Breastfeeding is healthy for both you and your baby.
Decades ago, many American women made the switch to formula to feed their newborns. Today, doctors know that a mother’s milk is the best thing for her baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers give their babies only breast milk for the first six months of life, then continue breastfeeding for at least another six months as they also introduce other foods.
- Colostrum (also called first milk) provides infants with essential nutrients that they need to develop during their first few days outside the womb. This thick, yellowish milk also supplies antibodies that help babies develop immunity from disease.
- Mature milk, a thinner, whiter liquid, starts to flow around the third or fourth day. This milk balances protein, sugar, fat, and water in the right combination to stimulate a baby’s growth. This milk also continues to provide antibodies.
- Along with providing antibodies, mother’s milk is associated with a lower risk of a child later developing type 1 diabetes and childhood leukemia. Infants given formula, meanwhile, are more apt to develop certain diseases, such as asthma and type 2 diabetes.
How do moms benefit from breastfeeding their babies? Health benefits include lower incidences of:
- breast and ovarian cancer
- type 2 diabetes
- postpartum depression
Beyond the health benefits are these pluses:
- no expense of buying formula, bottles, and nipples
- no hassle of getting up to warm bottles in the middle of the night
- strengthened emotional bond between mother and baby, which can help calm the mom
- fewer missed days from work, since breastfed babies tend to be healthier
Of course, breastfeeding isn't always possible. A small number of babies can’t digest milk and need to use a soy-based formula. And some mothers might have health conditions that make it unsafe for them to breastfeed. But most moms and their kids can take advantage of all the benefits of breastfeeding. And here at Woman’s Hospital, our Maternity Services has a trained staff to help new moms make the most of breastfeeding.