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The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding provides health benefits and advantages for both the breastfeeding mom and the baby.

The nutritional, physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding have been proven to last a lifetime…for both mother and child. Financially breastfeeding saves money (no formula to purchase) and it helps the environment (no packages to waste).

Below we have answered some common questions about breastfeeding and provided tips for breastfeeding.

Why should I consider breastfeeding?

There are many reasons women choose to breastfeed. Health benefits for breastfed babies include fewer ear infections, respiratory infections like pneumonia, childhood diabetes, meningitis, allergies and some childhood cancers. The health benefits for the breastfeeding mother include lower risks of pre-menopausal breast cancer, osteoporosis and cervical cancer, as well as faster return to pre-pregnancy weight. Not to mention the financial benefits of not having to pay for formula, and the ecological benefits of no breast-milk packaging.

What are the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding?

Do Most Women Breastfeed or Use Formula?

Three out of four mothers (75%) in the U.S. start out breastfeeding their babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card.

How Long Do Women Typically Breastfeed?

At the end of six months, breastfeeding rates are closer to 43%, with 13% of babies exclusively breastfed.

What’s the Recommended Duration for Breastfeeding?

The Healthy People 2020 objectives for breastfeeding are: 82% of all newborn babies breastfed, 61% of babies at 6 months, and 34% of babies at 1 year.

What are the economic benefits?

What Are the Challenges of Breastfeeding?

Some women experience challenges when first learning to breastfeed. It is not uncommon for women to experience sore, chapped or tender nipples in the first few weeks after a baby is born. New moms often also feel tired and overwhelmed. It can be a big adjustment to be on the baby’s feeding schedule while mom’s body is recovering from giving birth.

What can I do to prepare for breastfeeding?

Attending a prenatal breastfeeding class can be helpful in preparing couples for the breastfeeding experience. Topics usually include how milk is produced, recommendations for positioning, how babies latch on, and prevention and treatment for common breastfeeding concerns. Or try to watch a breastfeeding DVD such as “Simply Breastfeeding” by Shari Criso. Good books can allay fears and dispel myths you may have heard about breastfeeding. Finally, talk to friends who have successfully breastfed so you have a support group to count on if you encounter challenges breastfeeding. Shop for items many women find helpful: Breast pump, breastfeeding chair and stool, My Brest Friend nursing pillow, 2-3 breastfeeding bras and camisole, bra pads (1 set washable cotton, 1 box disposable), nipple cream or lanolin (for sore nipples), My Brest Friend travel nursing pillow (inflatable for on-the-go), and breastfeeding shawl or cover up.

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How do I get started once the baby is here?

  1. Find a comfortable position to breastfeed. For many women, sitting upright in a straight-backed chair with their feet up on a stool and a breastfeeding pillow, like My Brest Friend, works well. In the early days of breastfeeding it may help to un-wrap your baby from any blankets and undo your shirt and bra, allowing your baby to feed skin-to-skin.
  2. The most common breastfeeding position is called the cross cradle hold. To feed on your right side in this position, support your right breast with your right hand. Place your thumb and index fingers several inches behind the areola (the dark part of the breast) forming a “U” and compress your fingers together to make your breast into a “sandwich” for your baby’s mouth.
  3. Place your baby on the My Brest Friend pillow and cradle him with your left arm, on his side. Your left hand should support his shoulders and the base of his head.
  4. Align your right nipple with your baby’s nose and slightly tip the baby’s head back, bringing his chin towards your breast. Stimulate him to open his mouth wide by rubbing your nipple on his upper lip.
  5. Once your baby opens his mouth wide, use your left hand to bring him chin first to your breast. Continue to support your breast until the baby is breastfeeding well.

How will I know when my baby is hungry?

Most newborns breastfeed about every 2-3 hours, which is 8-12 times in 24 hours! Breastmilk is easy for babies to digest and since a newborn’s stomach is only the size of a walnut, small frequent meals are a necessity.

Most health care providers recommend waking a baby to feed every 3 hours if the baby is less than 2 weeks old or is not yet back to birth weight. Once a baby returns to his birth weight after the typical 5-10% weight loss in the first few days, parents are encouraged to allow their baby to sleep 4-5 hours (if the baby will do so!) before waking for a nighttime feed.

It is helpful to respond to a baby’s early signs of hunger rather than waiting for the late sign of hunger, which is crying. It is much easier to latch a baby who isn’t frantically hungry! Early signs of hunger include: the baby opens his mouth and turns his head to the side in search of the nipple (called the rooting reflex), sucking and licking motions, tense, clenched fists and leg movements such as “bicycle riding.”

How long should a breastfeeding session last?

For most new mothers, a breastfeeding session will usually last 45 minutes, including time spent feeding, burping and changing. A typical newborn will nurse 15-20 minutes on the first side. Some lactation professionals believe the mother should then return the baby to the same breast to help completely drain the first breast while others believe you should offer both breasts at every feed. Experiment to see what works for you and for your baby. Allow your baby to breastfeed for another 10-15 minutes until he is drowsy and full, and then burp him at the end of the feeding.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?

There are several concrete ways to determine if your baby is eating well. First, pediatric health care providers will be monitoring your baby’s weight frequently in the first few weeks to ensure good weight gain. The goal is for a newborn to regain his birth weight by 2 weeks of age and then gain 1 ounce per day or 7 ounces a week for the first 12 weeks of life. After 12 weeks of age, babies slow down their growth and gain 1/2 ounce per day or about 3 1/2 ounces per week. Therefore, if your baby is gaining appropriately, you are feeding your baby enough.

Second, what goes in must come out! Watching your baby’s output can help you see how well he is doing. If you see an appropriate number of diapers for your baby, you can usually count on a good weight gain.

The usual expectation for wet diapers with a newborn is:

For stools, you should see the progression from the black, tarry meconium in the first few days to brown transitional stools, to green stools to yellow seedy stools by day 5 of life. Stools remain yellow until you start solid foods around six months. Most infants have at least 3-4 stools a day.

Thirdly, most women can notice the difference in their breasts before and after a feeding. Breasts should feel full before a feeding and much softer after a feeding if a baby has had a good breastfeed.

Lastly, watch your baby feed, listening to the soft breathy sounds of swallows and observe the classic “drunken baby” look after a great feed. A full, satisfied baby is a wonderful sight.

If you have any concerns about how your baby is doing, be sure to contact your pediatric health care provider.

How can I manage pumping and storing milk?

Freshly pumped milk can safely stay at room temperature for 4-8 hours. If the milk has been chilled in the fridge or freezer, do not leave it out for more than 1 hour. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Most milk will only last 72 hours in a refrigerator that is opened and closed frequently. Smell the milk before offering, since spoiled breast milk will smell like sour cow’s milk and should be discarded. Breast milk can be stored in the freezer for 3-6 months, depending on your freezer.

What should I do to care for myself as I care for my baby?

Set up a breastfeeding station in your home, that includes a glider chair, breastfeeding foot stool, glass of water, and My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow. My Brest Friend’s patented, wrap-around design has unique features that most completely address the needs of both mom and baby during breastfeeding. Developed in a “laboratory” of new moms, babies, and breastfeeding experts, it helps establish and maintain latch on, provides the best possible support for baby, eliminates strain on mom’s body, and creates a secure, comfortable breastfeeding experience so mom and baby can peacefully connect.

My Brest Friend has fans in over 30 countries where it is sold, as well as in hundreds of NIC Units and birthing hospitals where it is used. It is the #1 choice of lactation consultants, and consistently earns raves among breastfeeding mothers, many of whom say My Brest Friend has helped them achieve longer holding and feeding cycles with their babies. The stylish new prints and fabrics have also made My Brest Friend the perfect item to register for or give as a gift.

Resource from the Office of the Surgeon General