Should our baby be breastfed or bottle-fed?”
“Can solid foods be given too soon?
How do I know if my baby has eaten enough?
New and experienced parents ask so many questions! Wouldn’t it be great for parents and other caregivers if newborns were delivered into their parents’ arms with a “how-to” manual ﬁlled with feeding instructions?
As you feed your baby, keep two main goals in mind: provide enough food energy (or calories) and nutrients to support your baby’s optimal growth and development . . . and nourish the emotional bonds between you and your baby.
Eight Benefits of breast-Feeding
Medical and nutrition experts highly recommend breastfeeding at least for an infant’s ﬁrst year of life. Breast milk alone can provide enough nourishment to support your baby’s optimal growth and development during the ﬁrst six months of life. Then when solid foods are introduced, they complement breast milk. Breast milk continues to be important for your baby for the ﬁrst year—and even longer.
- Breastfeeding offers a host of physical, emotional, and practical beneﬁts for both baby and mother. The beneﬁts of breast-feeding are greatest when mother’s milk is your baby’s exclusive source of nourishment for the ﬁrst six months, and continue when solids are introduced at about six months. The longer a baby breast-feeds, the greater the beneﬁts. However, your baby beneﬁts even when breastfeeding lasts for only a short time, perhaps only during your six- to eight- week maternity leave.
- Breast milk has the right amount of fat, sugar, water, protein, and other nutrients to meet the growth, development, and energy needs of infants. And as a baby matures and grows, the composition and amount of breast milk that a mother produces naturally changes.
- Breast-fed babies get protection from both allergies and common illnesses. Unlike formula, breast milk is rich in antibodies and other substances that help protect an infant from illnesses such as ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, allergies, intestinal infections, and perhaps sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breast-fed babies aren’t sick as often and have fewer doctor’s visits. In fact, human milk contains at least a hundred ingredients that infant formula doesn’t have!
- Colostrum, the clear or yellow ﬂuid secreted for two to four days after delivery, is rich in protein and vitamin A, with more antibodies than the mature milk that follows. It helps protect a newborn’s intestines from infection during the ﬁrst few months. Think of colostrum as a newborn’s ﬁrst immunization. Colostrum also helps a baby pass his or her ﬁrst stool.
- Breast milk changes with the baby’s changing needs. From about the third to the tenth day after delivery, the body produces transition milk—a mix of colostrum and mature milk. And then mature milk, bluish in color and thinner in consistency, comes in. As your baby needs to eat more and more often, your breasts produce more milk.
- Breast milk is easy for babies to digest. It’s clean and safe. Babies may react to something their mothers eat, but they’re rarely allergic to their mother’s milk. Breast-feeding requires more sucking than bottle-feeding. This helps strengthen and develop the baby’s jaw and so helps teeth and speech patterns.
- Later on, those who were breastfed may be less likely to develop certain chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, some types of cancer, and certain stomach and intestinal diseases. Research in this area is not conclusive, but it is promising.
- Other areas of research: breast-fed babies tend to gain less unnecessary weight and tend to be leaner, perhaps with less chance for obesity later. Breastfeeding also increases mental function; breast-fed babies score higher on childhood IQ tests, especially those born prematurely.
How mom gets many beneﬁts from breast-feeding
Besides knowing that your baby is well-fed, you as a nursing mom get many beneﬁts from breastfeeding, too. The longer a woman breast-feeds, the greater the beneﬁts to both baby and mother.
- Breast-feeding nurtures a close bond between mother and baby. That’s often a gratifying, emotionally fulﬁlling extension of pregnancy and a chance to build self-esteem as a parent.
- Always ready-to-feed, breast milk doesn’t need measuring, mixing, or warming. So it’s easy, especially in the wee hours of the night. With no bottles to prepare or wash and no infant formula to shop for, nursing moms have more time to relax with the baby, or to catch a nap as baby sleeps.
- Breastfeeding also may help a new mother regain her prepregnancy ﬁgure and reduce postpartum bleeding. Because nursing stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps the uterus to contract and shrink, a mother’s abdomen trims down more quickly. Her body also uses the fat pad that was deposited on her hips and thighs during pregnancy as some fuel for milk production. Gradual weight loss during breast-feeding doesn’t affect milk production.
- Breastfeeding is economical, too—even when you account for the extra food a mother eats. The average cost of infant formula is about $700 a year, or more depending on the brand, for families who don’t breastfeed. And since breast-fed babies often aren’t sick much, there’s less cost for doctor visits and lost work income when babies are breast-fed. Women who breast-feed do need to add about 500 calories a day to their normal diet to cover the energy required for milk production. These calories are best added with nutrient-rich food-group foods
- There’s less odor involved with breastfeeding. The diaper-changing odor is less offensive, and if a breast-fed infant spits up, there’s very little smell, and it doesn’t stain clothing.
- a mother takes time to relax every few hours. That’s often a welcome and needed change of pace from the added demands of being a new parent.
- What about long-term beneﬁts? Women who have breastfed have a lower risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis and hip fractures. Breastfeeding also helps with blood glucose levels for women with gestational diabetes.
Do you know
- if breast size affects the success of breastfeeding? No, and it doesn’t affect the volume of milk production, either. When a woman isn’t breast-feeding, glands that produce milk are very small, regardless of breast size. The amounts of fat and ﬁbrous tissue a woman has, not the glands that produce breast milk, determine breast size.
- if premature babies can breast-feed successfully? Many premature babies can. But if your baby is born prematurely, get help from a lactation counselor, pediatric nurse, or your doctor. You may need to express milk at ﬁrst; you’ll still feed your milk to your baby, perhaps
- mixed with a nutrient supplement for preterm infants. For premature babies, breast milk offers beneﬁts that help them grow and stay free from illness. There’s another reason to start right away: you need to establish your milk supply if you plan to nurse.
- if the foods you eat during pregnancy or breastfeeding increase your baby’s risk for food allergies? Plenty of research indicates that breast-feeding reduces the risk of food allergies, particularly if there’s a family history of allergies. In fact, food allergies are less common in breast-fed babies than in formula-fed babies.
- No conclusive evidence shows that all pregnant or nursing mothers should avoid certain foods to protect against allergies. However, as a precaution against potential allergens in breast milk, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that nursing mothers of susceptible infants (with a family history of allergies) are wise to skip peanuts and peanut-containing foods.
- what to do if your baby reacts to something you eat? Be watchful. If your baby seems to react poorly after you eat certain foods, including those with known allergens, stop eating them for a while. Any allergic reaction usually comes from a protein in a food that a mother consumes, not from breast milk itself. If your pediatrician identiﬁes an allergy, eliminate that food or ingredient in your diet until your baby is weaned.
While breastfeeding is nature’s way of providing ideal nutrition for infants, the “art” of breast-feeding might not come as naturally!
- To build conﬁdence and to help ensure an adequate milk supply, start nursing as soon after delivery as possible. The best time to start is within twenty to thirty minutes after your baby is born, perhaps right in the delivery room. The ﬁrst feeding will be short, about ten minutes. “Rooming-in” at the hospital may make your ﬁrst days with nursing more successful.
- Relax and make yourself comfortable. Find a comfortable chair with good arm and back support. Or lie down with pillows strategically positioned to help you support your baby. If you are comfortable and well supported, it’s easy to hold your baby, and you won’t feel much tension in your neck, back, and shoulders.
- Plan to nurse on demand—that is, whenever your baby says it’s time to eat. Increased alertness or activity, rooting toward your breast, or mouthing are all signs that your baby is hungry. Typically, crying is a late signal of hunger. Trying to establish a schedule early on may frustrate you both. As reassurance, you can’t “spoil” your baby by feeding on demand. Most babies fall into a schedule with time.
- Be prepared to nurse very frequently during the ﬁrst months—about eight to twelve times every twenty-four hours. That’s because a newborn’s stomach is small and because nutrient needs are exceptional now during rapid growth and development.
- Frequent nursing helps establish your milk supply and keeps your breasts from becoming hard and swollen. Full and heavy breasts signal that it’s time to nurse. As milk “lets down,” or moves from the inner breast to the nipple, you may feel a tingling feeling.
- Help your baby by stroking the baby’s cheek nearest your breast. As your baby turns toward your nipple, guide your baby’s mouth so that he or she can take in as much of the areola (dark area of the nipple) as possible, not just the nipple. Newborns have a “rooting reﬂex” at the breast; they open their mouths naturally. Try to offer both breasts at each feeding. Let your baby nurse as long as he or she wants (about ten to twenty minutes on each breast). The last portion from each breast is “hindmilk.” This milk is higher in fat and helps the baby feel full and satisﬁed after feeding.
- Release your baby from the breast by gently putting your ﬁnger into the corner of his or her mouth. (Wash your hands before nursing.) This will ease the baby’s and break the suction without discomfort. Wait until you feel the suction release before pulling away.
- Latching on correctly helps your baby get enough milk and protects you from sore nipples. Ask about breast compression if latching on is a problem.
About Your Baby
- Burp your baby when you change breasts and at the end of the feeding. This relieves any discomfort from air swallowed while nursing. Hold him or her upright on your shoulder, or lay your baby “tummy-side down” across your lap. Then gently rub or pat your baby’s back. It’s normal for a baby to spit up a bit of milk.
- Trust your baby to let you know when he or she has had enough to eat. When your baby feels full, he or she may close his or her lips, turn away, or even fall asleep. Sometimes babies rest during a feeding, too, making it hard to know when one feeding stops and the next begins! Is your baby getting enough milk?
- Don’t worry about your baby’s loose stools. It’s normal for a breastfed baby to have loose, yellowish stools, which may resemble watery “mustard seeds
- Try to skip a paciﬁer or bottle nipple, at least for the ﬁrst month. It can interfere with your baby’s ability to learn to breast-feed.