Breastfeeding and Benefits of Breast Milk

Since the beginning of time, women have put their babies to breast. Extending the physical bond that begins at conception, they have fed and protected their babies with their bodies. These tender moments, in return, have brought pleasure and fulfillment to the task of mothering. If you are now pregnant, you are probably looking forward to the time when you will feed, comfort and protect your baby in the same way as others before you.

Perhaps you already feel committed to the idea of breastfeeding. Or perhaps, you have some uncertainties, but still feel it is worth a try. Your outlook depends on many things; the value you place on breastfeeding, how your partner feels about it, how your friends have fed their babies, your lifestyle, and your feelings about yourself and your body.

You might have some ideas what breastfeeding will be like. Perhaps you think it will be easy and convenient or maybe you worry that it might not fit in with your activities and plans.  It's okay to have concerns about your ability to breastfeed and you may even know other women who tried to breastfeed but soon gave up. Exploring your attitudes, expectations, and concerns about breastfeeding are an important part of deciding what feeding method is best for you and your baby.

Advantages of Breastfeeding for:

woman breastfeeding

The Baby

  • Breast milk is the ideal food for the baby.
  • Breast milk is easy to digest and absorb, causing less colic.
  • The iron in breast milk is utilized more readily.
  • Breast milk changes to meet the needs of the growing baby.
  • Breast milk contains substances that promote nervous system development and brain growth.
  • Breastfed babies have fewer allergies. In families with a history of allergies, breast-fed babies experience less asthma, food allergies and eczema.
  • Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses, such as ear infections, colds, flu and GI upset. They also have fewer doctor visits and hospitalizations, because of the special protective factors in breast milk.
  • Breast milk may help babies to respond better to vaccines, as antibody levels have been found to be higher in breastfed babies at 7 and 12 months.
  • Breastfeeding may decrease SIDS (crib death).

The Mother

  • Breastfeeding is inexpensive.
  • Breastfeeding is always available.
  • With breastfeeding, there is nothing to mix, measure, or heat, and no bottles to wash.
  • Breastfeeding makes nighttime feedings quick and easy.
  • Breastfeeding makes travel with baby easier.
  • Breastfeeding promotes attachment between mother and baby.
  • With breastfeeding, there is often less vaginal bleeding after delivery.
  • Breastfeeding promotes a faster return of uterus to its pre-pregnant size.
  • Breastfeeding can help with weight loss.
  • Breastfeeding may decrease ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer.

Concerns About Breastfeeding

Worries about modesty:
Although we all know making milk is the natural function of our breasts, many of us feel embarrassed about exposing them. At first you may be more comfortable breastfeeding in private, but most women find that with time and experience, breastfeeding in the presence of others can be discreet and comfortable.
You may have heard that breastfeeding can be painful.
Normally women find it comfortable and pleasurable. Some women worry about developing sore nipples during the early days of breastfeeding, but most soreness can be avoided by correctly positioning the baby at the breast.
Leaking milk:
If you leak breast milk, press down on your nipple with the heal of your hand, through your clothing. Or, without drawing attention to yourself, cross your arms across your chest and apply pressure. You can also use store bought pads without plastic, or put clean handkerchiefs or cloth diapers in your bra.
Preparing nipples:
For most women, there is no need to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding your baby. Good skin care for all women includes no soap and no rubbing with a towel. All women should check for flat nipples in the last three months of pregnancy. If you are unsure, ask your health care professional at your next checkup. Your provider may recommend wearing breast shells to correct flat nipples.
Returning to work or school:
There are many ways that breastfeeding can be continued after you return to work or school. You will need to express or pump your milk, or arrange to have the baby brought to you to breast-feed during meal breaks, so that your breasts do not become overly full. You must also plan for your baby to be fed while you are apart, either with your own milk or formula. While it does require some planning ahead, many mothers who work outside the home or attend school, feel that breastfeeding offers emotional compensation for the hours that must be spent apart.

Which breast pump should you choose?

The type of pump you need depends on how often and for how long you need to pump. A mother who is usually at home with her baby will need a different pump than a mother who is working or going to school. If time is important, think about selecting a double pumping breast pump instead of a single one. Pumping both breasts at once can save you time and increase your milk supply.

A manual pump is suggested for occasional or short term pumping.

If you plan to work or go back to school full-time (pumping 2-3 times a day or more and for long term pumping) consider purchasing a double electric personal pump or renting a double electric hospital grade pump. These are available at many medical supply stores.

A double electric hospital grade pump works best if you have a preterm baby who is unable to breastfeed to keep up your milk supply. If a hospital grade pump is unavailable, then a double electric personal pump is a good second choice.

Insurance coverage of breast: individual plans vary. We encourage all patients to call their insurance company with questions about coverage.

Benefits of Breast Milk

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk for the first 12 months of baby’s life.