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As you prepare for your little one’s arrival, you may wonder if breastfeeding is right for you. Although there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ when it comes to feeding your baby—and there’s no need for guilt if things don’t go exactly as planned—the benefits of breastfeeding are plentiful, and there’s more help available than you may realize. Below are some of the ways that nursing serves your baby’s health.
Breast milk delivers optimal nutrition
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and supplementary breastfeeding along with solid foods until babies are one year old. The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, suggests nursing your little one (exclusively for six months and supplementarily after that) for their first two years of life. The primary reason for these guidelines is that breast milk contains the right balance of easily digestible nutrients to support your baby as they grow.
The first type of milk that new moms produce after birth, a thick, yellow-tinted, high protein fluid called colostrum, helps develop newborns’ digestive tracts. Then, a few days after birth, your breasts begin to supply the milk you’re likely more used to seeing—the milk that will continue to lay the foundation for your baby’s well-being.
Builds your baby’s immunity
Breast milk contains essential antibodies that can help your little one fight off viruses and bacteria. Babies who are not breastfed have a higher risk of developing health issues like diarrhea and infection. As always, check with your healthcare provider or Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant for tailored assistance as you and your little one navigate the ins and outs of early feedings.
Wards off childhood disease
Your milk can help protect your baby from respiratory tract infections, as well as ear infections. Nursing can also aid prevention of gastrointestinal illnesses, food allergies, asthma, and diabetes. Remarkably, babies who are exclusively breastfed until two months of age or older have been found to experience a 73% lower risk of contracting Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS, and babies who are breastfed for six months or more are 19% less vulnerable to childhood leukemia
Promotes healthy weight gain
Breastfed babies may have an easier time learning to eat intuitively—from day one, they self-regulate their milk consumption, and practice eating only until they’re satisfied. Babies fed breast milk may also develop higher amounts of healthy gut bacteria, as well as the hormone leptin, both of which can help regulate fat storage throughout life.
May enhance your baby’s brain function
Not only do the nutrients in breastmilk allow for optimal infant brain development, the physical intimacy and connection associated with nursing may also contribute to your baby’s cognitive skills. Plus, the shapes babies make with their mouths while breastfeeding lead to enhanced oral development, and make them less likely to require speech therapy when they’re older.
Ultimately, breastfeeding for any length of time is good for your baby in myriad ways. If you do decide to breastfeed, Lactation Network can connect you to an Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant for a free 90-minute session, and Ashland Breast Pumps can deliver a breast pump to your door at no out-of-pocket cost to you.
You have options. And with the support of our dedicated lactation consultants, you’ve totally got this.