There are many rewards to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding helps to develop a close bond between you and your infant and provides your new baby with the best nutrition. Breast milk has nearly a perfect mix of vitamins, proteins and fat.
Breast milk contains antibodies (substances that can protect your baby against some illnesses). For the sick or fragile baby, it is a medicine that only mom can provide. Babies who are fed breast milk are usually healthier. They have fewer allergy problems like eczema and asthma; they have fewer ear infections, fewer digestive problems and are not hospitalized as often as those fed formula.
Breast milk may also offer some protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Making breast milk burns calories so it can help you lose weight.
Breastfeeding takes practice. It may take some time for you to be successful. It does not always happen by instinct as it does in animals. Read the tips below to learn how to breastfeed.
Picture 1 - Relax and enjoy this special time with baby.
Your baby may swallow air while breastfeeding. This air should be brought up or "burped" to prevent stomach pain. Infants sometimes need to be burped midway through and at the end of feeding. To remove the air bubbles, sit your baby on your lap and support his head with your hand. With your other hand, gently pat or rub his back. A little milk may come out with the burp. Have a clean cloth ready.
Avoid bottle feedings during the first 3 weeks or until breastfeeding is well established. When you need to be away from your baby for a few hours, you may substitute a bottle. Breast milk in the bottle is best. Refer to the Helping Hand HH-IV-61, Breast Care and Expressing Milk to learn how to express milk manually (remove by hand). For information about using a hospital grade electric pump (the type of pump used in the hospital), refer to Helping Hand HH-IV-85, Breast Milk for Your Hospitalized Infant: Electric Breast Pump.
When you cannot pump your own milk, your baby may be fed formula. Doctors recommend babies be fed breast milk during the first 12 months.
You do not need to wash your breasts before or after breastfeeding. Just let the milk dry on your breasts. You should wash your breasts with clear, warm water daily when you shower. To learn more, refer to the Helping Hand HH-IV-61, Breast Care and Expressing Milk.
Mothers who breastfeed need to eat more calories and protein each day than they would normally (Picture 3). Adding an extra meal or snacks each day, such as a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a glass of milk, adds calories and protein. Good sources of protein include chicken, meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, and nuts.
Eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of liquids gives you energy and helps you stay strong. You should limit drinks with caffeine such as coffee, tea, colas, and energy drinks. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of liquids each day so your urine stays pale yellow.
Your menstrual periods may stop during the time you are breastfeeding. However, if you do not want to become pregnant, ask your doctor to suggest the birth control method that is best for you. Be sure to tell your doctor you are breastfeeding. Some birth control medicines interfere with breastfeeding. They can reduce your milk supply.
Avoid using medicines when possible. This includes cold remedies, herbs, high dose vitamins and dietary supplements. Alcohol is a drug and should be avoided. Marijuana and other street drugs can harm your baby when breastfeeding.
Most prescription drugs are safe to use. Check with your doctor, pharmacist or lactation specialist to be sure.
Smoking in the same room with your baby is harmful to your baby. It increases the risk of your child having colds, respiratory problems and possibly SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day decreases a mother's milk supply. For more information, refer to Helping Hand HH-IV-68, Secondhand Smoke.
Call your doctor if:
If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding Your Baby (PDF)
HH-IV-6 5/83 Reviewed 8/13 Copyright 1983, Nationwide Children's Hospital