Should everyone breastfeed their baby?

19Apr11

The benefits of breast feeding for babies:

Breast milk provides the right balance of nutrients to help an infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler.

  • Breastfed infants, and those who are fed expressed breast milk, have fewer deaths during the first year and experience fewer illnesses than babies fed formula.
  • Some of the nutrients in breast milk also help protect an infant against some common childhood illnesses and infections, such as diarrhea, middle ear infections, and certain lung infections.
  • Some recent research also suggests that breast milk contains important fatty acids (building blocks) that help an infant’s brain develop.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother:

  • In response to the baby’s sucking, the mother’s body releases a hormone that makes her uterus contract and get smaller.
  • Many mothers also get emotional benefits from breastfeeding because of the closeness of this interaction with the baby and from the satisfaction of helping to nourish their babies.
  • Some research suggest that mothers who breastfeed their babies have fewer episodes of post-delivery depression.
  • Reduced risk of  breast, uterus, and ovarian cancers.
  • More rapid weight loss and increased metabolisim.

 Trouble breastfeeding?

Even though breastfeeding is a natural process, it’s not always easy. Many health centers, clinics, and hospitals have lactation counselors on staff. Also peer support  from mothers who have recently breast fed may be able to offer some assistance. Ask your health care provider for more information about getting help with breastfeeding. Even with help, though, some women still have trouble breastfeeding or cannot breastfeed. Pumping your breast milk counts as breastfeeding, and some is better than none.

When Not to breast feed:

In certain situations, health care providers may advise a woman not to breastfeed:

  • A woman with certain health conditions, such as HIV or active tuberculosis, should not breastfeed because she risks giving the infection to her infant through her breast milk.
  • Women who actively use drugs or do not control their alcohol intake, or who have a history of these situations, may also be advised not to breastfeed.
  • Certain medicines, including some mood stabilizers and migraine medicines, can also pass through the breast milk and cause harm to the infant.

Please note: engorgement, hardening of the breast, “breast abscess,” fever, and use of pain medications or antibiotics are NOT reasons to stop breastfeeding. In fact, in some cases, such as breast abscess or breast hardening, emptying of the breast helps to relieve the problem.

If a mother stops breastfeeding before the child is a year old, then she should feed her infant iron-fortified, commercially available formula. Health care providers advise women not to give their infants cow’s milk until the child is at least a year old.

Breast feeding is most difficult for the first 6 weeks, and this is also the most common time that most women give up on breast feeding. It  can be very difficult to stay persistent especially if you are not getting adequate sleep. This phase will pass, and you and your baby can reap the rewards.

Reference: The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your specific medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional. Communicate promptly with your health care provider with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your health care professional.

If you would like a pre-post partum follow up visit in New York City in the comfort of your home contact Raymond Zakhari, NP



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