Many choices have to be made when a new baby is on the way. One of these choices is how you are going to feed your baby, with breast milk or formula or maybe a mixture of both. Many factors can indicate which feeding route will be better for you, your baby, and your family. These can include job schedules, other young children to take care of, the amount of breast milk supply, and even just personal preference. In this blog post, I will go over the benefits and challenges of breastfeeding and will follow up in the next blog post with the benefits and challenges of formula. The goal of these posts is to give you the information you need to make an informed decision on how to feed your baby.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
There are many benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby. One of the greatest benefits of a breastfed baby is that their risk of illnesses and other health issues is greatly decreased. (2) Breast milk also aids in building a strong immune system. Some of these illnesses include:
- Respiratory infections such as pneumonia, whooping cough, and RSV.
- Ear infections
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- The common cold
- Intestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Research has also shown that there is a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs) in breastfed babies. (1)
Breast milk is full of nutrients and has the perfect amount and ratios of fat, sugar, water, protein, and vitamins that aid in your baby’s development. It also is easy for babies to digest, promotes healthy weight gain, and adapts nutritionally as your baby grows based on what they need. (2) In a nutshell, breast milk contains exactly what your baby needs nutritionally and even increases their health and development.
Breastfeeding not only benefits your baby in many ways, but there are also benefits for you as the breastfeeding mother. The act of breastfeeding offers a time of bonding for the mother and baby. This is achieved through skin-to-skin contact, the baby listening to your heartbeat, and the baby getting to know the smell of your skin. (1)
Just like babies have a decreased risk of certain medical conditions, breastfeeding moms also experience this same benefit. They have a decreased risk in the following health conditions:
- Cancers such as breast, ovarian, endometrial, and thyroid.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Postpartum depression
Breastfeeding can also help you recover more quickly after giving birth. The hormone oxytocin is released during breastfeeding which causes the uterus to contract and return to its normal size. (2) Oxytocin also promotes feelings of empathy, affection, and calmness. (1)
Challenges of Breastfeeding
While breastfeeding is widely considered the best choice for both the mother and baby, it can come with some challenges and may not work for every family. Below I will discuss common challenges that mothers face and potential solutions to help overcome these challenges.
Many women experience painful or sore nipples after they start breastfeeding. While this is a common challenge, experts would say that it is not normal. Usually, painful breastfeeding is a sign that the baby is not latching correctly. Consulting a lactation specialist as soon you notice pain can be extremely helpful in determining the problem. (3) If you’re not sure where to find a lactation specialist, consult with your doctor or midwife.
Another concern for many mothers who want to breastfeed is that they are unable to know exactly how much their baby is eating. It’s true, you cannot measure how much milk your baby gets if you are strictly breastfeeding. But there are other ways to know that your baby is getting enough food. One way is to keep track of their weight and make sure they are within a normal weight range. This will be done at your pediatrician’s office when you go in for checkups. Another way is to make sure your baby is having the right amount of wet diapers. (3) Breastfed newborns should have at least 6 wet diapers a day. (4)
Many women have the desire to breastfeed but are also obligated to go back to work after the baby is born. So how can you ensure your baby is receiving breast milk while still holding down a job? This is where a breast pump can become your best friend. Breast pumps pump milk out of your breasts so your baby can receive it through a bottle and you can store extra milk. Below are some tips to consider if you plan on working and breastfeeding.
- Get to know your pump and practice using it before you go back to work. (5)
- Start pumping as soon as your baby is born and store the extra milk in the freezer. That way you have a good supply built up and don’t rely solely on what you’re pumping day to day.
- Practice bottle feeding your baby with breastmilk so they can have time to adjust. (5)
- Learn how often you will need to pump throughout the day. (5)
- Talk to your boss before returning to work to ensure you will have the time and space to pump at work.
Breastfeeding your baby can seem overwhelming and can come with some fears. But it is the most natural way to feed your baby and like I mentioned earlier, it is the perfect food for them. I hope this blog post encourages you to at least try breastfeeding and know that if you are having a hard time, there is help out there!
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact;
Nurturing Center of Lubbock
3303 66th Street
Lubbock, TX 79413
Phone: 806-780-6853 (available 24 hours)
Marlee Henn, RN
Marlee has been a nurse for two years and currently works in a functional medical clinic and part time in a long term acute care center. She has a passion for natural living, women’s health, and education.