By Donna Bielecki, RN, BSN, IBCLC
Nourishing an infant is imperative to his or her growth, and breastfeeding is a tried-and-true method to provide the best vitamins and nutrients to babies. But the baby isn’t the only one on the receiving end of breastfeeding benefits. There are many reasons it has immeasurable value for both mother and child.
Research has proven that breast milk is the ideal source of nutrition for babies, providing all the critical vitamins and enzymes needed for healthy growth and development. Antibodies in breast milk can help fight off illnesses, allergies, stomach upset, and viruses. Breastfed babies have a lower incidence of ear infections, lower respiratory infections, and pneumonia.
Proteins in breast milk are more easily digested by babies, while cow’s milk and soy milk formulas can sometimes cause an allergic reaction. Breastfeeding is convenient, without bottles that need to be prepared and warmed.
Nursing mothers enjoy many benefits of breastfeeding. With skin-to-skin contact, there is a physical and emotional bonding experience between a breastfeeding mom and child, offering exclusive, quiet moments that provide mother and baby a chance to be fully engaged with one another.
Breastfeeding can help a woman’s body to heal after delivery, releasing oxytocin that helps the uterus return to its normal size more quickly. Oxytocin also helps breast milk flow and actually aids in calming mothers, as well. Women who breastfeed often experience faster weight loss after delivery.
There are several misconceptions that may prevent a mother from making the choice to breastfeed her baby. Some mothers are afraid that they don’t produce enough milk to support their baby. A majority of women do produce enough milk, and with the proper support, can successfully breastfeed their baby.
Some women believe that breastfeeding is painful. While some discomfort may be experienced in the first few days, any pain should subside as the baby learns to latch on properly.
There are many resources available to support breastfeeding. The Hospital of Central Connecticut offers regular breastfeeding support groups and outpatient lactation consultations. From prenatal classes to assistance after discharge, new mothers receive information and support they need to successfully breastfeed their baby. Specially trained nurses and lactation specialists offer 24-hour support. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed most babies, and when mothers are ready to return to work, nurses can provide information and guidance on pumping breast milk.
By promoting and supporting breastfeeding, babies are given the best head start to a life of good health.
Donna Bielecki is a Lactation Consultant at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
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