The Benefits and Support for Breastfeeding Month

By Dr. Roberta Matern, MD

I am a family physician who delights in caring for the couplet (newborn and new mother) because helping growing families is so rewarding, and I strongly encourage breastfeeding and support families however I can.

Trusted organizations like the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend babies are breastfed until at least 6 months old. Studies show that exclusively breastfed babies are generally healthier, but any amount of breastmilk is wonderful and encouraged!

Benefits of Breastfeeding

In general – though individual babies may differ – babies fed only breastmilk for their first 6 months have many benefits; moms too!

  • Babies tend to be healthier with fewer colds and doctor visits.
  • Decreased likelihood of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
  • Babies are less likely to have diabetes, obesity, leukemia, and high blood pressure later in life.
  • Helps moms lose weight.
  • Decrease mom’s chances for breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
  • Breastfeeding has the added bonuses of no waiting for formula to warm up, it is free, and it is easy on the environment.
  • And more!

It’s Not Always Easy

While natural and better for babies and moms, breastfeeding can have challenges, and helping the couplet through that is important.

Challenges include:

  • The time it takes to get it going, especially if it is your first baby
  • The time commitment, which can be stressful for some moms and families
  • Moms needing to watch what they eat and drink – too much caffeine and alcohol, dairy, spicy foods, etc.

The good news is, we have lactation consultants that love being able to help moms and families through these issues!

Plan for Breastfeeding

I start talking about breastfeeding during prenatal visits, exploring mom’s feelings and answering questions. If there are any issues with mom’s breasts or nipples, I try to coordinate with a lactation consultant before delivery.

Next is promoting skin-to-skin contact right after delivery. Putting the newborn directly on mom’s belly or chest right after birth improves chances of exclusive breastfeeding and increases the duration of breastfeeding! Skin-to-skin helps mom and baby bond by increasing their levels of oxytocin…the “love” hormone.

Helping families know what is normal and what to expect during the first few days is key. At first, mom’s breasts produce colostrum – a very important food for babies full of nutrients and antibodies that fight infection. There is only small amounts of colostrum produced and babies will eat frequently because their stomachs are only about the size of a cherry – so they fill up and empty quickly.

A few days after delivery, mom’s breast milk will come in and that’s about the time babies’ stomachs start to grow. Newborns eat a lot and it’s important (regardless of breastfeeding or not) to learn your baby’s ques to know when they are hungry. Moms should have babies close to them and continue skin-to-skin during those early days and weeks.

While breastfeeding is recommended through 6 months, it can continue for months (or even years) after that. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age 2, while most couplets in the US do not breastfeed for that long. But any amount of breastfeeding is super healthy for baby and mom!

If you have questions about breastfeeding, talk to your NOAH prenatal doctor or your baby’s pediatrician