Benefits of Breastfeeding and Tips for New Moms

I want to take the opportunity to encourage all mothers to breastfeed. We are learning more and more about the benefits of breastfeeding, both for moms and babies. There are many advantages that formula just cannot duplicate, such as immune system support and reducing the odds of getting breast cancer. (There are far too many to list here, so check out this link instead.)

This is a topic I feel quite strongly about, as I am currently nursing my third child. Now, I realize that breastfeeding doesn’t work out for everyone and some people are really not comfortable with the idea of nursing, but I encourage every mother to at least try out breastfeeding. After all, isn’t this what we tell our children? How do you know you don’t like broccoli if you haven’t tasted it? How do you know you can’t climb the rock wall if you’ve never tried?

How do you know you don’t want to, or can’t breastfeed if you’ve never tried?

There are several reasons women think breastfeeding is not for them.

  • Moms think they don’t produce anything, or not enough.
    • For the first few days, producing a lot of milk is not necessary. A teaspoon per feeding in the first day is enough! That is how miraculous the colostrum that your body produces is.
  • It can be difficult to know if your baby is getting enough milk.
    • Knowing how much milk your baby is getting can be a little tricky—and nerve-wracking for those type A personalities! But changing wet and dirty diapers and seeing weight gain after the first three to four days tells you your baby is getting everything he or she needs.

It’s a Team Effort

It’s important to keep in mind that breastfeeding is hard work at first. I naively thought that since women have nursed forever, it couldn’t be that hard, right? Wrong. It takes some patience and commitment to get through those first couple of weeks. That is when having a support system is essential, because it is all too easy to just say, “I give up. Formula is just as good.” But it’s not just as good. Make sure you have someone to turn to, whether it’s a friend or family member, a lactation consultant (Avera McKennan has a great team), your OB or your pediatrician.

Back to Work

Some women say they simply cannot pump at work. While I acknowledge it is hard to find time to pump at work, it is possible. You may need to invest in a hands-free pumping accessory (there are several different kinds out there) so you can eat lunch or do work while pumping, but it’s worth it. Other women just nurse when they are at home and give formula when they aren’t. That is not ideal, but those babies are still getting some benefits of breast milk.

There are many, many benefits of breastfeeding (see above link), but there are a few that are often overlooked.

  • It’s easy
    • Once you and your baby get the hang of nursing, nothing could be easier. When you are traveling or it’s the middle of the night and your baby is hungry, you don’t have to take time to get a bottle ready. You just pick up your baby and feed her or him.
    • Cost? What cost?
      • Formula can get expensive; breast milk is free!
      • Healthy babies
        • It helps keep your little one from getting sick, even if you get sick. Your body makes antibodies to fight off illnesses and those antibodies pass through breast milk. While it isn’t 100 percent protective against all illnesses, it is better than nothing!

There is so much more I could write about on the topic of breastfeeding, but there are a lot of resources out there as well. Here are a couple of websites I recommend:

Best for Babes

Dr. Jen 4 Kids (click on breastfeeding on the left side)

Kelly Mom

And don’t forget about our wonderful lactation consultants at Avera McKennan. You can reach them at 322-4490.

By Dr. Shari Eich

Pediatrician at Avera Medical Group McGreevy Clinic, Sioux Falls

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