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Healthy Pregnancy

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Author: Donita Rose, RN

mother breastfeeding

The topic of breastfeeding can be a source of tremendous stress for new mothers, and often their families as well. Debunking some of the most common misconceptions about lactation and discovering the many benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby will help keep everyone involved happy and healthy throughout the process.

Mutually Beneficial

Around 97% of women choose to breast feed because they are aware of some of the benefits for baby, but what many do not know is that breastfeeding can be incredibly beneficial for mom’s health too.

Good for Baby

Breastfeeding is known to be a precious source of bonding time for mom and baby, and can also aid in healthy emotional and cognitive development. Additionally, breastfeeding can help your baby combat future physical ailments, reducing their chances of ear infections, avoiding the development of certain allergies, and even decreasing the likelihood of obesity.

Good for Mom

There’s no doubt that breastfeeding is great for newborns, but new mothers receive plenty of benefits themselves. Mothers who breastfeed reduce their risks for ovarian cancer, and are generally known to have lower blood pressure. Breastfeeding has also been shown to help new moms get back to their pre-baby weight.

It can be incredibly frustrating to struggle with breastfeeding. Many new mothers feel overwhelmed when their baby doesn’t take to it right away. Having a dedicated lactation consultant can help ensure that you are getting the right information, and that you’ll have the guidance, instruction, and moral support you need while you figure out you and your baby’s unique rhythm. Lactation consultants aren’t just for new mothers. Most will focus on getting the family involved, helping more caregivers understand what’s best for mom and baby, and teaching them how to keep everyone happy, healthy and comfortable.

Overcoming the Obstacles

First-time mothers are often unsure as to whether or not it is safe to breastfeed if they are on certain medications. It is always best to consult with your primary care physician about these concerns before deciding not to breastfeed, as many medications don’t actually pose a threat to your baby.

Concerns about how and when to pump, or how often your baby should be feeding, are the most common. Troubles with soreness around the nipple or issues with latching are also typical. Both complications can usually be resolved rather easily, either by finding a more comfortable position for the mother, or by ensuring that your infant is positioned correctly, with their nose in front of the nipple and their body facing mom.

Recognizing some of the signals a baby sends when they are hungry can be difficult. While crying is certainly a sign of hunger, some new parents are surprised to learn that it is usually the last one. Earlier indicators from your baby might include them licking their lips, turning their heads or sucking on their fingers.

Some new parents have been encouraged to bottle feed at night in order to “let mom sleep,” but this is a major mistake. Newborns aren’t supposed to sleep through the night at first. Trying to force a feeding schedule can mess with a mother’s supply of breastmilk, leading to soreness of the breasts and occasionally causing some more serious infections. Scheduled feedings may also disrupt healthy eating patterns for newborns, who should feed whenever they are hungry, no matter the hour.

Additional Support for Mothers, and Families

Unfortunately, some hospitals are inconsistent in supporting healthy breastfeeding habits. Oftentimes new mothers are misinformed, or they are simply not encouraged to start breastfeeding right away. They may also be provided with items like pacifiers, which can discourage healthy latching habits or make it harder to recognize when your baby is hungry.

As a designated baby-friendly hospital, Washington Hospital is dedicated to providing the highest quality of maternity care for patients. Our lactation consultants, doctors, nurses and every member of our maternity staff is highly trained to follow detailed protocols in order to promote healthy breastfeeding, safe sleep habits, and excellent maternity care. Lactation consultants are available 24/7, ensuring that new mothers and their families are never without expertise or support.

To learn more about how a dedicated lactation consultant could help you, please call 510.818.5040. To find additional resources for pre-birth planning, visit our Washington Hospital website to take a look at our WHHS Pregnancy Library.

Posted September, 2019