There are many health benefits of breastfeeding your newborn that can improve the quality of health for both mother and baby, yet the benefits are often misunderstood.
So what are the need-to-knows about breast milk? Erin Hamilton-Spence, M.D., a neonatologist on the medical staff at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth sat down with CBS-11 to answer some common questions.
Q: What are the benefits of breastfeeding for children?
Breast milk is lifesaving medicine. Young children have less ear infections, diarrhea, vomiting and pneumonia and premature infants have a 77 percent reduction in life-threatening illnesses when breastfed. As children grow, those who were breastfed have less asthma, eczema, obesity and diabetes also.
Q: Are there benefits for the mothers?
Women who breastfeed their children reap lots of health benefits as well. They have less breast cancer, ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, and obesity, as well as more weight loss than women who chose not to breastfeed.
Q: Are there any foods to avoid while breastfeeding?
Not necessarily. Infants receive the nutrients they need, regardless if the mom’s diet isn’t the most healthy. While it’s still important to eat a healthy diet with lots of green leafy vegetables and colors, even a mom with a less-than-perfect diet will make healthy breast milk. The taste of breast milk will change depending on the mom’s diet.
Q: How does a mother know her baby’s getting enough milk?
The first one to five days of an infant’s life is a huge transition for both mother and child. The best thing to do is spend as much time as possible together, learn how to get a good latch, and nurse them whenever the infant shows early hunger cues. During the first 24 hours, this will be something that should occur every two to three hours.
Newborns in their second 24 hours begin to get hungry more frequently, as often as every hour, or even every 20 minutes. This is called cluster feeding and is the normal way for the infant to program the mother’s body to start making enough milk.
But before the milk comes in large volumes, the stress of sleep deprivation often makes mothers question their ability to keep up with an infant who eats that often. Offering formula at this time really gets in the way of the mother making enough milk.
In the first few days of the life of the newborn, mothers should talk with health care providers if there is concern about not having enough milk. After the first weeks, count wet diapers and stools to tell if the baby is getting enough. They need a minimum of three wet diapers a day since they can stool up to 20 times a day.
Q: How long should a mother breastfeed her baby?
For the first six months, babies need nothing other than breast milk. After six months, solid food can be introduced slowly, one food at a time is recommended. Even though solid food will be introduced, baby’s should continue to be breastfed until at least 12 months of age.
After this, the best strategy for feeding depends on the family. Toddlers will often nurse at night, but by 2-years old, most have transitioned into other types of soothing and calorie intake.
Q: Tell us more on how breastfeeding can prevent illnesses?
If breast milk were a medicine, everyone would be demanding it for their infants. It’s the perfect food for newborns and cannot be duplicated in a laboratory.
Any breastfeeding reduces a child’s chances of obesity by 24 percent and each additional month of breastfeeding reduce it by another 7 percent. Exclusively breastfeeding an infant for six months reduces their chance of obesity as an adult by 66 percent.
Learn more about the magic of breastfeeding from Dr. Hamilton-Spence’s interview with CBS-11.