To breastfeed or not to breastfeed, that is the question.
Whether to breast feed or bottle-feed is a very personal decision. There are a lot of different experiences and factors that go into whether you personally decide to breastfeed your baby and sometimes that decision changes from one baby to the next.
Most of us have heard that breastfeeding is WONDERFUL, but why? Well, there are a lot of health benefits for both mom and baby.
Benefits for baby include protection from a wide range of diseases, including:
- bacteria in their blood
- respiratory tract infections
- infections that can kill the intestines (necrotizing enterocolitis)
- ear infections
- urinary tract infection
- in preterm infants, full body infections that show up later
- type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkins disease
- childhood overweight and obesity
There are also a lot of benefits for mom:
- decreased bleeding after delivering your baby
- your uterus returns to it's original size more quickly
- decreased bleeding when you cycle
- natural birth control for some women (lactational amenorrhea)
- earlier return to your prepregnancy weight
- lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancers
Breastfeeding is even good for society and the environment:
- breastfeeding families are sick less often
- parents miss less work
- doesn't use industrial energy to make
- doesn't contribute waste or air pollution
- no risk to your baby of contamination
- no prep work needed to make it the right temp for baby
Who should NOT breastfeed their baby?
Some reasons to definitely NOT breastfeed are:
- if baby has classic galactosemia (galactose 1-phosphate uridyltransferase deficiency - if your baby has it, you'll know what this is)
- if mom is HIV positive
You can still breastfeed in these conditions:
- babies born to moms who are hepatitis B surface antigen-positive
- moms who are infected with hepatitis C virus
- moms who have a fever
- moms who have been exposed to low-level environmental chemical agents
- moms who smoke tobacco or have an occasional celebratory drink (talk to your healthcare provider to get help quitting)
- most babies with jaundice can still be breastfed
The above lists do not cover everything. If you have questions about your personal illness and if it is ok to breastfeed, talk to your health care provider. Also talk with your healthcare provider about whether it is safe to breastfeed while taking any medication. Information on safe-to-breastfeed medications can also be found here, or get the app!
Most of the above information was gathered from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
So how do you do this thing? Breastfeeding is "natural", but it also has a learning curve for you and your baby. Some babies come out knowing exactly how to coordinate everything in their mouth for that perfect suck. Others, not so much. So, how can we make it easier on both mom and baby? There are a couple little tips that may help with the basics.
- skin to skin contact helps - put a blanket around the back of baby if needed to keep them warm.
- baby's tummy (in most cases) should be against your tummy
- brush your nipple across baby's nose and mouth till they open wide
- when baby's mouth is wide, "shove with love"
- use your hand on the back of baby's head and neck to bring baby to your breast (don't try to bring your breast to baby)
- get as much of your areola (the dark circle on your breast) in baby's mouth as possible. This helps to trigger the sucking reflex and also keeps baby from sucking your nipple off.
- keep baby supported and enjoy the bonding time (supportive pillows can help your arms from getting too tired)
Leche League is an awesome resource for all your breastfeeding problems. They also have trained professionals who can come to your home and help you should you have issues after you get home.
How Long Should I Breastfeed?
Once again, a very personal decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding ONLY for approximately the first 6 months and breastfeeding for at least a year. WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breastfeeding along with appropriate foods for the first 2 years. The research shows that basically the longer you breastfeed, the more protection you gain for you and baby. For example, mom's risk for breast cancer decreases with every year that she breastfeeds.
To learn more about the link between breastfeeding and decreased risk of breast cancer, check out this article from breastcancer.org. To learn more about infant and toddler feeding, visit CDC’s Infant and Toddler Nutrition website.