesses including ear infections, respiratory infections and diarrhea. This results in fewer visits to the pediatrician for sick care and fewer missed sick days from work. Breastfeeding also offers protection against one of the biggest threats to today’s children, obesity. The longer a child nurses, the lower the risk of being overweight. This relationship is not completely understood. One thought is that breastfed infants control the amount they eat which helps to develop their internal cues for fullness. Formula-fed infants have higher plasma insulin concentrations.Higher insulin stimulates deposition of fat tissue, which may be the initial building block of obesity. This relationship continues to be closely studied.
Breastfeeding offers just as many benefits for the mother as for the baby. The hormones that release the breast milk produce contractions in the uterus, which prevent excessive blood loss after delivery and help the uterus to contract to its pre-pregnancy size, enabling mothers to fit back into those pre-baby jeans quicker. Producing breast milk is an active metabolic process, burning an average of 200 to 500 calories a day. This may help breastfeeding moms lose their pregnancy weight quicker. To lose the equivalent, a bottle-feeding mother would need to swim as least 30 laps or bicycle for an hour. Studies have also documented a decrease in the risk of breast cancer, ovarian and type 2 diabetes for the breastfeeding mom.
Breastfeeding isn’t just the most environmentally friendly way to feed your infant – with less trash and plastic waste compared to formula feeding – it’s a cost-effective choice, too.
Numerous resources are available to help the breastfeeding mother who will most certainly need support. Lactation consultants are specially trained professionals to assist mothers with breastfeeding. Check the hospital where you plan to deliver to make sure it offers lactation consultant services. A prenatal breastfeeding class is a great way to get started.Several local hospitals offer breastfeeding support groups as a chance for new mothers to share and learn from others. La Leche League is another organization active in the area offering breastfeeding support groups.
The advantages of breastfeeding are too numerous to include in this space.What’s important to remember is this: Even if you are able to breastfeed for only a short time, your baby will experience numerous benefits that are not available from any formula. If you have tried before and weren’t successful, you can always try again.