The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months — this means breast milk, either directly from the breast or from a bottle. Babies shouldn’t be given water or sugar water.
Breast milk vs formula is a widely debated topic. Can you give babies formula during the first few months? Is it safe?
HOW IS BREAST MILK MADE?
During pregnancy and after birth, your body produces colostrum, a rich, thick food that is incredibly nutrient-dense. It is dark yellow to orange in color, which is why people sometimes call it “liquid gold”.
After your baby is born, your body produces a hormone called prolactin. The prolactin tells the body to start producing more milk — this usually happens when the baby is 3 to 5 days old. This is referred to as a mother’s milk “coming in”.
Long-term production of breast milk is largely dependent on removal — the more often all the milk is removed, the more milk the breasts make. Conversely, breasts produce less milk when not enough is removed.
IS BREAST MILK REALLY BEST?
The nutrients in breast milk are best for baby’s brain growth and nervous system development. The nutrients are also better absorbed and used by the babies body. Studies also show that breast milk has disease-fighting factors, preventing mild to severe infections.
Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a lower risk of getting asthma and allergy-related skin issues, less diarrhea and healthy digestion, lower risk of developing leukemia and fewer long-term health problems such as diabetes and obesity.
There are distinct advantages to breast milk, which is why we always encourage breastfeeding and provide the resources necessary for every woman to be successful.
Some women struggle to make enough milk to feed their baby, making it necessary to supplement with formula. In rare cases, such as when the mother is taking certain medications, breastfeeding may not be recommended. Babies fed with formula have great outcomes — they are able to gain weight at a normal rate and are healthy.
Formula has greatly evolved from what it used to be. Modern formulas are more advanced in terms of nutrient balance, both at a macro and micro level. The infection-fighting properties of breast milk are not found in formula.
WHAT TO EXPECT
After birth, most healthy babies will be ready to breastfeed within 30 minutes to 2 hours after birth. At Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown, we follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines, which recommend that your baby is placed on your chest for skin-to-skin contact after birth. This keeps baby warm and encourages them to breastfeed for the first time.
The first feeding can feel overwhelming as you’ll feel a rush of emotions. Many women say they feel overcome with love for their baby, some are anxious to do things correctly and others feel relief.
Mon Health offer lactation specialists. They will teach you and help you breastfeed, show you how to get baby to latch on to your breast and suggest ways to relieve any discomfort.
By day two, baby will likely be waking to feed 8 to 12 times within a 24-hour period. Despite the frequent feedings, it’s normal to have only few wet and dirty diapers over the first few days. As baby starts to take more milk, you’ll notice more wet diapers throughout the day. On average, you can expect 6 or more wet diapers and 3 or more soiled diapers starting around day 5.
Don’t ever think that pain, extreme discomfort or cracking/bleeding is normal. Sometimes, changing positions can make all the difference. The lactation specialists aren’t just available immediately after your baby is born — you can reach out at any time.
When babies are hungry, they have a way of letting you know. Crying is actually a late hunger cue, meaning that other subtler cues were probably made first. Hunger cues include:
- Making sucking movements
- Bobbing the head against the mattress or your neck or shoulder
- Bringing hands to face or mouth
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
Breastfeeding mothers don’t really need to eat a special diet — simply focusing on a well-balanced diet and drinking enough liquids is enough.
Water is best to quench thirst, but milk provides great nutrients. It’s advised to watch your caffeine intake, but 1-2 cups of coffee a day is acceptable.
Your appetite is the best guide for how much you should eat — if you feel hunger, don’t ignore it. Keeping easy to eat snacks around the house can be helpful, such as nuts, granola and fruit. A variety of foods is key, eating meats, beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, eggs and dairy.
There’s no reason to think you need to avoid particular foods, such as things that are spicy. Pay attention to how your baby reacts after feedings and if they seem happy, there’s no need to worry. Also, if you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can still successfully breastfeed your baby. Talk to your doctor about supplementing vitamins such as B12 while you are breastfeeding to ensure your baby gets enough.
It’s also highly advised that you continue to take prenatal vitamins while you are nursing your baby.
IT’S A JOURNEY
It’s so important to remember that breastfeeding won’t be easy or feel natural right away. There’s a learning curve — for both you and baby. As you start to develop a routine, learn baby’s feeding cues and the feeding positions that are most comfortable for you both, breast feeding will get easier.
Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown
At Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown, we’re here to offer you support throughout your pregnancy and beyond. If you’re struggling to find comfort when breastfeeding, get in touch. Our experts are here to help.