Why is breastfeeding so important for your baby?
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that infants be given breast milk exclusively for the first six months of their lives and then solid foods and/or formula should be combined with breast milk at least until the child reaches 12 months old. The reason for the emphasis on breastfeeding is because of the benefits it provides to the baby. Breast milk contains all of the vitamins, protein, and fat your infant needs for healthy growth in a form that baby can easily digest. It also provides some important health advantages:
• Infants who are given only breast milk for the first four months of their lives have a 74 percent lower risk of being hospitalized for lower respiratory tract infections.
• Giving an infant only breast milk for more than three months of their lives lowers their risk for middle ear infections by 50 percent.
• Breastfeeding lowers the infants risk for gastrointestinal tract infections by 64 percent.
• The risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is decreased by 36 percent.
• Exclusively feeding an infant breast milk for three to four months reduces the risk for asthma and eczema by 42 percent among children with a family history for these conditions, and by 27 percent among children with no family history.
• There is a 15 to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity if the infant was breastfed for any amount of time.
• Infants who receive only breast milk for at least three months have up to a 30 percent lower risk for type one diabetes.
• Infants who receive only breast milk for three months or longer have higher IQ scores.
How does breastfeeding affect infant growth?
An infant who is being breast fed will gain between four to seven ounces weekly during the first month. In the months two to six, the infant typically gains about one to two pounds monthly and the baby’s birth weight should double in five months. In months seven to 12, the infant usually gains about a pound each month and the birth weight will triple by the time the baby reaches 12 months old.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough breast milk?
Infants who are receiving enough breast milk are alert and active. You will see that your child is continually gaining weight and developing. They will generally feed between six and eight times daily. If your infant doesn’t seem to be satisfied after feeding, or is constantly irritable or crying, this may be a sign that s/he isn’t getting enough breast milk. If you have concerns you can use a breast pump and store your milk in bottles in the refrigerator or freezer. Then you can see how much your baby is getting at each feeding.
Will my breastfeeding milk supply keep up with my baby’s increased need?
As your baby develops, he/she will need to feed more often. This increased need for breast milk triggers the mother’s body to create a larger breastfeeding milk supply. It may take a couple of days for the increased production to match your baby’s needs. If you find that your milk supply is not increasing as rapidly as desired, using a breast pump after nursing will stimulate production.
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