Breastfeeding often begins within the first hour of a baby’s life, so it is important to discuss details regarding breastfeeding prior to delivery.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for an infant because it has the greatest impact on infant survival and disease prevention.

Why should I breastfeed?

Breast milk contains many nutritional components necessary for a baby’s growth and development, such as:

  • Fat- and water-soluble vitamins. An infant may receive a supplemental Vitamin K shot immediately after birth and will need Vitamin D supplements during exclusive breastfeeding
  • Enzymes and proteins that protect against harmful bacteria
  • Oligosaccharides, or sugars, help make the newborn gut safe for beneficial bacteria
  • Immunoglobulins that can protect against respiratory and GI infections, such as E. Coli, Salmonella, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

There are numerous benefits of breast milk to an infant, including protection against diarrhea, infections, middle ear infections, meningitis, diabetes, eczema, obesity, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding is also beneficial to the mother as it has been found to reduce the incidence of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, anemia, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, and bone thinning. Breastfeeding can also help weight loss after pregnancy and serve as a modest form of postpartum contraception. Certain contraceptives, such as hormonal birth control pills, can limit milk supply and are not recommended during breastfeeding. It is important to speak with your provider about finding the right contraceptive option for you.

Mothers should not breastfeed if they have been diagnosed with HIV, tuberculosis, or varicella, or are using recreational drugs or receiving chemotherapy.

How often should I breastfeed?

Infants should receive 8-12 feedings each day, such that feedings occur every 2-3 hours. The goal is to exclusively breastfeed for the infant’s first 6 months of life and continue breastfeeding for at least one year, introducing complementary foods at 6 months. It is important to look for cues of hunger such as stirring in their sleep, sucking their fist, squirming, or crying.

How do I know if I am breastfeeding correctly?

It is important for the baby to get a good latch in order for breastfeeding to be effective. A good latch occurs when the baby is placed in a proper position and is gently guided toward the exposed nipple and areola. A baby has a good latch when they do not have to turn their head, little to no areola is visible, the baby’s mouth is filled with breast, and the nipple is far back in the baby’s mouth. The baby’s chin and nose should be resting against the breast and swallowing should be heard regularly. If pain occurs after the first minute or so of nursing, there has been an improper latch. Try the process again or consult a pediatrician or lactation specialist if the pain persists. Afterward, the baby should appear relaxed and content. Proper breastfeeding should produce yellow, “mustard-colored” stools in the baby’s diaper.

All information is provided by:

American Academy of Pediatrics