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What to Know About Breastfeeding

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and in this blog, we'll be covering some of the essential things to know!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your infant's life. After that, you can start supplementing with solids and it's recommended to continue breastfeeding for the remainder of your child's first year, or longer if desired. Breast milk provides all of the nutrients your baby needs and in the right amounts. Breast milk also contains water, and babies under 6 months of age should get their water intake from only breast milk or formula.

In addition to nutrients, breast milk has antibodies that can fight infection. These antibodies are higher in colostrum (the first milk that comes out of the breasts after birth), but are still present the entire time a parent nurses. Breastfeeding boosts your baby's immune system and protects your child from infectious diseases. The proteins, fats, and sugar in the milk work together with the white blood cells to fight gastrointestinal infections too. This protection continues even after breastfeeding ends.

Breast milk is known to have probiotic factors which provide nutrient sources for the healthy bacteria in the body and can protect against infections, as well as lower the risk for allergies, asthma, obesity, and chronic diseases.

Aside from the nutrition and the infection-fighting components of breast milk, the skin-to-skin contact from breastfeeding strengthens the bond between the baby and the parent. This physical closeness helps regulate your baby's temperature, stabilizes their heartbeat, and comforts them. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by up to 64% and overall infant death risks by up to 40%. Additionally, breastfeeding helps with sleep, brain development, and emotional development for babies.

Nursing isn't only beneficial for the infant; it also provides benefits to the parent. It can lower the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Nursing can help with childbirth recovery as well and is known to reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

While breastfeeding is natural, it can take a little practice to get it right. Not having the proper latch can lead to discomfort and pain as well as lower milk supply. To resolve this, it's important to find the right feeding position. The baby's ear, shoulder, and hip should be lined up in a straight line to your body, regardless of the position you use. Once you find the right position and line-up, you can guide your baby toward your breast so that they can latch on and start nursing. If they don't latch on properly, gently detach them and try again to avoid pain. For more tips on ensuring a proper latch, visit this guide from the AAP.

If you experience any challenges with breastfeeding such as nipple soreness, engorgement, low milk supply, milk oversupply, clogged ducts, etc., it's helpful to speak to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant. We can help with overcoming common issues and can often provide the information you need to breastfeed successfully.

A couple of frequently asked questions that families have are when should breastfeeding begin and how often should they feed? Breastfeeding should start within an hour after birth, if possible. During the first year, it's normal for babies to be breastfed at least 8 to 12 times within a 24-hour period. Always breastfeed as needed and based on your baby's hunger cues. You'll know if your baby is getting enough breast milk if they have at least 6 wet diapers per day once the milk is in fully. For more info on this, click here.

When you return to work or when you're away from your baby, you may want to start pumping milk. If you do so, make sure to follow the instructions of your breast pump's manufacturer and always use clean equipment. It might take a few minutes before the milk starts flowing, but massaging your breasts beforehand can help. When you finish expressing milk and if you don't plan to use it right away, store the milk in the refrigerator or cooler. For guidelines on proper milk storage, check out this guide from the CDC. And for tips on how to clean your breast pump, click here.

As a last reminder, your newborn's first checkup should be scheduled within 72 hours after they're discharged from the hospital. Our pediatricians can evaluate if your baby is consuming enough milk and provide breastfeeding tips if necessary. Contact our office for more info.

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