Having a child involves a seemingly endless stream of important decisions, from picking a pediatrician to selecting a name. Deciding how to feed a newborn, like most others during pregnancy, is an extremely personal and emotional decision. Conflicting information, pressure from family or friends, and individual beliefs and expectations all come together when it comes to feeding infants. So, what are the important factors to consider when weighing your options?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, breastfeeding for the first 4-6 months of life is the preferred method of infant feeding (“exclusive” meaning no other supplemental foods or formula is used). Breast milk provides everything that an infant needs to thrive: a perfect ratio of protein, carbohydrates, fat and water that adjusts to baby’s needs as he/she grows. Colostrum, or first milk, comes in immediately after birth and is a rich source of antibodies. A thin, yellow-ish liquid, colostrum is higher in protein and lower in sugar and fat than regular breast milk. "Transitional milk" is a mix of colostrum and regular breast milk, and generally comes in 4-10 days after birth. After 10-14 days, mature breast milk is produced. This breast milk contains no colostrum, is lower in protein and higher in lactose (milk sugar), and is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antibodies. Breastfeeding confers other amazing benefits to both mother and baby:
Benefits to Mother
· Promotes mother-child bonding
· Decreases risk of uterine and ovarian cancer
· Decreases postpartum blood loss
· Promotes earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight
· Decreases risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis
Benefits to Infant
o Rates of asthma, food allergies, infections, obesity, SIDS
o Respiratory and urinary tract infections
o Performance on cognitive tests
o Bonding with mother
Most women, regardless of breast size, have the ability to breastfeed. Women with certain conditions, such as untreated tuberculosis, HIV or drug use, shouldn’t breastfeed because of the risk of passing unwanted substances to their infants through breast milk. While lactation is a learned skill for both mother and baby, nurses, certified lactation consultants or peer counselors can all provide support and techniques to promote successful breastfeeding.
Next week’s post will continue the conversation about breastfeeding, with a focus on specific nutrient requirements for nursing mothers.
Sources: Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. 13th Ed.
Breastfeeding Basics https://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/qa/tandem-nursing-questions-about-colostrum