Breastfeeding is widely regarded as having many benefits and advantages for both mothers and their newborns. While it is a natural way to provide the healthiest nutrition to a child during its first year of life, most mothers can benefit from some support and guidance when a baby is born.
Who Can Breastfeed
Generally women without health conditions are encouraged to breastfeed for at least a year and then as long as desired by the mother and child.
Conditions where breastfeeding should not be done include the presence of HIV or tuberculosis since these infections can be passed on to the infant. Additionally, certain medicines, illegal drugs, and alcohol can also cause harm to the baby.
How Breastfeeding works
The breastfeeding process works on the principle of positive feedback. As an infant suckles at a mother’s breast, a message is sent to the mother’s brain that results in the production of a chemical that stimulates the production of milk. The ability for a mother to continuously produce milk depends upon this feedback cycle not being interrupted. Interruptions in the cycle can occur when the message to the mother’s brain is disrupted by:
- an infant sleeping longer than 4 hours
- poor suckling by the infant
- bottle feeding
Advantages of Breastfeeding and Breast Milk
The important aspect of breastfeeding is that a mother’s breast milk is intended exclusively for infants. It provides not only all the protein, sugar, fat and vitamins an infant requires, but special and unique benefits that artificial formulas cannot match. These include:
- easily digested
- no preparation is needed
- continuously available and costs nothing
- environmentally safe since it produces no waste
- stimulation of the uterus to return to its regular size more quickly
- faster return to pre-pregnancy weight
- reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer
- stimulation of building of bone strength in mothers
- enhanced infant and mother bonding and development
- promotion of infant eye and jaw muscle development
Additionally, substances in human breast milk provide an infant with protective antibodies so that they are less likely to experience:
- ear infections
- respiratory infections such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis
- SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
Resources for Breastfeeding
If you are expecting to breastfeed, you should consult with our office to be connected with local classes and resources.
After your baby is born, we can connect you with a lactation consultant for one-on-one support.
The local La Leche League (www.llli.org), which is an international non-profit, non-sectarian organization, can provide education, information, support, and encouragement in a private or group setting.
Doctor’s Blog: Your resource for answers and education
We know parents sometimes turn to the Internet for answers. We hope you’ll find our blog a helpful resource for every step of your child’s journey.