What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
- Breast milk contains a healthy balance of water, fat, sugar, protein and minerals that your child needs for his or her growth and development. Your breast milk changes to adapt to your child’s changing nutritional needs.
- Breast milk is rich in antibodies that prevent many illnesses – ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory diseases and allergies, and the longer your child breastfeeds, the greater the health benefits.
- Breast milk is easier to digest compared to formula.
- Babies who are breastfed have lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- If your child is premature, breast milk decreases many associated short-term and long-term health problems.
- Breastfeeding causes uterine contractions, which decreases the amount of bleeding you have after giving birth. Your uterus will therefore, return back to its original size faster.
- Your body needs an additional 450-500 calories a day to produce breast milk, which may make it easier to lose your “baby fat.”
- Breastfeeding reduces your risks of breast and ovarian cancers.
How long should I breastfeed?
It is recommended that you breastfeed your child for a minimum of 6 months and ideally for a year or longer.
How frequently should I breastfeed?
In the first few weeks of life, you should breastfeed your child at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, or at least every 2-3 hours. Although variable, many newborn babies breastfeed for 10-15 minutes on each breast.
What should I eat or not eat during breastfeeding?
To eat or take:
- You should continue with your prenatal vitamins while you’re breastfeeding.
- You need approximately 2,500 total calories a day.
- Fish and seafood 2-3 times a week, but avoid fish with high mercury levels.
- Keep up your fluids, especially if you are low on breast milk or your urine becomes concentrated.
- Fish with high mercury levels: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish and limit albacore tuna to 6 oz. a week.
- Excessive amounts of caffeinated drinks. Caffeine in moderate amounts (300mg per day) most likely will not affect your breastfed child. However, if your child is premature, minimize your caffeine intake.
- Alcoholic beverages, on occasion, are safe if you wait at least 2 hours after a single drink to breastfeed. Let the alcohol exit your milk and blood stream. You don’t need to express and dump your milk. However, avoid drinking more than 2 drinks per day on a regular basis as this may cause health problems for your baby.
What medications should I avoid during breastfeeding?
Most medications are safe during breastfeeding as the levels are typically much lower than what is found in your blood stream. You may search LactMed, at https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm to find out specific effects of the medication you’re taking on breastfeeding. Ask your pediatrician if you need to take any prescription medication during breastfeeding.
What birth control methods are safe during breastfeeding?
There are many options for birth control during breastfeeding that are safe and effective. Non-hormonal options include cooper-coated intrauterine devices and condoms. Hormonal options include progestin-only birth control pills, progestin-coated intrauterine devices, birth control shots, and progestin-coated implants. Talk to your obstetrician about what is the best option for you.
Where to get help?
Breastfeeding can be difficult and frustrating and for many mothers and babies this process takes time to learn. Your doctors and nurses can help you while you are in the hospital. Professional lactation consultants are available in the hospital to assist if you need help, and can provide available resources for after leaving the hospital.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Breastfeeding Your Baby. Frequently Asked Questions FAQ 029.