The World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life and continuing for up to two years old or longer with nutritious solid foods.
Research shows that breastfeeding contains natural antibodies that protect children against infections, allergies and a number of chronic illnesses. It is particularly beneficial for premature babies. Breastfeeding helps boost a mother's immune system which can decrease the risk of developing certain life-threatening diseases.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience for both mother and child as it not only creates a special bonding, but it also provides the ideal nourishment for the baby’s growing needs.
Health Benefits of Breastfeeding
During pregnancy and the first few days after a baby's birth, a mother's body will produce a nutrient-rich pre-milk called colostrum. It may be thick and yellowish or thin and watery. The colostrum aids in the growth and development of the newborn's digestive system. It also helps boost a baby's immune system and help fight infection.
Here are the other benefits of breastfeeding and what you need to know to get started:
Benefits for Babies
Breastmilk contains hormones and germ-fighting nutrients that a mother passes to her baby that strengthens the immune system. Therefore, breastfed babies generally have fewer infections and hospitalizations compared to formula-fed babies. Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of developing the following conditions:
- Leukemia (during childhood)
- Obesity (during childhood)
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Type 1 diabetes
- Severe lower respiratory infections
- Acute otitis media (ear infections)
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea/vomiting)
- Necrotizing enterocolitis – a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in preterm infants
Benefits for Mothers
Breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. Studies also show that breastfeeding helps lower a mother's risk of developing the following conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Ovarian cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Breast cancer
- Postpartum depression
How Long Should a Mother Breastfeed?
Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their children for at least one year. Continued breastfeeding provides greater protection from long-term diseases for both mother and baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid food other than breast milk or formula to children at about six months old.
Who Shouldn't Breastfeed?
There are rare instances when human milk or breastfeeding is not recommended. Some medical conditions can be unsafe for babies, such as those that involve chemotherapy or certain medicines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk (milk produced from squeezing milk out of your breast for storage and later use) to infants in the following situations:
- Infants diagnosed with classic galactosemia, a rare genetic metabolic disorder that affects how the body processes a simple sugar called galactose
- Mothers infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Mothers infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or II
- Mothers using illicit street drugs, such as phencyclidine (PCP) or cocaine
- Mothers suspected or infected with Ebola virus disease
Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding
Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed is one of the biggest decisions most expectant mothers and new parents will have to make. Although breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, breastfeeding may be too difficult or stressful for some women. For mothers who cannot breastfeed, infant formula is a healthy alternative.
However, breastmilk substitutes like formula are more difficult for babies to digest, especially babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is because formula is made from cow's milk and it takes time for babies' stomachs to adjust to it. Formula and feeding supplies can cost over $1,500 during the first year of a baby's life. Soy and hypoallergenic specialty formulas sometimes cost more than basic formulas.
What Is a Lactation Consultant?
A lactation consultant is a professional who is specially trained to provide general prenatal and postpartum breastfeeding support under the supervision of a physician. Through education and management, they help mothers address the many challenges that come with breastfeeding and lactation, such as nipple pain and low milk supply.
It is important for mothers and parents to talk to their doctor or lactation consultant to help them weigh their options and help them make the best decision for their baby and family.
Breastfeeding Support and Lactation Services
Every story has a beginning.
When you give birth at Baptist Health System, our team of professionals at each of our locations wants you to have an amazing experience to make your new beginning a happy one. Everything you need for the arrival of your little bundle of joy is right here, including a Level IV NICU care for high-risk pregnancies.
At Baptist Health System’s The Nest, you’ll find a comprehensive women’s health program that offers complete and personalized outpatient and inpatient obstetric care. We focus on providing moms, their babies and their families a comfortable and joyful experience before, during and after their big day.
We are dedicated to providing the best compassionate and personalized care possible beyond your pregnancy. That's why all Baptist facilities have certified lactation consultants on staff to help you navigate your breastfeeding journey.
You'll find a warm, comfortable and supportive environment at the Mother's Milk Lactation Center at North Central Baptist Hospital in Stone Oak. This is a special place where families can discuss their breastfeeding goals and concerns with trained lactation consultants. So whether you decide to breastfeed or you're still deciding, our outpatient lactation center is fully equipped with everything you need to support your choice to provide the best for your baby.
Our Mother's Milk First Lactation Center offers the following services:
- Lactation consultations (by appointment only)
- Weight checks
- Bra fittings
- Telephone assistance
- Mother's milk bank collection site – milk banks serve as a repository of milk collected from donors. These facilities also process, screen, store and distribute donated milk to serve healthy infants who are not able to get their own mother’s milk.
Our compassionate care doesn’t end with delivery. Baptist Health System is committed to guiding you through your journey as you transition into parenthood. Come visit our facility and meet our dedicated staff, so you know what to expect on your big day.