What are benefits of breastfeeding?

Breast milk is very important to an infant's growth and development. There is no better source of complete nutrition that a mother can provide for her baby during the first year of life or longer. In fact, human milk is known to contain at least 100 ingredients not found in formula.

Exclusive breastfeeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months after birth. Infants weaned before 12 months of age should not receive cow's milk feedings but should receive iron-fortified infant formula. Gradual introduction of iron-enriched solid foods in the second half of the first year should complement the breast milk diet. It is recommended that breast feeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired.

Breast Milk Facts

Healthier Babies: Breast-fed infants have lower rates of hospital admissions, ear infections, diarrhea, rashes, allergies and other medical problems than (formula) bottle-fed babies

Brain Development: Taurine, a sulfur-containing amino acid is found in relatively high concentrations in human milk. Taurine is known to become most concentrated in human brain cells during neonatal life In addition, formula fed babies, supplemented with taurine, are unable to maintain levels of taurine in their blood equivalent to breast-fed infants

Gentle on Developing Organs: Other amino acids, such as phenylalanine and tyrosine are found in very low concentrations in human milk. These low levels are important since the infant's liver is slow to develop the enzymes that metabolize these amino acids. Therefore, higher levels may overburden the baby's delicate system.

Immune System: Human milk contains a long list of proteins and protein antibodies that protect the [toddlers] immune system improving the baby's resistance to infections. Also included in human milk are small proteins that block viruses from attaching to cells. Simply stated, these protein enzymes disrupt the attacking bacteria's cell walls and prevent the bacteria from reproducing.

Often times, a concerned mother believes that her milk supply is not adequate for her child, when, in reality, it is perfectly adequate; it is merely a "perceived" low milk supply.

In order to help squelch any thoughts of inadequate milk supply, there are some physical signs an infant displays that help assess whether he/she is receiving adequate nutrients.

These include:

a) producing at least 6 wet diapers per day

b) urine that is pale and dilute (as opposed to dark yellow, strong-smelling urine)

c) frequent, seedy stooling (or if infrequent, large and soft stools)

d) eight or more nursings per day lasting 15-20 minutes (minimum) each

e) a slow and steady weight gain

f) he/she appears healthy, has good color, is alert, is active, and has good muscle tone

g) once a feeding is completed, he/she seems satisfied.

What if I don't have enough breast milk for my baby?


Have you met with a lactation consultant? A lactation consultant can provide very useful information from positioning a child for proper latching-on to how to manage other life issues while continuing to nurse. A lactation consultant can provide a wealth of information, and be a strong support for a nursing mother. Even though breastfeeding is "the way nature intended", sometimes we need some assistance. Look in your yellow pages, or ask your physician for a referral.

How often is your baby able to nurse? The more a baby can suckle, the more hormones necessary for milk production are released. In fact, prior to a growth spurt, a child will seem to want to nurse all day long. This is nature's way of meeting the demand. As the child nurses, the mother's body is encouraged to produce more milk to meet the needs of increased growth. If you are back to work or unable to nurse often for whatever reason, try to pump as often as possible. (Every 2-4 hours) Even if you aren't able to excrete much milk at a time, it is the stimulation of the nipples that will help to secrete these necessary hormones and encourage more milk production.

Are you able to reduce your stress? I know, easier said than done! However, a relaxed body is able to produce more milk than a stressful one.

Is someone else able to help with chores? Can you delegate other responsibilities? It is necessary to allow some time for yourself. Try to "get away" and enjoy an uninterrupted bubble bath, or a nap. Fatigue and stress are the number one cause for a decreased milk supply. Try to make de-stressing a priority.

Are you able to consume a nutritious diet with lots of high quality water? Strangely enough, a woman's body requires more nutrients while breastfeeding than while pregnant. I also recommend that you eat and/or drink something when you sit down to nurse. Studies show that more of the milk-producing hormones are secreted while eating. Also, more milk is produced if a mother eats right before or during a feeding. Remember to consume high-quality, nutritious foods with adequate protein, calories, vitamins and minerals. A severely strict diet will impede milk production efforts. If you are trying to get back to pre-pregnancy weight, allow yourself to do it very gradually. After all, the weight didn't come on overnight.

My milk hasn't "come in" yet. Do I need supplements?

Right after delivery, the milk that is present is termed the "colostrum". This milk has more protein, less fat, and more antibodies than mature human milk. It is extremely beneficial for a newborn's digestive tract. Shortly after, the milk begins to change or "transition" to what we call "mature" milk. Mature milk has a greater amount of carbohydrate and fat and less protein than colostrum. The time it takes to transition

My breastfeeding baby always seems hungry. How do I know if he's getting enough?

Weight gain is the best signal your baby is getting enough breast milk. However, during the first days at home, keeping a written record of your baby’s feedings, urine, and bowel movements also will help you gauge your baby’s progress. Generally, your baby should have a minimum of one wet diaper per day of life until the sixth day. (Example: by day three baby should have three to four wet diapers and a minimum of two bowel movements per 24 hours.) By day six your baby should have six to eight wet diapers and four to six bowel movements per 24 hours. Once baby has reached this amount, his intake is probably adequate.

Remember, it’s very common for a newborn to eat frequently, sometimes every hour and a half. Such frequent feedings are necessary because breast milk is easily digested. Nursing as often as your baby wants will keep him content and you comfortable. What’s more, frequent nursing will build up your breast milk production and provide y