Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for babies and mothers. Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears lists some of the many benefits of breast milk for a baby: improving IQ, boosting the immune system and promoting healthy teeth. Breastfeeding also lowers a baby's risk of developing diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, allergies, pneumonia, respiratory infections and ear infections. The benefits to mom are increased bonding with the child and burning 300 to 500 calories a day.
Difficulty LatchingMany women experience difficulty when learning to breastfeed. Sore nipples and improper latching are just a few of the problems, which can leave a new mom feeling frustrated. Breast specialist Dr. Kristi Funk recommends The Pump Station and Nurtury, a new mother's resource center, where moms can learn the dos and don'ts of breastfeeding.
Learn more of Dr. Funk's breastfeeding tips.
Breastfeeding Help Through Cookies
Oftentimes, new moms have difficulty keeping up their milk supply. Eating Milkmakers Cookies may be a solution. The cookies contain healthy ingredients such as brewer's yeast, flaxseed and oats, and are rich in omega-3s, which helps increase milk production. They may even help new moms shed their baby weight faster!
"It's important for Mom to get the omega-3s, because she's giving it to her baby in the breast milk, so she needs to replenish her supply," explains Dr. Jim.
Studies claim that breastfeeding for more than seven months can contribute to healthier, happier and smarter babies. But with so many women juggling careers and family, who has the time? Natalia, 29, and her friend came up with a solution: sharing nursing duties, and they both had a clean bill of health and children approximately the same age, so a decision was reached. More and more women report they’ve been cross-nursing with their friends, cousins and sisters, and they’re very happy with the results.
However, there are medical risks associated with this practice. Women can pass viruses such as HIV, syphilis, hepatitis and other diseases through their breast milk. And Dr. Jim points out that regardless of whether you breast or bottle feed your child, feeding time is a critical bonding opportunity for parents -- one you don’t want to miss.
Breast-Like Baby BottleThe Very Hungry bottle by mimijumi is a 100 percent BPA-free baby bottle that looks like a woman's breast and is intended to help babies transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding.
"I think a lot of moms, if they are trying to breastfeed and maybe have to use a bottle, they are kind of hesitant, because they don't want to cause nipple confusion," Dr. Jim says. "This might [help]. But this is kind of new, so just because it looks like a nipple doesn't mean it's going to work just like Mom's nipple," he adds. "So we have to see what the evidence shows after more babies use this."
OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson explains that while the Very Hungry bottle may be a good option for parents, breastfeeding is important.
What to Know Before: Breastfeeding
Jesse Zilberstein, lactation educator from The Pump Station in Los Angeles, California, conducts lactation classes for moms-to-be. She demonstrates the best ways to get a newborn to latch onto the nipple and how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.
How Long is too Long to Breastfeed?
Lactation consultant Leigh Anne says that breastfeeding for an extended period of time -- anywhere up to 7 years of age -- can be beneficial for a child. However, she also notes that decision should be left up to the mother. While the notion of nursing a toddler or a preschooler surprises many people, pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says that worldwide, the average age children are weaned is close to 4 years old.
Leigh Anne adds, “Nobody should answer the question of how long you should breastfeed. That’s up to a mother and her child.”
Dr. Jim notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year and after that, he says it’s up to the parents. He adds that breastfeeding can be soothing to mothers as well, because the act of nursing releases hormones that help moms relax.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Children
Decreases risks of:
- Heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Digestive illnesses
Nipple PiercingsCan nipple piercings interfere with your ability to breastfeed? “There’s actually no evidence to show that a nipple piercing will affect your ability to breastfeed,” Dr. Lisa says. “Actually, a lot of breast surgeries will not affect that because you have lots and lots of pores in your nipples, about 15 to 20, and this doesn’t affect the milk production. But don’t breastfeed with nipple rings in.”
Smoking and Breastfeeding
Smoking while pregnant can cause serious harm to a fetus, and smoking while breastfeeding has a detrimental affect on the baby as well. “Moms have to be very careful about what they put in their bodies when breastfeeding,” Dr. Lisa cautions. “The nicotine from cigarettes, we know, is absolutely bad for you. It’s bad for baby. It can cause respiratory problems, and it has been linked with sudden infant death syndrome.” See what happens when you smoke while breastfeeding.
Sometimes one breast can produce more milk than the other, and as a result, your breasts can become lopsided. Dr. Lisa explains that when breasts are different sizes to begin with, breastfeeding often exaggerates the effect.
She narrates an animation about the effects of lactation on a cellular level and concludes that the breast tissue becomes more lax after breastfeeding.
Dr. Sears says that a well-fitted nursing bra will help to support the breast tissue. Plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon adds that once a woman finishes breastfeeding, there are surgical options to help equalize breast size.
See ways to restore breasts after breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding and the H1N1 Virus
Dr. Jim says that breastfeeding is so beneficial for babies; it can help protect against a number of infections, including the H1N1 virus.
"A lot of people think, 'Oh, what if the mom gets sick? She should probably stay away from the baby, right?' That makes sense, but actually it's the opposite," Dr. Jim says. "If Mom is either vaccinated against H1N1 [virus] or has the H1N1 [flu], she's actually going to be making antibodies. The [antibodies transfer from] the breast milk into the baby. The baby might be too young for the vaccine, so the baby gets protected that way."
Antibodies in breast milk can help reduce the baby's chances of coming down with the H1N1 flu, but it does not mean the baby is immune to the disease.
The H1N1 vaccine is not recommended for children under 6 months of age, but if a mother breastfeeds while she is infected with the H1N1 virus, she can help protect her unvaccinated baby. "Exclusive breastfeeding for [babies up to] 6 months [of age] will give optimal protection," Dr. Lisa says. "But if you do mixed, like if you do pumping and formula, you still get some protection [for the baby]."
Read more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about breastfeeding while sick with H1N1 virus.
Can Breastfeeding Pass on Peanut Allergies?During pregnancy, eating peanut products does not affect the fetus because the allergens and antibodies don’t cross the placenta. While breastfeeding, however, peanut allergens can appear in the breast milk and can affect the baby.
Your Baby's WeightMost newborns will lose a few ounces right after birth, but it is important that they regain the lost weight within a week or, at longest, two weeks of age. If your baby is losing weight, make sure your doctor checks the baby within a week. He or she may have you meet with a lactation consultant to check your milk supply by pumping your breasts and weigh your baby before and after feeding. If you aren't producing enough milk, doctors will often have parents supplement feedings with formula, just to get the baby back up to birth weight.
Breast Milk on Tap?
New moms sometimes ask if it's healthy for their husbands to consume breast milk. Dr. Lisa says it's fine for a woman to be intimate while lactating, and it won't hurt if her spouse consumes her milk.