Trying to decide between breastfeeding and bottle feeding? While it can be slightly more challenging in the beginning, breastfeeding can provide several benefits for both mom and baby. It is important to note that a woman’s choice to breastfeed will depend on several factors and is not something every woman wants or is able to do.
Breastfeeding exclusively is recommended for the first 6 months of an infant’s life, followed by breastfeeding and complementary foods (baby food) until 12 months of age, with breast milk continuing to be the primary source of nutrition. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until the age of 2 years of age. In most cases, breast milk alone is sufficient to support infants until the age of 6 months, without the need for water, juice or other milk.
Breastfed infants have fewer ear infections, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies, including asthma. There is also a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in breastfed infants. Breast milk provides antibodies that protect infants from disease and helps their immune system develop. Studies are also showing a reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in infants who were breastfed. Some of the benefits to women include a reduced risk of developing type II diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression. There is also a quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight with breastfeeding.
When the decision is made to breastfeed, there are some things you can do to help make it a success. It is important to have healthy nutrition, with a slightly higher caloric intake (about 330 additional calories a day) and reduced caffeine intake. Hydration is essential, and women are encouraged to drink a glass of water every time they nurse, as well as throughout the day. This is the time to rest, especially in the beginning when you and your baby are getting on a schedule. It promotes overall health and greater success. And of course, it is always recommended to continue a prenatal vitamin daily while breastfeeeding, but all other medication should be discussed with your healthcare provider, as it may pass through your breast milk.
Many of the hospitals will offer a breastfeeding class prior to your delivery, as well as provide a lactation (breastfeeding) nurse to assist women after they deliver. There are also lactation facilities outside of the hospital that provide guidance and education, to help promote successful breastfeeding experiences as well. At this time may insurance companies are providing women with breast pumps at no additional cost.
It is important to note that breastfeeding is not for everyone, there are often circumstances which make it more difficult or impossible for a woman to nurse. The take away message is always do what is right for you! If you have concerns, be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.
Written by: Rachel Thompson, APRN