Breastmilk is the first food nature intended humans to consume because it contains the perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat babies need to thrive in the first months of their lives. It also contains vital antibodies, so they can fight off any viruses and bacteria. An added bonus – the benefits of breastmilk continue well into adulthood.
When babies are breastfed exclusively for at least six months:
- They’re less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea, allergies, and respiratory illnesses.
- It reduces their risk of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, childhood and adult obesity, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.
- It lowers their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 50%.
- It lowers their risk of childhood cancers like leukemia, and breast cancer as they age.
Breastfeeding is also incredibly beneficial in the short- and long-term for mothers. When women breastfeed:
- It lowers their risk of type 2 diabetes, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer.
- Their chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, endometriosis, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease are reduced.
- On average, they get 45 more minutes of sleep.
- It helps them return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster by burning an extra 400 calories per day.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Successful Breastfeeding
- Do reach out for assistance before your baby is born—attending a breastfeeding class is always a good place to start learning the ropes.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help—the earlier you let others know you’re struggling, the better equipped you’ll be to overcome any challenges.
- Don’t give up on the hardest day—breastfeeding takes work, and patience is key. Practice makes perfect!
- Do find a support system—breastfeeding support groups can be a great way for you to meet other mothers that are also breastfeeding and provides a safe space to talk about what you’re experiencing.
- Don’t blame yourself if it doesn’t come easy – breastfeeding doesn’t come as naturally as most people expect. Especially if you’re a new mom, there may be a steep learning curve for both yourself and your baby.
- Do seek support from a lactation consultant– there may be issues you may not be aware of. For example, a tongue tie is a common issue for babies that can’t maintain a deep latch. An experienced lactation consultant can recognize the problem and recommend solutions.
If you are breast or chestfeeding, you may be anxious about having enough milk for your baby. This is a common concern for new mothers. The California WIC Program and CDPH have put together an easy-to-use resource that addresses a lot of the questions parents may have.
You may also be worried about returning to work and how that can affect your supply. Low- wage workers receive less lactation support than those with higher incomes. A new brief provides information on ways the California Paid Leave policy and additional lactation accommodation laws can support low-wage workers in their breast and chestfeeding goals.
Finding the Right Resources
You’re not in this alone. There are a variety of community resources for breastfeeding support such as California’s Black Infant Health (BIH) Program. And if you are returning to work, plan and get information about nursing support after returning to the workforce. You can also speak to your supervisor about lactation accommodations to make the transition easier.
If you have a friend or family member that is breastfeeding or considering it, you can lend a hand by supporting their efforts. Little things like providing a meal, running an errand or providing a short break can be a big help to new parents.
AltaMed offers a variety of services, from lactation consultants and educators to individual support, at Boyle Heights, El Monte, Goodrich, Orange, Santa Ana, and Children's Hospital LA sites. Call (888) 499-9303 for more information and to make an appointment today.