Breast-feeding offers many benefits for both mother and baby.
A healthy baby can benefit from breast milk, infant formula or a combination of the two. Breast milk is extremely nutritious and contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fats essential for a baby's health. Breast feeding, apart from helping babies get proper nutrition and can help mothers recover from pregnancy and delivery.
Breast feeding can
- Promote a "bond" between mother and baby
- It is natural and specially made for your baby
- There are lots of things in breast milk that are good for your baby, but are not found in formula milk
- It is safe for your baby, and easily digested
- It contains all the minerals and nutrients that your baby needs for the first six months of life. Together with other foods, it is very good for the next six months or more as well
- It is always ready when your baby needs it
- Breast milk also contains antibodies that help prevent infections and allergies. Your baby will be less likely to get infections, allergies and many other diseases
- Your baby may grow and develop better
- Breast fed babies have less chance of obesity
- It helps you and your baby feel close to each other
- Breast-feeding releases hormones which cause the uterus to shrink after delivery and also decreases bleeding. It helps your body return to normal more quickly after the birth
- Mothers who breast-feed typically have an easier time losing weight after pregnancy
- Breast-feeding also helps build a woman's bone mineral density and helps prevent osteoporosis after menopause
- It does not cost anything and does not take time to prepare
Expecting mothers planning to nurse should discuss breast-feeding with a doctor, nurse, or certified lactation consultant before giving birth. Although breastfeeding is a natural thing to do, most of us need to learn how.
If a mother does decide to breast-feed her children, she should
understand that breast-feeding is a major responsibility that
requires her to maintain excellent nutrition and health. Women who
breast-feed should eat well-balanced, nutritious meals. Generous
portions of whole grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables,
and dairy products with an abundance of calcium are recommended.
Most babies are born knowing how to breast feed but sometimes it may
take time for both of you to learn this new skill. The nurses in the hospital will help you and your baby start breastfeeding.
Breast feeding and Coffee
Most physicians agree that it is safe for breast-feeding mothers to consume small amounts of caffeine (equivalent to one to two cups of coffee per day), though larger amounts of caffeine may interfere with a baby's sleep or cause him or her to become fussy.
Breast feeding and Alcohol
Alcohol should be avoided by breast-feeding mothers because it can be passed through the breast milk to the baby. An occasional drink (no more than two ounces of alcohol) is probably safe.