How Breastfeeding Benefits You and Your Baby
Affordable, convenient, and rich in nutrients, breast milk is the ultimate superfood for your baby. Although breastfeeding may take some time to master, the long-term benefits are worth the effort.
Your breastmilk is packed with antibodies, cells, and hormones that help safeguard your baby from different types of illnesses during infancy and later in life.
The first milk you produce, known as colostrum, is small in amount, thick, and dense with antibodies and nutrients to protect your baby from infections during their first days of life. Colostrum can also aid in the development and function of your baby’s digestive system. Your baby’s stomach is tiny—about the size of a cherry—so you will produce a small amount of colostrum during your early days of feeding.
As your baby changes and grows, so will your breast milk. By the time your baby is three to five days old, your colostrum will begin to transition to mature breast milk in larger volume. This type of milk contains the fat, protein, lactose, and water your baby needs to grow. It will also help to reduce your baby’s risk of developing various health conditions, including:
- Childhood leukemia
- Childhood obesity
- Ear infections
- Gastrointestinal complications
- Lower respiratory infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Type 2 diabetes
The health benefits of breastfeeding extend to mothers, as well. If you breastfeed, you have a lower likelihood of developing certain breast cancers, ovarian cancer, heart diseases, and Type 2 diabetes.
The Bonding Factor
Breastfeeding can have a profoundly positive effect on emotional well-being for both of you. It offers a sense of comfort as your baby adjusts to a new environment, and the skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding boosts your levels of oxytocin, the calming hormone.
To facilitate the breastfeeding process after birth the clinicians at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Birthing Suites in Valencia encourage immediate uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact for the first hour after birth.
A Plan for Breastfeeding Success
To make your breastfeeding experience a successful one, consider the following checklist:
- Attentive prenatal care—Babies carried to term breastfeed more effectively than babies born early. If your baby does arrive early and you are not able to produce enough breast milk for them, donated milk can help ensure your baby gets the nutrition they need.
- Breastfeeding classes—Proper guidance can help you navigate your first days and weeks of breastfeeding. Our Childbirth Educations series includes sessions on “Successful Breastfeeding” and “Supporting the Working Mother.” During the first weeks of your breastfeeding experience, you may also find it helpful to participate in Henry Mayo’s free First Weeks Breastfeeding Workshop.
- Essential equipment—Before your baby arrives, stock up on items that will help you with breastfeeding, such as pumps, nursing bras, and nursing pillows which you can find at our Lactation Center.
The way your baby is positioned during breastfeeding is important. You want to be sure both of you are comfortable and that your baby is close to your body and facing your nipple. You will also want to support your breast and make sure that your baby’s chin is pressed deep into your breast.
To help your baby latch properly, help them open their mouth wide, support their back, and guide them to latch on by first touching their chin to your breast and then their nose. Cradle your baby’s neck as they nurse and guide them to relatch if they detach while feeding.
As you breastfeed you will learn more about which position works best for you. Consider trying the following positions:
- Biological nurturing/laid-back breastfeeding—Recline in a comfortable position and let your baby lie down on your chest. Guide them toward your nipple and support their bottom and legs with your body.
- Cradle position—Hold your baby across your lap so they are resting on their hip and shoulder with their nose opposite your nipple. Place a pillow underneath your baby to place them at breast height for comfortable breastfeeding.
During the first month of your baby’s life, you should feed your baby when they ask. Look for hunger cues—baby sucking hands, fingers, or sticking tongue out (crying is a later hunger cue). You’ll likely breastfeed eight or more times each day. Frequent feeding helps tell your body to produce milk, so let your baby nurse as much as they want. Do not exceed more than three hours from the beginning of one feeding to the next feeding. You may find it necessary to wake your baby for feedings.
You may be asked to supplement your baby if there are medical indications such as weight loss (>10%), jaundice or hypoglycemia. In this case breast milk can be pumped or hand expressed and given to your baby as a supplement, if needed.
Learn more about the lactation services at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.