Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom and Baby

By Erin Kaspar-Frett, CPM, LM, MSM – Earth Mother Midwife

Finding Good Support
Sometimes a woman decides she wants to breastfeed and is met with opposition from her family or friends. Or, just as often, she wants to breastfeed and doesn’t find it as “natural” as others say it should be. Some struggle to latch correctly or are dealing with issues such as; thrush, lip or tongue tie, flat or inverted nipples. All of these can be worked around with proper support. A mother can contact a lactation consultant, a La Leche League (LLL) leader, a midwife, a pediatrician, or a friend that is experienced in breastfeeding.

Improvements in breastfeeding support continue. WIC offices and care providers are promoting and encouraging breastfeeding, lactation consultants are readily available to assist mothers that are having difficulties, many work places are providing pumping stations for their breastfeeding employees, and most areas have strong, supportive La Leche League groups available for moms to attend meetings and gain support.

I encourage all pregnant and breastfeeding moms to consider attending at least one LLL meeting to obtain or give support. Many LLL groups have lending libraries, speakers, play groups, and a great deal of information that benefits the breastfeeding mother. For more information on LLL contact LLL international at 1-800-LALECHE (US) or (847) 519-7730 or visit their website detailing how to find leaders in your area at www.lalecheleague.org/leaderinfo.html.

Getting Off to a Good Start
Studies have shown that breastfeeding progresses most smoothly when the mother is allowed full access to her newborn directly from birth, allowing her to pick up the baby herself when she is ready. When this happens, babies will typically begin breastfeeding within the first hour of their birth. That “golden hour” is the height of colostrum. Babies have a built-in instinctual ability to know how to nurse. Mothers that have prepared themselves can be relaxed and ready to nurse when they meet their new baby. The first few latches may be a bit awkward for both, but in time, both mom and baby will be pros! However, mothers who are separated from their newborns often feel anxiety during the separation. Babies who are separated from their mothers often cry and appear anxious. When the two are together they can bond and get to know one another, enjoying the creation of a lasting love. Safe-guarding the first hours after birth for freedom of nursing, and delaying all newborn procedures (if both mom and baby are healthy and proceeding normally!), will go a long way in maternal and infant health and security.

Nursing on demand is the ideal way to feed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding on demand at newborn cue’s, before beginning to cry.* A baby who is fed on demand grows confident in his mother’s ability to meet his needs when he requests them to be met. Feeding on demand also provides the cue that the mother’s brain needs to make the ideal amount of breast milk for her baby. Breastmilk is supply and demand in reverse: the baby demands, the mother’s body supplies. For a healthy mother/baby team, there is never too little milk when the baby is permitted to tell the mother’s body how much is needed, although it might take a day or two to catch up. Following the cues of the newborn will solidify this nursing relationship.

Nutrition during Breastfeeding
What goes into a mother’s body while she is breastfeeding her baby is what becomes the nutrition her baby receives. Whole foods, a well-rounded diet, and plenty of liquids will benefit both the mother and the baby. Avoiding caffeine, cigarette smoke, and recreational drugs is recommended during breastfeeding.

Remembering to take the time to eat is sometimes difficult for busy mothers. Frequent small meals are often recommended to the breastfeeding mother. Nursing mothers need at least 2,700 calories and 65 grams of protein a day. Having an easy healthy snack and fluids available at all times is helpful for mothers who are busy or on the go.

Some babies will be sensitive to certain foods, becoming fussy or spitting up after the mother eats them. As the mother pays attention to what she had to eat or drink prior to a fussing episode, she will often realize what is causing the baby’s discomfort.

What about the Other Parent?
The other parents sometimes wonder how they can participate in the child’s life if they can’t provide sustaining nourishment. For some families, it works to have the other parent bottle feed expressed breast milk. For some, however, this feels awkward or the baby doesn’t relax in the same way. And yet, for some families, bottle feeding isn’t an options due to baby’s unwillingness. And yet there are so many important roles a non-breastfeeding parent plays in the life of the child. Non-breastfeeding parents can hold, rock, bathe, feed solids when it is time, dress, and play with their children, creating a special time with their babies that provides a similar bond as the one breastfeeding mothers have during breastfeeding. Non-nutritive parents play an important role in the development of their child’s life. These special times together will aid in developing a lasting relationship between that parent and child.

Relax and Enjoy Breastfeeding

Above all I remind mothers that the breastfeeding period is a special time, a time like no other in the mother’s or baby’s life. The baby will have the opportunity to get to know the mother during the time they spend nursing. The mother and baby will discover how important they are to one another during this time. The housework will still be there when the baby is done nursing. Work will still be there when the mother is ready to return. Friends and family members will gladly resume closeness when the mother feels ready to invest in these relationships again. The mother can simply relax and enjoy this special time between herself and her baby.

*Documentation recorded in the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Pediatrics Vol. 100, No. 6, December 1997, pp. 1035–1039. www.aap.org/policy/re9729.html.

For a list of resources on the topic, please contact Erin Kaspar-Frett, erin@earthmothermidwife.com.

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