Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is the feeding of babies and young children with milk from a woman's breast. Health professionals recommend that breastfeeding begin within the first hour of a baby's life and continue as often and as much as the baby wants. During the first few weeks of life babies may nurse roughly every two to three hours. The duration of a feeding is usually ten to fifteen minutes on each breast. Older children feed less often. Mothers may pump milk so that it can be used later when breastfeeding is not possible. Breastfeeding has a number of benefits to both mother and baby, which infant formula lacks.
Deaths of an estimated 820,000 children under the age of five could be prevented globally every year with increased breastfeeding. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of respiratory tract infections and diarrhea, both in developing and developed countries. Other benefits include lower risks of asthma, food allergies, celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and leukemia. Breastfeeding may also improve cognitive development and decrease the risk of obesity in adulthood. Mothers may feel pressure to breastfeed, but in the developed world children generally grow up normally when bottle fed.
Benefits for the mother include less blood loss following delivery, better uterus shrinkage, and less postpartum depression. Breastfeeding delays the return of menstruation and fertility, a phenomenon known as lactational amenorrhea. Long term benefits for the mother include decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Breastfeeding is less expensive than infant formula.
Health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), recommend breastfeeding exclusively for six months. This means that no other foods or drinks other than possibly vitamin D are typically given. After the introduction of foods at six months of age, recommendations include continued breastfeeding until at least one to two years of age. Globally about 38% of infants are only breastfed during their first six months of life. In the United States, about 75% of women begin breastfeeding and about 13% only breastfeed until the age of six months. Medical conditions that do not allow breastfeeding are rare. Mothers who take certain recreational drugs and medications should not breastfeed. Smoking, limited amounts of alcohol, or coffee are not reasons to avoid breastfeeding.
Main article: Lactation
Changes early in pregnancy prepare the breast for lactation. Pre-birth hormone levels become altered after the birth and stimulate the production of milk. From around halfway through pregnancy, the breasts begin to produce colostrum. Colostrum, a thick yellowish fluid rich in protein, continues to be produced for the first few days after delivery. Around 30 to 40 hours after delivery, the composition of milk changes to mature milk and milk volume becomes copious, an event known as the milk "coming in". Sucking causes the pituitary to release oxytocin that causes to the contraction of the uterus.Progesterone is the hormone that influences the growth of breast tissue before the birth. The postpartum changes that occur in the endocrine system after the birth shift from hormones that prevent lactation to hormones that trigger milk production. This can be felt by the mother in the breasts. The crying of the infant can induce the release of oxytocin from the pituitary gland.
Main article: Breast milk
Not all of breast milk's properties are understood, but its nutrient content is relatively consistent. Breast milk is made from nutrients in the mother's bloodstream and bodily stores. Breast milk has an optimal balance of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Breastfeeding triggers biochemical reactions which allows for the enzymes, hormones, growth factors and immunologic substances to effectively defend against infectious diseases for the infant. The breastmilk also has long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids which help with normal retinal and neural development.
The composition of breast milk changes depending on how long the baby nurses at each session, as well as on the child's age. The first type, produced during the first days after childbirth, is called colostrum. Colostrum is easy to digest although it is more concentrated than mature milk. It has a laxative effect that helps the infant to pass early stools, aiding in the excretion of excess bilirubin, which helps to prevent jaundice. It also helps to seal the infants gastrointestional tract from foreign substances, which may sensitize the baby to foods that the mother has eaten. Although the baby has received some antibodies through the placenta, colostrum contains a substance which is new to the newborn, secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA works to attack germs in the mucous membranes of the throat, lungs, and intestines, which are most likely to come under attack from germs.
Breasts begin producing mature milk around the third or fourth day after birth. Early in a nursing session, the breasts produce foremilk, a thinner milk containing many proteins and vitamins. If the baby keeps nursing, then hindmilk is produced. Hindmilk has a creamier color and texture because it contains more fat.
"Suckling" redirects here. For other uses, see Suckling (disambiguation).
Breastfeeding can begin immediately after birth. The baby is placed on the mother and feeding starts as soon as the baby shows interest.
According to some authorities, increasing evidence suggests that early skin-to-skin contact (also called kangaroo care) between mother and baby stimulates breastfeeding behavior in the baby. Newborns who are immediately placed on their mother’s skin have a natural instinct to latch on to the breast and start nursing, typically within one hour of birth. Immediate skin-to-skin contact may provide a form of imprinting that makes subsequent feeding significantly easier. In addition to more successful breastfeeding and bonding, immediate skin-to-skin contact reduces crying and warms the baby.
According to studies cited by UNICEF, babies naturally follow a process which leads to a first breastfeed. Initially after birth the baby cries with its first breaths. Shortly after, it relaxes and makes small movements of the arms, shoulders and head. The baby crawls towards the breast and begins to feed. After feeding, it is normal for a baby to remain latched to the breast while resting. This is sometimes mistaken for lack of appetite. Absent interruptions, all babies follow this process. Rushing or interrupting the process, such as removing the baby to weigh him/her, may complicate subsequent feeding. Activities such as weighing, measuring, bathing, needle-sticks, and eye prophylaxis wait until after the first feeding."
Children who are born preterm have difficulty in initiating breast feeds immediately after birth. By convention, such children are often fed on expressed breast milk or other supplementary feeds through tubes or bottles until they develop satisfactory ability to suck breast milk. Tube feeding, though commonly used, is not supported by scientific evidence as of October 2016. It has also been reported in the same systematic review that by avoiding bottles and using cups instead to provide supplementary feeds to preterm children, a greater extent of breast feeding for a longer duration can subsequently be achieved.
Newborn babies typically express demand for feeding every one to three hours (8–12 times in 24 hours) for the first two to four weeks. A newborn has a very small stomach capacity. At one-day old it is 5–7 ml, about the size of a marble; at day three it is 22–30 ml, about the size of a "shooter" marble; and at day seven it is 45–60 ml, or about the size of a ping-pong ball. The amount of breast milk that is produced is timed to meet the infant's needs in that the first milk, colostrum, is concentrated but produced in only very small amounts, gradually increasing in volume to meet the expanding size of the infant's stomach capacity.
According to La Leche League International, "Experienced breastfeeding mothers learn that the sucking patterns and needs of babies vary. While some infants' sucking needs are met primarily during feedings, other babies may need additional sucking at the breast soon after a feeding even though they are not really hungry. Babies may also nurse when they are lonely, frightened or in pain....Comforting and meeting sucking needs at the breast is nature's original design. Pacifiers (dummies, soothers) are a substitute for the mother when she cannot be available. Other reasons to pacify a baby primarily at the breast include superior oral-facial development, prolonged lactational amenorrhea, avoidance of nipple confusion, and stimulation of an adequate milk supply to ensure higher rates of breastfeeding success."
During the newborn period, most breastfeeding sessions take from 20 to 45 minutes. After one breast is empty, the mother may offer the other breast.
Duration and exclusivity
Health organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months following birth. Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as "an infant's consumption of human milk with no supplementation of any type (no water, no juice, no nonhuman milk and no foods) except for vitamins, minerals and medications." In some countries, including the United States, UK, and Canada, daily vitamin D supplementation is recommended for all breastfed infants.
After solids are introduced at around six months of age, continued breastfeeding is recommended. The AAP recommends that babies be breastfed at least until 12 months, or longer if both the mother and child wish. WHO's guidelines recommend "continue[d] frequent, on-demand breastfeeding until two years of age or beyond."
The vast majority of mothers can produce enough milk to fully meet the nutritional needs of their baby for six months. Breast milk supply augments in response to the baby's demand for milk, and decreases when milk is allowed to remain in the breasts.Low milk supply is usually caused by allowing milk to remain in the breasts for long periods of time, or insufficiently draining the breasts during feeds. It is usually preventable, unless caused by medical conditions that have been estimated to affect up to five percent of women. If the baby is latching and swallowing well, but is not gaining weight as expected or is showing signs of dehydration, low milk supply in the mother can be suspected.
Most US states now have laws that allow a mother to breastfeed her baby anywhere. In hospitals, rooming-in care permits the baby to stay with the mother and simplifies the process. Some commercial establishments provide breastfeeding rooms, although laws generally specify that mothers may breastfeed anywhere, without requiring a special area. Breastfeeding in public remains controversial in many developed countries.
In 2014, newly elected Pope Francis drew worldwide commentary when he encouraged mothers to breastfeed babies in church. During a papal baptism, he said that mothers "should not stand on ceremony" if their children were hungry. "If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice," he said, smiling. "Because they are the most important people here."
Correct positioning and technique for latching on are necessary to prevent nipple soreness and allow the baby to obtain enough milk.
Babies can successfully latch on to the breast from multiple positions. Each baby may prefer a particular position. The "football" hold places the baby's legs next to the mother's side with the baby facing the mother. Using the "cradle" or "cross-body" hold, the mother supports the baby's head in the crook of her arm. The "cross-over" hold is similar to the cradle hold, except that the mother supports the baby's head with the opposite hand. The mother may choose a reclining position on her back or side with the baby laying next to her.
Illustration depicting correct latch-on position during breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding – Cradle hold.
Breastfeeding – Cross cradle position.
Breastfeeding – Football hold.
Breastfeeding – Incorrect vs correct latch-on.
Breastfeeding – Semi-reclining position.
Breastfeeding – Side-lying position.
Breastfeeding – Supine position.
Breastfeeding – Tease lips or cheek.
Breastfeeding – Twins, cross cradle position I.
Breastfeeding – Twins, football or clutch hold.
Breastfeeding – Twins, parallel position II.
Main article: Latch (breastfeeding)
Latching on refers to how the baby fastens onto the breast while breastfeeding. A good latch means that the bottom of the areola (the area around the nipple) is in the baby's mouth and the nipple is back inside his or her mouth. A poor latch happens when the baby does not have enough of the breast in his/her mouth or is too close to the tip. This can cause cracked nipples and a reluctance to continue to breastfeed.
Main article: Weaning
Weaning is the process of replacing breast milk with other foods; the infant is fully weaned after the replacement is complete. Psychological factors affect the weaning process for both mother and infant, as issues of closeness and separation are very prominent. If the baby is less than a year old substitute bottles are necessary; an older baby may accept milk from a cup. Unless a medical emergency necessitates abruptly stopping breastfeeding, it is best to gradually cut back on feedings to allow the breasts to adjust to the decreased demands without becoming engorged. La Leche League advises: "The nighttime feeding is usually the last to go. Make a bedtime routine not centered around breastfeeding. A good book or two will eventually become more important than a long session at the breast."
If breastfeeding is suddenly stopped a woman's breasts are likely to become engorged with milk. Pumping small amounts to relieve discomfort helps to gradually train the breasts to produce less milk. There is presently no safe medication to prevent engorgement, but cold compresses and ibuprofen may help to relieve pain and swelling. Pain should go away in one to five days. If symptoms continue and comfort measures are not helpful a woman should consider the possibility that a blocked milk duct or infection may be present and seek medical intervention.
When weaning is complete the mother's breasts return to their previous size after several menstrual cycles. If the mother was experiencing lactational amenorrhea her periods will return along with the return of her fertility. When no longer breastfeeding she will need to adjust her diet to avoid weight gain.
See also: Breastfeeding and medications
Almost all medicines pass into breastmilk in small amounts. Some have no effect on the baby and can be used while breastfeeding. Many medications are known to significantly suppress milk production, including pseudoephedrine, diuretics, and contraceptives that contain estrogen.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that "tobacco smoking by mothers is not a contraindication to breastfeeding." Breastfeeding is actually especially recommended for mothers who smoke, because of its protective effects against SIDS.
With respect to alcohol, the AAP states that when breastfeeding, "moderation is definitely advised" and recommends waiting for 2 hours after drinking before nursing or pumping. A 2014 review found that "even in a theoretical case of binge drinking, the children would not be subjected to clinically relevant amounts of alcohol [through breastmilk]", and would have no adverse effects on children as long as drinking is "occasional".
A mother can express (produce) her milk for storage and later use. Expression occurs with massage or a breast pump. It can be stored in freezer storage bags, containers made specifically for breastmilk, a supplemental nursing system, or a bottle ready for use. Using someone other than the mother/wet nurse to deliver the bottle maintains the baby's association of nursing with the mother/wet nurse and bottle feeding with other people.
Breast milk may be kept at room temperature for up to six hours, refrigerated for up to eight days or frozen for six to twelve months. Research suggests that the antioxidant activity in expressed breast milk decreases over time, but remains at higher levels than in infant formula.
Mothers express milk for multiple reasons. Expressing breast milk can maintain a mother's milk supply when she and her child are apart. A sick baby who is unable to nurse can take expressed milk through a nasogastric tube. Some babies are unable or unwilling to nurse. Expressed milk is the feeding method of choice for premature babies.Viral disease transmission can be prevented by expressing breast milk and subjecting it to Holder pasteurisation. Some women donate expressed breast milk (EBM) to others, either directly or through a milk bank. This allows mothers who cannot breastfeed to give their baby the benefits of breast milk.
Babies feed differently with artificial nipples than from a breast. With the breast, the infant's tongue massages the milk out rather than sucking, and the nipple does not go as far into the mouth. Drinking from a bottle takes less effort and the milk may come more rapidly, potentially causing the baby to lose desire for the breast. This is called nursing strike, nipple strike or nipple confusion. To avoid this, expressed milk can be given by means such as spoons or cups.
"Exclusively expressing", "exclusively pumping", and "EPing" are terms for a mother who exclusively feeds her baby expressed milk. With good pumping habits, particularly in the first 12 weeks while establishing the milk supply, it is possible to express enough milk to feed the baby indefinitely. With the improvements in breast pumps, many women exclusively feed expressed milk, expressing milk at work. Women can leave their infants in the care of others while traveling, while maintaining a supply of breast milk.
Main article: Wet nurse
It is not only the mother who may breastfeed her child. She may hire another woman to do so (a wet nurse), or she may share childcare with another mother (cross-nursing). Both of these were common throughout history. It remains popular in some developing nations, including those in Africa, for more than one woman to breastfeed a child. Shared breastfeeding is a risk factor for HIV infection in infants. Shared nursing can sometimes provoke negative reactions in the English-speaking world.
It is possible for a mother to continue breastfeeding an older sibling while also breastfeeding a new baby; this is called tandem nursing. During the late stages of pregnancy, the milk changes to colostrum. While some children continue to breastfeed even with this change, others may wean. Most mothers can produce enough milk for tandem nursing, but the new baby should be nursed first for at least the first few days after delivery to ensure that it receives enough colostrum.
Breastfeeding triplets or larger broods is a challenge given babies' varying appetites. Breasts can respond to the demand and produce larger milk quantities; mothers have breastfed triplets successfully.
Induced lactation, also called adoptive lactation, is the process of starting breastfeeding in a woman who did not give birth. This usually requires the adoptive mother to take hormones and other drugs to stimulate breast development and promote milk production. In some cultures, breastfeeding an adoptive child creates milk kinship that built community bonds across class and other hierarchal bonds.
Re-lactation is the process of restarting breastfeeding. In developing countries, mothers may restart breastfeeding after a weaning as part of an oral rehydration treatment for diarrhea. In developed countries, re-lactation is common after early medical problems are resolved, or because a mother changes her mind about breastfeeding.
Re-lactation is most easily accomplished with a newborn or with a baby that was previously breastfeeding; if the baby was initially bottle-fed, the baby may refuse to suckle. If the mother has recently stopped breastfeeding, she is more likely to be able to re-establish her milk supply, and more likely to have an adequate supply. Although some women successfully re-lactate after months-long interruptions, success is higher for shorter interruptions.
Techniques to promote lactation use frequent attempts to breastfeed, extensive skin-to-skin contact with the baby, and frequent, long pumping sessions. Suckling may be encouraged with a tube filled with infant formula, so that the baby associates suckling at the breast with food. A dropper or syringe without the needle may be used to place milk onto the breast while the baby suckles. The mother should allow the infant to suckle at least ten times during 24 hours, and more times if he or she is interested. These times can include every two hours, whenever the baby seems interested, longer at each breast, and when the baby is sleepy when he or she might suckle more readily. In keeping with increasing contact between mother and child, including increasing skin-to-skin contact, grandmothers should pull back and help in other ways. Later on, grandmothers can again provide more direct care for the infant.
These techniques require the mother's commitment over a period of weeks or months. However, even when lactation is established, the supply may not be large enough to breastfeed exclusively. A supportive social environment improves the likelihood of success. As the mother's milk production increases, other feeding can decrease. Parents and other family members should watch the baby's weight gain and urine output to assess nutritional adequacy.
A WHO manual for physicians and senior health workers citing a 1992 source states: "If a baby has been breastfeeding sometimes, the breastmilk supply increases in a few days. If a baby has stopped breastfeeding, it may take 1-2 weeks or more before much breastmilk comes."
Main article: Extended breastfeeding
Extended breastfeeding means breastfeeding after the age of 12 or 24 months, depending on the source. In Western countries such as the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, extended breastfeeding is relatively uncommon and can provoke criticism.
In the United States, 22.4% of babies are breastfed for 12 months, the minimum amount of time advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In India, mothers commonly breastfeed for 2 to 3 years.
Support for breastfeeding is universal among major health and children's organizations. WHO states, "Breast milk is the ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; breastfeeding is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers.".
Breastfeeding decreases the risk of a number of diseases in both mothers and babies. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends efforts to promote breastfeeding.
Early breastfeeding is associated with fewer nighttime feeding problems. Early skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby improves breastfeeding outcomes and increases cardio-respiratory stability. Reviews from 2007 found numerous benefits. Breastfeeding aids general health, growth and development in the infant. Infants who are not breastfed are at mildly increased risk of developing acute and chronic diseases, including lower respiratory infection, ear infections, bacteremia, bacterial meningitis, botulism, urinary tract infection and necrotizing enterocolitis. Breastfeeding may protect against sudden infant death syndrome,insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma, allergic diseases, digestive diseases, obesity, develop diabetes, or childhood leukemia later in life. and may enhance cognitive development.
The average breastfed baby doubles its birth weight in 5–6 months. By one year, a typical breastfed baby weighs about 2-1/2 times its birth weight. At one year, breastfed babies tend to be leaner than formula-fed babies, which improves long-run health.
The Davis Area Research on Lactation, Infant Nutrition and Growth (DARLING) study reported that breastfed and formula-fed groups had similar weight gain during the first 3 months, but the breastfed babies began to drop below the median beginning at 6 to 8 months and were significantly lower weight than the formula-fed group between 6 and 18 months. Length gain and head circumference values were similar between groups, suggesting that the breastfed babies were leaner.
Breast milk contains several anti-infective factors such as bile salt stimulated lipase (protecting against amoebic infections) and lactoferrin (which binds to iron and inhibits the growth of intestinal bacteria).
Exclusive breastfeeding till six months of age helps to protect an infant from gastrointestinal infections in both developing and industrialized countries. The risk of death due to diarrhea and other infections increases when babies are either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all. Infants who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months are less likely to die of gastrointestinal infections than infants who switched from exclusive to partial breastfeeding at three to four months.
During breastfeeding, approximately 0.25–0.5 grams per day of secretory IgA antibodies pass to the baby via milk. This is one of the important features of colostrum. The main target for these antibodies are probably microorganisms in the baby's intestine. The rest of the body displays some uptake of IgA, but this amount is relatively small.
Maternal vaccinations while breastfeeding is safe for almost all vaccines. Additionally, the mother's immunity obtained by vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and influenza can protect the baby from these diseases, and breastfeeding can reduce fever rate after infant immunization. However, smallpox and yellow fever vaccines increase the risk of infants developing vaccinia and encephalitis.
Babies who receive no breast milk are almost six times more likely to die by the age of one month than those who are partially or fully breastfed.
The protective effect of breastfeeding against obesity is consistent, though small, across many studies. A 2013 longitudinal study reported less obesity at ages two and four years among infants who were breastfed for at least four months.
In children who are at risk for developing allergic diseases (defined as at least one parent or sibling having atopy), atopic syndrome can be prevented or delayed through 4-month exclusive breastfeeding, though these benefits may not persist.
Other health effects
Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Breastfeeding or introduction of gluten while breastfeeding don't protect against celiac disease among at-risk children. Breast milk of healthy human mothers who eat gluten-containing foods presents high levels of non-degraded gliadin (the main gluten protein). Early introduction of traces of gluten in babies to potentially induce tolerance doesn't reduce the risk of developing celiac disease. Delaying the introduction of gluten does not prevent, but is associated with a delayed onset of the disease.
About 19% of leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or longer.
Breastfeeding may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease in later life, as indicated by lower cholesterol and C-reactive protein levels in breastfed adult women. Breastfed infants have somewhat lower blood pressure later in life, but it is unclear how much practical benefit this provides.
A 1998 study suggested that breastfed babies have a better chance of good dental health than formula-fed infants because of the developmental effects of breastfeeding on the oral cavity and airway. It was thought that with fewer malocclusions, breastfed children may have a reduced need for orthodontic intervention. The report suggested that children with a well rounded, "U-shaped" dental arch, which is found more commonly in breastfed children, may have fewer problems with snoring and sleep apnea in later life. A 2016 review found that breastfeeding protected against malocclusions.
Breastfeeding duration has been correlated with child maltreatment outcomes, including neglect and sexual abuse.
It is unclear whether breastfeeding improves intelligence later in life. Several studies found no relationship after controlling for confounding factors like maternal intelligence (smarter mothers were more likely to breastfeed their babies). However, other studies concluded that breastfeeding was associated with increased cognitive development in childhood, although the cause may be increased mother–child interaction rather than nutrition.
Breastfeeding may improve a mothers physical and emotional health.
Hormones released during breastfeeding help to strengthen the maternal bond. Teaching partners how to manage common difficulties is associated with higher breastfeeding rates. Support for a breastfeeding mother can strengthen familial bonds and help build a paternal bond.
Main article: Postpartum infertility
Exclusive breastfeeding usually delays the return of fertility through lactational amenorrhea, although it does not provide reliable birth control. Breastfeeding may delay the return to fertility for some women by suppressing ovulation. Mothers may not ovulate, or have regular periods, during the entire lactation period. The non-ovulating period varies by individual. This has been used as natural contraception, with greater than 98% effectiveness during the first six months after birth if specific nursing behaviors are followed.
While breastfeeding soon after birth is believed to increase uterus contraction and reduce bleeding, high quality evidence to support this is lacking.
It is unclear whether breastfeeding causes mothers to lose weight after giving birth. The National Institutes of Health states that it may help with weight loss.
For breastfeeding women, long-term health benefits include reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer.
A 2011 review found unclear if breastfeeding affects the risk of postpartum depression.
Breastfeeding allows you and your baby to emotionally bond in a special way that cannot be matched, since breastfeeding meets both the nutritional and nurturing needs. Nursing is a learned skill for both mother and baby that requires time and patience.
Your breast milk
Breast milk provides many health benefits and is the ideal first food for your baby. For the first six months of life, the American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP) recommends only breastfeeding your baby, unless there are specific medical reasons to give other foods or liquids. Only breastfeeding means just that. No other liquids or foods should be given to your baby, including water, sugar water, juice, formula, soups, rice cereal or pureed foods.
Check with your baby’s health care provider for advice about giving your baby vitamins or minerals and when to add other liquids and foods to your baby's diet.
While you were pregnant, your body was preparing a very special blend of nutrients to meet your baby’s needs. Colostrum (early breast milk) is the perfect starter food for your baby. This yellowish, creamy substance is found in the breasts during pregnancy and for a few days after delivery. Your colostrum provides all the nutrition your baby will need right after birth. It also provides important protection against bacteria and viruses. Colostrum acts as natural laxative (something that makes it easier to have bowel movements) to help clear the meconium (the dark sticky stool that is made while the baby is in the uterus) from your baby’s intestines.
The amount of breast milk you make will increase over the first few days after birth. Breast milk is the perfect balance of water and nutrients containing fats, sugars, proteins, minerals, vitamins, antibodies and enzymes. It is also designed to promote brain and body growth. As your baby grows older, your milk changes to meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
Breastfeeding also allows you and your baby to bond in a way that cannot be matched by bottle feeding. Breastfeeding meets both your baby’s nutritional and nurturing needs.
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Benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
- Breastfeeding provides frequent, close physical contact and helps mother and baby become better acquainted.
- Antibodies from the mother are passed through the milk giving breastfed babies greater resistance to infection, such as respiratory viruses. This protection cannot be duplicated by formula, which contains no human antibodies.
- Breast milk is absorbed quickly and causes less stomach upset, constipation and diarrhea than formula.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies.
- Breastfeeding may decrease the chance of your baby developing ear infections, diabetes, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis later in life.
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance of some childhood cancers, such as lymphomas.
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- Breastfeeding enhances the development of oral muscles and facial bones.
- Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of childhood obesity .
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Benefits of breastfeeding for you
- Breastfeeding after giving birth causes contractions of the uterus, which helps prevent heavy bleeding. During the six weeks after birth, the uterus continues to contract and shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size.
- Breastfeeding is economical. You do not have the added cost of formula and supplies (approximately $1,600 per year for formula alone).
- Breastfeeding is more convenient. There is nothing to mix, measure, wash or prepare.
- Breastfeeding may help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight sooner than if not breastfeeding, especially if you nurse your baby for six months.
- Breastfeeding delays the return of menstruation. (Talk with your health care provider about birth control.)
- Breastfeeding triggers the release of the hormone Prolactin, known as the “mothering hormone,” which promotes a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
- Prolactin also promotes a deeper sleep, which enables you to feel more rested in a shorter amount of time.
- Research shows that breastfeeding reduces the risks of breast and ovarian cancer and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Breastfeeding helps mothers miss less work because their babies get sick less often.
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American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) promotes the following breastfeeding guidelines:
- Breastfeed during the first hour after delivery.
- No supplements (such as water, glucose water or formula) should be given to breastfeeding newborns unless needed because of a medical condition.
- Newborns should be fed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing or rooting. Crying is a late sign of hunger.
- Feed the baby only breast milk for the first six months of life so your baby receives the ideal nutrition that supports optimal growth and development.
- A trained observer should evaluate breastfeeding within 24 to 48 hours after delivery and at a follow-up visit 48 to 72 hours after mother and baby leave the hospital.
- Expressing and storing breast milk are encouraged, so the baby can receive the stored breast milk instead of formula at times the mother and baby have to be apart.
- Breastfeeding is recommended for the first 12 months of life or longer if the mother and baby want to continue.
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