By Arlene Boykin, M.D., Medical Director of Neonatology, The Maternity Place at Broward Health Coral Springs
As we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, we continue to observe the many benefits that come from breastfeeding. In my 20 years as a neonatologist, or baby specialist, I am pleased to see many new mothers choosing to breastfeed. However, I still spend time correcting myths about breastfeeding.
There are more than 100 components in breast milk that play a very important role in your baby’s health. Breast milk contains:
- Agents that act as probiotics to promote a healthy gut.
- Anti-inflammatory agents to reduce injury and gut inflammation.
- Growth factors and antibodies to protect against infections and disease.
- Natural hormones to help intestinal growth.
- White blood cells that actively protect against bacteria and viruses.
- Several components that are important in brain development, eye development and memory formation.
Breast milk is so beneficial that depending on how much a baby receives it may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, diabetes, asthma, lymphoma, leukemia, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, ear infections, respiratory illnesses and gastrointestinal illnesses.
Because we know breast milk’s advantages, we encourage all new mothers to breastfeed. But we realize there are circumstances that can interfere with breastfeeding, which is why hospitals like Broward Health Coral Springs offer classes and lactation specialists to our new moms.
The best time to get your baby started on the breast is immediately after delivery, as she’ll be the most alert and awake for the first one to two hours after birth. New moms do not need to be worried that they won’t have enough milk for their babies. An infant’s stomach is the size of a walnut on the first day of life so he or she only needs about a teaspoon amount of feed every two to three hours. And the more the baby is on the breast, the more milk your body will produce.
Breastfeeding is natural and babies were born to breastfeed, but there can be stumbling blocks that make the process challenging. Remember, breastfeeding is a learned skill for both mom and baby.
I encourage new moms who are struggling with breastfeeding not to give up when it becomes challenging. Sometimes your baby will latch and sometimes he just won’t, and that’s OK. It’s a normal part of the process. It takes about two weeks to establish a good breastfeeding pattern with your newborn.
We do advise new parents use caution when also using a bottle to feed. A baby gets milk from a breast differently than how he receives milk from a bottle. While breastfeeding, a baby pushes the breast up against the roof of his mouth and uses his tongue to help pull milk out. Milk is released more easily from a bottle, only requiring a baby to use his cheeks during sucking. If your infant becomes accustomed to getting formula from a bottle, he may not be interested in working harder to receive milk at the breast.
If you’ve never breastfed before, it can be challenging. Accept that you may need help and coaching. Every mother breastfeeding for the first time will need some instruction. Use your nurse, lactation specialist, experienced friends and even YouTube. Educate yourself about the basics before you go into labor so you can focus on the joy of your new baby when he or she arrives.
Remember, most things worth doing don’t always come easily at first. Give yourself and your baby the time, space and compassion to learn the process of breastfeeding and this commitment could possibly save your baby’s life.
To learn more about breastfeeding, join The Maternity Place at Broward Health Coral Springs for a virtual WebEx class with Lactation Consultant Nicole Salisbury RN IBCLC on August 4 and August 26 at 6 p.m.