Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your baby. Making a decision on how to feed your baby is an important milestone in your pregnancy. Breastfeeding is the best food for your baby. Breastfeeding a baby exclusively for the first 6 months, and then continued breastfeeding in addition to appropriate solid foods until 12 months and beyond, has health benefits for both the mother and child.
“Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large … Breast milk is … the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.” – The World Health Organization
Breast milk is the perfect food
Breast milk has important ingredients that are not found in any infant formula, to build the baby’s immune system. Breast milk changes from feed to feed to suit each baby’s unique needs, making it the perfect food to promote healthy growth and development. Breast milk can increase your baby’s IQ. Colostrum is the “first” milk your body starts producing and it provides antibodies and proteins that gives protection against disease that no formula can provide. The amount of colostrum is small during the first few days after birth and for your baby to learn to coordinate suck, swallow and breathing. Baby’s stomachs are tiny at birth and expand larger each day as breast milk production increases.
- Breast milk is more easily digested
- Breast milk is more easily digested than infant formula
- Breastfed babies are rarely constipated and are less likely to get diarrhea
- Breast milk is environmentally friendly
- Breast milk has no waste products and leaves no carbon footprint.
- Breast milk is free
- Breast milk is always available with no preparation needed.
- Currently it is estimated that formula feeding for one year is well over $2000.
Importance of breastfeeding for baby
Babies who are fed breast milk have a lower risk of:
- Gastro-intestinal (gut) illness
- Some childhood cancers
- Respiratory tract (chest) infections
- Urinary tract infections
- SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
Babies who are fed formula and stop breastfeeding early have higher risks of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, SIDS, and tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalizations, and medications.
Importance of exclusively breastfeeding your baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life because breast milk:
- is better than any other food for nutrition and disease protection
- contains important fats which help build the brain, eye and digestive systems during this rapid growth time
- is a perfect complement to an infant learning to eat solid foods and should be continued as long as it is desired by mother and infant
Exclusive breastfeeding ensures a full milk supply for your baby. Supplementing with formula will affect your milk supply. Remember that breastfeeding is supply and demand and your body will think that supplementing with formula means your baby doesn’t need as much breast milk.
Breastfeed Your Baby (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
Breastfeeding (Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health)
Breastfeeding: Hints to Help You Get Off to a Good Start (American Academy of Family Physicians)
How Do I Breastfeed? (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)
Your Guide to Breastfeeding (Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health)
More Mothers Are Breastfeeding (02/07/2013, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)