Here are just some of the many good reasons why you should breastfeed your baby:
Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants.
Breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.
There are health risks to your baby if you do not breastfeed. Breast milk has agents (called antibodies) in it to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Babies who are not exclusively breastfed for 6 months are more likely to develop a wide range of infections diseases including ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. They are sick more often and have more doctor's visits. Infants who are not breastfed have a 21% higher postneonatal infant mortality rate in the U.S.
Breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests in childhood, especially babies who were born prematurely.
Nursing uses up extra calories, making it easier to lose the pounds of pregnancy.
It also helps the uterus to get back to its original size and lessens any bleeding you might have after giving birth.
Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and possibly the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.
Breastfeeding can help you bond with your baby.
Physical contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more secure, warm and comforted.
If I decide to breastfeed, is there a right way to do so?
There are several tips for making breastfeeding a good experience for both you and your baby. However, you can prevent the most common challenges or problems by following the three most important tips about breastfeeding:
Nurse early and often.
Try to breastfeed your baby within the first hour after birth. Newborns need to nurse frequently, at least every two hours, and not on a strict schedule. This stimulates your breasts to produce plenty of milk.
Breastfeed on demand.
Since breast milk is more easily digested than formula, breastfed babies eat more often than bottle-fed babies. Babies nurse less often as they get older and start solid foods. Watch your baby, not the clock, for signs of hunger, such as being more alert or active, mouthing (putting hands or fists to mouth and making sucking motion with mouth), or rooting (turning head in search of nipple). Crying is a late sign of hunger.
Nurse with the nipple and the areola (brown area surrounding the nipple) in the baby's mouth, not just the nipple.
How long should I breastfeed?
Babies should be fed with breast milk only - no formula - for the first six months of life. The longer a mom and baby breastfeeds, the greater the benefits are for both mom and baby. Ideally, babies should receive breast milk through the first year of life, or for as long as both you and your baby wish. Solid foods can be added to your baby's diet, while you continue to breastfeed, when your baby is six months old. For at least the first six months, breastfed babies don't need supplements of water, juice, or other fluids. These can interfere with your milk supply if they are introduced during this time. One of the best things that only you can do is to breastfeed your baby for as long as possible.
Can I still breastfeed when I go back to work?
Yes! You can do it! Breastfeeding keeps you connected to your baby, even when you are away. Employers and co-workers benefit because breastfeeding moms often need less time off for sick babies.
More and more women are breastfeeding when they return to work. There are many companies selling effective breast pumps and storage containers for your milk. Many employers are willing to set up special rooms for mothers who pump. After you have your baby, try to take as much time off as possible, since it will help you get breastfeeding well established and also reduce the number of months you may need to pump your milk while you are at work.
If you plan to have your baby take a bottle of expressed breast milk while you are at work, you can introduce your baby to a bottle when he or she is around four weeks old. Otherwise, the baby might not accept the bottle later on. Once your baby is comfortable taking a bottle, it is a good idea to have dad or another family member offer a bottle of pumped breast milk on a regular basis so the baby stays in practice.
Let your employer and/or human resources manager know that you plan to continue breastfeeding once you return to work. Before you return to work, or even before you have your baby, start talking with your employer about breastfeeding. Don't be afraid to request a clean and private area where you can pump your milk. If you don't have your own office space, you can ask to use a supervisor's office during certain times. Or you can ask to have a clean, clutter free corner of a storage room. All you need is a chair, a small table, and an outlet if you are using an electric pump. Many electric pumps also can run on batteries and don't require an outlet. You can lock the door and place a small sign on it that asks for some privacy. You can pump your breast milk during lunch or other breaks. You could suggest to your employer that you are willing to make up work time for time spent pumping milk.
Source: The National Women's Health Information Center
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office on Women's Health
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