August Is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

by Komal Shah, MS, RD, LDN, CLS

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.  The breastfeeding campaign, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, hopes to empower women to commit to breastfeeding by highlighting new research showing that babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses and may be less likely to develop childhood obesity. Breastfeeding is also linked to a lower risk of these health problems in women: Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression.  Breastfeeding mothers enjoy a quicker recovery after childbirth, with reduced risk of postpartum bleeding.  During lactation, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels may decline while the beneficial HDL cholesterol level remains high.

The benefits of breastfeeding begin from the first moments after childbirth and last for many years after breastfeeding ends.

Breast Milk Facts:

  • Breast milk is an amazing substance that cannot be duplicated by any artificial means.
  • Contains an ideal balance of nutrients that the infant can easily digest
  • Changes over time, and even over the course of a day, to meet the changing needs of the growing child
  • Contains substances essential for optimal development of the infant's brain, with effects on both cognitive and visual function
  • Supplies growth factors that combine to mature the infant gut.
  • Provides the infant with immune factors manufactured to fight allergens and illnesses specific to the mother’s and infant’s environment.

Breastfeeding is a process that takes time to master. The more milk your baby removes from the breasts, the more milk you will make.

After you have the baby, these steps can help you get to a great start:

  • Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth.
  • Ask for an on-site lactation consultant or trained staff to come help you.
  • Ask your staff not to give your baby formula, unless medically necessary.
  • Allow your baby to stay in your hospital room all day and night so that you can breastfeed often. Or ask the nurses to bring your baby to you for feedings.
  • Try to avoid giving your baby any pacifiers so that he or she gets used to latching onto just your breast.
  • Breastfeed at least 8-12 times every 24 hours to make plenty of milk for your baby.
  • Hold your baby tummy to tummy while feeding and try all positions which are comfortable.
  • Allow your baby to nurse as long as he wants at the first breast, offer the second breast if baby still seems hungry or at the next feeding.
  • Eat a variety of foods and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Common Breastfeeding Positions:

  • Cradle hold: an easy, common hold that is comfortable for most mothers and babies. Hold your baby with his or head on your forearm and his or her whole body facing yours.
  • Cross cradle or transitional hold: useful for premature babies or babies with a weak suck because it gives extra head support and may help babies stay latched.  Hold your baby along the opposite arm from the breast you are using.  Support your baby's head with the palm of your hand at the base of his or her neck.
  • Clutch or "football" hold: useful for mothers who had a C-section and mothers with large breasts, flat or inverted nipples.  Hold your baby at your side, lying on his or her back, with his or her head at the level of your nipple. Support baby's head with the palm of your hand at the base of the head. (The baby is placed almost under the arm).
  • Side-lying position: useful for mothers who had a C-section or to help any mother get extra rest while the baby breastfeeds.  Lie on your side with your baby facing you. Pull your baby close so your baby faces your body.

**You can tell if your baby is getting plenty of milk if he or she is mostly content and gaining weight steadily after the first week of age.  From birth to three months, typical weight gain is 2/3 to 1 ounce each day.  Also, baby will have 6-8 wet diapers and at least 3 soiled diapers every 24 hours after he is 5 days old. Before then, he may wet and soil his diapers a few times a day.

Any amount of breastmilk (known as liquid gold) is beneficial for the baby!