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Breastfeeding Health: What’s Best for Mom and Baby

Nutrition and Dietetics Student | Shield HealthCare
08/08/17  10:16 AM PST

Breastfeeding Health: What’s Best for Mom and Baby

Why Breastfeeding is Recommended

Breastfeeding is highly beneficial for mom and baby, promoting a strong bond and providing health benefits for both.

Dense with nutrients and antibodies, breast milk helps protect the newborn by decreasing risk of illnesses now and later in life, including:

  • SIDS
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Ear infections

For infants born unable to nurse with their mothers, human milk banks can give them the healthful benefits found in human breast milk. Women who are able to express more milk than their baby requires can pump and donate to a reputable bank. Then, once the milk is considered safe for consumption by lab testing, it is distributed to those in need, giving more children the healthful foundation human breast milk offers.

Breastfeeding can help mom:

  • Lose weight
  • Improve healing
  • Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
  • Protect against ovarian and some breast cancers
  • Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

Is Baby Getting Enough?

Human breast milk changes as the infant grows and is easy to digest. For the first few days following birth, colostrum is excreted in small amounts and contains highly concentrated nutrients and antibodies from the mom. After a few days of feeding, the colostrum will mature into a thinner milk. The mature milk still packs all the benefits but is less concentrated and flows at a higher volume.

Regardless of breast size, mothers should produce enough breast milk as long as it is expressed completely and regularly. As feedings and pumping slow down, so will production.

To know if baby is getting enough milk, be mindful of their hunger signs and diaper count. For the first couple of days, one to two clear or pale-yellow wet diapers and up to three bowel movements are to be expected. Around day three wet diapers should increase to six or more and bowel movements will increase in size.

Mom’s Nutrition Needs During Breastfeeding

While breastfeeding, a well-balanced and healthy diet is most beneficial. The nutrients in breast milk mostly come from the mother’s diet. To ensure the infant’s needs are met, mom’s body stores are used when the diet is insufficient; either way, the baby is getting the health benefits. However, a healthful diet is best for both.

It is most beneficial to continue the nutrition advice for pregnancy plus about 200 more calories per day. Vitamin and mineral supplementation may be needed and should be discussed with a doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist.

To maximize breastfeeding health benefits:

  • Stay hydrated
    • 13-16 cups of water per day
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Limit caffeine
  • Eat a varied and balanced diet
    • Whole grains
    • Low fat
    • Lean protein
    • Plenty of fruits and vegetables
    • Less refined foods
  • Limit consumption of high-mercury fish – increase consumption of low-mercury fish (two to three servings a week) (for a list of low-mercury, sustainable fish options, see SeafoodWatch.org)

References:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

La Leche League International

Office on Women’s Health

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital

WebMD

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