This August is the 13th annual National Breastfeeding Month, and World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated August 1-7. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) coordinates the campaign each year to raise awareness and encourage action on breastfeeding and related issues. At New Jersey Perinatal Associates, our team proudly supports new mothers throughout this natural process and their babies during their first few months of life. Learn more about breastfeeding and its benefits below, and schedule a consultation with one of our highly skilled perinatologists at your nearest NJPA office today!
What is Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding, also called nursing, is the process of feeding a mother’s breast to her infant, usually directly from the breast. The infant will latch on or attach their mouth onto your breast and drink the milk made by your body through a sucking motion. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mothers should initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth and continue for at least the first six months of life.
Initially, your breast milk supply will consist of a protein-rich, thick liquid called colostrum which helps the baby stay hydrated. It contains tons of antibodies that protect the newborn against common infections. After the first few days of breastfeeding, your colostrum will change into mature milk. Breastfeeding provides newborn babies with essential nutrients such as vitamins, calories, and minerals that promote growth and development.
What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding?
It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to feed your baby. Breastfeeding offers several natural benefits for both you and your baby during their first 4 to 6 months of life. Research shows that it lowers your baby’s risk of developing certain diseases and helps them build a strong immune system. Some of the advantages of breastfeeding include:
Your Baby’s Health
Your breast milk is not only a nutritious choice for your baby, it can also protect them from a wide range of illnesses. Any amount of breast milk will have a positive effect, however, the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protection lasts. Breastfed infants have a lower chance of developing certain medical conditions, such as:
- Lower respiratory infections
- Ear infections
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sudden death infant syndrome (SDIS)
Physical touch is very important for your infant. After your baby is born, it is recommended that you hold your baby against your skin, which is known as skin-to-skin contact. This encourages them to bond and breastfeed. Skin-to-skin contact also boosts a mother’s levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps breast milk flow and makes them feel calm. Close contact also helps your baby feel safe, secure, and loved.
Breast milk contains the right amounts of fat, sugar, water, protein, and vitamins for your baby’s health. It even adapts over time to meet your baby’s nutritional needs as he or she gets older. Compared with formula, nutrients in breastmilk are better absorbed and utilized by your baby. In addition, the nutrients in breastmilk are best for their brain growth and nervous system development.
Infants, particularly those less than 6 months old, have an immature digestive system. Their gastrointestinal tract doesn’t produce digestive enzymes like a child or adult would. The colostrum that mothers make during pregnancy and just after birth helps a baby’s digestive system grow. Breastmilk, unlike formula, contains enzymes – amylase and lipase – that aid digestion. Once your baby is old enough for solid foods, you can slowly introduce them and continue with breastfeeding up to 2 years or longer.
Not only is breastfeeding good for the health of you and your baby, it also saves you money. Breastmilk requires no purchase or preparation – it’s completely free. Even if you want to invest in a breast pump to make feeding more convenient, renting or buying a pump will likely cost less than a year’s supply of formula. The price of formula alone for 12 months is approximately $1,000-$1,200. Breastfed babies are also healthier, saving families time and money spent on doctor visits and medicine.
Last but not least, breastfeeding is convenient. Breastmilk is always readily available and at the perfect temperature to feed your baby when they’re hungry. You can breastfeed nearly anywhere without worrying about bottles to fill up or formula to measure and mix. Nighttime nursing is also easier and less disruptive because you don’t have to pacify a crying baby while bottles are being warmed.
Expert Prenatal Care in New Jersey
At NJPA, we provide expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancy care from your prenatal diagnosis through labor and delivery. Our perinatologists use advanced technology to perform various non-invasive tests to check for certain conditions and ensure the health of you and your unborn child. Our full range of services is offered at our seven locations throughout New Jersey, in a safe and comfortable setting. Contact us to request an appointment with one of our high-risk pregnancy specialists in NJ today!