Breastfeeding is as natural as childbirth itself, and it’s good for not only the baby but the mother as well. The very term mammal comes from the fact that mammals breast feed from mammary glands. According to The American Academy for Pediatrics, breastfeeding should be done exclusively for the first six months and continued on through the first year.
Research shows that mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of post partum depression, and breast and ovarian cancer. Babies that are breastfed have lower risk of illness, and obesity, they have lower risks of developing allergies, respiratory illness, ear infections, and meningitis. Breastfeeding also lowers risk for gastrointestinal and intestinal disorders and infections, it lowers their risk of SIDS, and it boosts their overall immune system.
Beyond the proven overall health benefits to mother and baby, breastfeeding also creates a closer bond between mother and child and there has been shown to be a connection between breastfeeding and greater cognitive development and intelligence. But unfortunately even with all of this positive information only about 18% of mothers’ breastfeed.
Mothers that do choose to breastfeed must keep in mind that, just like when the baby is in the womb, whatever you put into your body is going to go into your baby’s body as well. Smoking (anything) and consuming alcohol or drugs are a big no-no when you are breastfeeding (and are really unwise even if you aren”t).
A proper nutritional diet is very important not only for the mother, but for the breastfeeding infant as well. A healthy mother makes for healthy milk and healthy milk makes a healthy baby.
However some women have difficulty breastfeeding, often physical factors come into play, whether on the mothers part or in the case of a premature infant. For these women, rather than going straight to feeding the baby formula, during the first six months at least, she should consider using a breast pump to produce milk then feed the infant from a bottle. Feeding the infant breast milk through a bottle may also be necessary if the mother works and the child is cared for through a nursery or daycare center.
In instances where the mother needs to have a supply of breast milk for feeding while at work or if there are twins, she may pump the milk and store it in the freezer for future use. Begin pumping a few weeks beforehand to build up a supply to have on hand. When storing the milk be sure to use bags specifically designed for breast milk storage.
Milk will remain fresh at room temperature for up to 6 hours as long as it is not exposed to heat or sunlight. You may store it in the refrigerator for up to four days and up to three or four months in the freezer, 6 months in a deep freezer. Store in the freezer in 4 oz quantities for ease of thawing and be sure to allow room for expansion in the storage bag. Many breast pumps come with custom collection containers that also double as a feeding bottle and others allow you to use standard bottles.
While it is recommended to breast feed exclusively for the first six months, you should continue to breastfeed while introducing baby to food staples from the major food groups after six months and you may continue to breastfeed even up to two or three years. Ultimately it is up to you and the infant to decide when it is time to wean baby from the nipple.