Breastmilk is nature’s perfect food for your baby. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastmilk as the primary source of nutrition for your baby’s first year of life. Here are seven things you should know about breastfeeding:
Doctors agree that breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for your baby because it's easy to digest, helps protect against food allergies, and gives her protective antibodies to help fight off illness.
Begin breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth. Make sure your health care provider knows that you plan to breastfeed your baby. When you’re admitted to the hospital, ask the labor and delivery room nurse to notify the nursery that you will be breastfeeding.
Nurse your baby as soon after delivery as possible, preferably within the first hour after birth. Your baby benefits right away from the easy-to-digest proteins, vitamins, and minerals—as well as from protective antibodies—in colostrum, the yellowish, translucent fluid your breasts secrete for the first two to three days.
Besides helping both of you adjust to breastfeeding, frequent and early breastfeeding also helps increase your milk production.
A newborn should be nursed whenever she shows signs of hunger, approximately 8 to 12 times per day. Have your baby with you as much as possible following birth. If you’re with the baby you’ll know when she shows signs of hunger such as increased alertness or activity, rooting, searching for your breast, or sucking her fist.
Don’t wait until she cries because crying is a late indication of hunger. If she’s sleeping, rouse her at least every 4 hours for a feeding.
Avoid using supplements such as water or formula unless your doctor tells you there's a medical reason to do so. If your baby is in the nursery at the hospital, insist that she not receive any water, formula, or sugar (glucose) water but be brought to you to breastfeed.
This ensures that your baby’s primary source of nutrition is breastmilk. And hold off on using pacifiers until after your milk supply is well established. (This may take 2 to 4 weeks.) Your milk supply increases to match the level of your baby’s sucking, so make sure all the sucking is done at your breast.
If you are discharged before 48 hours after delivery, you and your baby should see a doctor or other health care provider who’s knowledgeable about breastfeeding when your baby is 2 to 4 days old. If you have been in the hospital at least 48 hours, it’s a good idea for you or your doctor to request that a breastfeeding consultant visit you at home within the first several days to watch you nurse your baby and to answer questions you may have about breastfeeding.
All infants should be seen by a health care provider within the first month, usually at around 2 weeks.
Breastfeeding is ideal nutrition for your baby's first year. The AAP recommends that you continue breastfeeding even as you introduce iron-rich solid foods during the middle of that first year. If you do wean your baby before age 1, don’t wean him to cow’s milk but to iron-fortified infant formula.
That’s because the balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in cow’s milk is far from ideal for your baby. The protein in cow’s milk is too concentrated and may be difficult for your baby’s digestive system to handle.
In your baby's first six months, water, juice, and other foods are not necessary. Your baby will get all the nutrition she needs from your breastmilk. Even as you introduce solid foods, breastmilk or iron-fortified infant formula should still be your baby’s primary sources of nutrition.