The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months and can be continued for as long as both mother and baby desire it. The following articles help explain how breastfeeding not only provides excellent nutrition, but also sets baby up for healthy growth and development.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom
Release of Good Hormones
Many mothers feel fulfillment and joy from the physical and emotional communion they experience with their child while nursing. These feelings are augmented by the release of hormones, such as:
- Prolactin: Produces a peaceful, nurturing sensation that allows you to relax and focus on your child.
- Oxytocin: Promotes a strong sense of love and attachment between the two of you.
These pleasant feelings may be one of the reasons so many women who have breastfed their first child choose to breastfeed the children who follow.
Breastfeeding provides health benefits for mothers beyond emotional satisfaction.
- Mothers who breastfeed recover from childbirth more quickly and easily. The hormone oxytocin, released during breastfeeding, acts to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding.
- Studies show that women who have breastfed experience reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer later in life.
- Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Exclusive breastfeeding delays the return of the mother’s menstrual period, which can help extend the time between pregnancies. (Note: Exclusive breastfeeding can provide a natural form of contraception if the mother’s menses have not returned, the baby is breastfeeding day and night, and the baby is less than six months old.)
Are you nursing correctly
When your milk comes in
Breast milk arrives in three stages. Nature designed each for your baby’s age, making it the perfect food from the first day to the tenth and beyond:
- Colostrum: When you first deliver, milk hasn’t yet arrived on the scene. The thick, yellowy (though sometimes clear) substance that you’re producing is colostrum, the same stuff that leaked out of your breasts during pregnancy. This vital blend of protein, vitamins and minerals can also help defend against harmful bacteria and viruses, and possibly even stimulate baby to produce antibodies. It also coats the inside of baby’s intestines, protecting her immature immune system, and protecting against allergies and digestive upset. Plus, it stimulates baby’s first bowel movement and reduces jaundice risk. You’ll likely make very little, but baby probably won’t need more than a few teaspoons of this “liquid gold” per feeding during the early days. Regularly suckling from the start will help stimulate your body to produce the next stage of milk within a few days.
- Transitional milk: Next on the tasting menu is transitional milk, which your breasts serve up between colostrum and mature milk, usually around the third or fourth day. It resembles milk mixed with orange juice — but fortunately tastes a lot better to your baby — and appears when your milk first “comes in.” It contains lower levels of immunoglobulins and protein than colostrum but has more lactose, fat and calories. And don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like you’re producing a lot of milk — at day 3, baby’s stomach is only the size of a walnut.
- Mature milk: Arriving between day 10 and two weeks postpartum, mature milk is thin and white, though sometimes slightly bluish. While it looks like watery skim milk, it’s packed with all the fat and other nutrients that growing babies need.
How long to breastfeed?
How often to breastfeed?
Feeding babies when they’re hungry (on demand) rather than on a schedule is ultimately best for breastfeeding success. A newborn should have at least eight to 12 feedings each 24 hours, even if demand isn’t up to that level yet, for the first few weeks. Feeding patterns vary widely from baby to baby, however, so you might need to nurse a little more or less frequently.
Signs baby is hungry
Remember, even after all your efforts your baby still feels hungry, there is no harm or shame in considering bottle feeding.
Talk to your health care provider and take the right decision.