It's no secret breast-feeding is best for baby and best for mom. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends exclusively breast-feeding for the first six months to provide optimal nutrition and health protection, and breast-feeding with the addition of complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age.
Breast milk's unique antibodies, or disease-fighting cells, help protect infants from numerous illnesses and diseases. And, breast-feeding also helps reduce a nursing mother's risk of diabetes, postpartum depression and breast and ovarian cancers.
Breast-feeding has both environmental and economic benefits, since it eliminates the costs and wastes associated with formula production and plastic bottles. Depending on the formula brand, breast-feeding can save your family $1,000 to $4,000 per year.
While breast-feeding is the most natural way to feed a baby, new moms need information and support to be successful. Here are seven steps for breast-feeding success.
Before Your Baby Arrives
The third trimester of pregnancy is a great time to learn about breast-feeding, so you can be informed and confident when the baby comes.
- Take a Breast-feeding Class
Check for availability at your hospital, doctor's office or WIC clinic. Learn about community resources, such as certified lactation consultants, so you'll know who to call with questions or concerns.
- Read and Research
Check out books and pamphlets from the clinic, hospital or library. The more you know, the more relaxed you'll be in your new role as a breast-feeding mom.
- Tell Everyone Your Plans to Breast-feed
Let your family, friends, doctor, hospital nurses, pediatrician and employer know you plan to give only breast milk to your baby and you'll need their support.
At the Hospital
Healthy newborns know how to find the breast and how to suckle. They just need plenty of snuggle time with mom to practice and for mom to build up a good milk supply.
- "Room in" and Feed Frequently
Having your baby by your side allows you to respond to baby's hunger cues immediately. The more milk your baby removes from the breasts, the more milk you will make. Formula feeding will disrupt this natural process.
- Ask for Help
Most hospitals have a lactation specialist who can help you find solutions if you're experiencing difficulties with early breast-feeding.
During the First Year and Beyond
Your breasts will easily make enough milk in response to your baby's growing needs. Most infants will need several feedings through the day and night, especially during the first weeks and growth spurts. Allow your baby to develop his or her own feeding schedule.
- Take Care of Yourself
Breast-feeding moms need plenty of nutrient-rich foods and fluids to maintain their stamina while producing milk. Make sure to get enough rest. Many moms take a nap while their babies sleep.
- Don't Be Afraid to Seek Help
If you need help figuring how to breast-feed while working or going to school, or if you have an infant with special needs, check with your pediatrician, lactation specialist or a registered dietitian nutritionist.