Breastfeeding Benefits and Tips

Mothers who choose to breastfeed benefit themselves, as well as their babies. For example, one of the most important benefits a baby receives from breastfeeding is the mother’s antibodies. One of the mother’s benefits is never paying for formula, which can be expensive.

The Additional Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

For the Baby:

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding helps prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and reduces the possibility that the baby will become overweight/obese during childhood, develop leukemia, necrotizing enterocolitis, as well as celiac disease. Furthermore, breastfeeding decreases the likelihood that the baby will develop asthma, diabetes and allergies.

For the Mother:

Breastfeeding helps the mother lose excess weight and assists her uterus with returning to its pre-pregnancy size. When a mother breastfeeds, she decreases her likelihood of experiencing postpartum depression and delays the return of her menstrual cycle. Moreover, her risk of developing breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, ovarian cancer, hypertension, endometrial cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes decreases.

Breastfeeding Tips: Preparing for Baby’s Arrival

During the last trimester of pregnancy, a mother who intends to breastfeed needs to begin preparing for her baby’s homecoming. Use the breastfeeding tips below to ease the transition into life as a breastfeeding mother.

4 Breastfeeding Tips—Getting Everything Ready to Bring Your Baby Home

  1. Consider a Breastfeeding Class.

Some mothers find that taking a breastfeeding class helps them prepare for their baby’s arrival.

  1. Have Everything Necessary for Breastfeeding Before Baby Arrives.

Purchase the items that mothers use for breastfeeding ahead of time (e.g., a breastfeeding cover, a nursing bra, soothing nipple covers and a nursing pillow).

  1. A Complimentary Breast Pump?

Check with the hospital and health insurance company to see if they provide new mothers with a free breast pump. If not, purchasing a pump now is a good idea because, in the event that the mother needs to be away from her baby, she can pump and then store her milk.

  1. Prior to the Baby’s Arrival, Consider Making an Appointment with the Pediatrician.

A mother who has questions about her baby and breastfeeding should consult the pediatrician who will be caring for her baby following his or her birth. Addressing concerns before the baby arrives is beneficial because once her baby is born, she will need time to recover and adjust to motherhood. Therefore, anything an expectant mother can take care of ahead of time is highly beneficial.

7 of the most common questions expectant mothers ask pediatricians include:

  1. When should my baby be back up to his or her birth weight?
  2. Which growth chart does the office use?
  3. Do you think it is okay for a mother to use a nipple shield to help the baby latch on?
  4. How often will my baby need to breastfeed?
  5. What if I have poor milk production and have to add a supplement? Which formula do you recommend?
  6. Would you recommend that I wake the baby so he or she can nurse during the night?
  7. Should I limit the length of time my baby breastfeeds?

Besides all the other benefits of breastfeeding, it helps mother and baby build a strong bond. Contact Parker Pediatrics today to learn more.

Nipple, Cracked

This article is an excerpt from "The Nursing Mother's Problem Solver" by Claire Martin.

Q: I am nursing my 4-week-old son, and my left nipple is cracked. It is very painful to nurse on that side. I've used both vitamin E oil and lanolin for 5 days, but neither seems effective. What can I do?

A: A cracked nipple usually is due to a problem with positioning and latch-on. Cracks are not normal. Where the crack (or cracks) is located often indicates the problem's source. You're smart to continue to nurse from the affected nipple: Studies show that a cracked nipple heals just as quickly if it's used for nursing as if it's left alone. Nursing may speed healing, since it increases the blood flow to your breasts.

To promote healing, apply breast milk to the nipple cracks, and let it air-dry. Breast milk not only will heal cracks better than lanolin, vitamin E, or other creams but also can prevent infections. You'll also need an all-purpose nipple ointment to heal a damaged nipple, and moist wounds require special care. Ask us or lactation consultant for help.

First, check your baby when she's off the breast, and see if she can extend her tongue beyond her gum line. If she can't extend her tongue, that might be the cause of your cracked nipple. Have your pediatrician look at her tongue to confirm this. It's possible to breastfeed in this case, but you'll need one-to-one help from a lactation consultant who's had experience with this situation. If your cracked nipple was caused by a positioning problem, here are some tips on establishing a good nursing position:

  • Have several small pillows available to support your arms and your baby. Nurse in a comfortable chair, or surround yourself with pillows if you're nursing in bed. Put one pillow behind your back, another on your lap, and a third under the arm that you'll use to support the baby.
  • Rest your feet on a low footstool (a cardboard box will work in a pinch), so your knees are raised.
  • Hold the baby at breast level. The pillows should be supporting your upper body-arms and shoulders-and your lower back. If those areas feel strained, reposition yourself.
  • Check the baby to make sure she also feels supported and secure. If she's tense, she can't concentrate on nursing.
  • Hold your breast with one hand. Cup it with your thumb above-but not touching-the pink/brown areola, so your fingers and palm support the breast from below. Tickle your baby's lips with your nipple. If she doesn't open her lips, express a little milk and dab it on her mouth. When she opens her mouth, bring her quickly to your breast.
  • Make sure she gets a big mouthful of breast. Your whole nipple should be inside her mouth, and a good measure (an inch) of areola as well. (If you're engorged, you may not be able to get much or any areola inside. Express some milk until the engorgement diminishes.)
  • Support the baby, if necessary, at her shoulders, instead of her head. Make sure her body is in a straight line from ear to hip. Cuddle her close. Her chin and nose should be in contact with your breast throughout the session.
  • Watch her as she suckles. Are her lips pulled in, or flanged out? If they're pulled in, fold the lip out. If you're having trouble envisioning this, watch yourself in the mirror while you're drinking a soda from a can or bottle. That's how the baby's lips should look, too.
  • Listen as she nurses. If she clicks, slurps, or gasps, she may have a poor latch-on.

About the Author

Claire Martin is a parenting writer at the Denver Post. Her writing has won national and regional awards, and has appeared in publications such as the St. Petersburg Times, Good Housekeeping, and Sunset magazine. She lives in Denver with her husband and two daughters, both of whom were breastfed.

From THE NURSING MOTHER'S PROBLEM SOLVER by Claire Martin. Copyright © 2000 by Claire Martin. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.