What to know about breastfeeding

The benefits of breastfeeding, as well as tips for new parents.

A baby breastfeeding.
Photo: Pexels/Cleyder Duque.

Breastfeeding is a safe and simple way to feed babies. Many times, breastfeeding is also a way to bond with baby. This article shares the numerous benefits of breastfeeding. Benefits for the parent include a quicker recovery from childbirth due to the oxytocin produced during breastfeeding, which leads to less bleeding and faster decrease in the size of the uterus. There is also a lowered risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer. Breastfeeding also delays menses, leading to healthier child spacing. Benefits for baby include fewer ear infections, lowers risk of pneumonia, lower risk of allergies and asthma, less gas, less constipation and diarrhea, lower risk of obesity in childhood, lower risk of developing diabetes and lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 

Tips to new parents include developing a plan for breastfeeding your baby. Before the baby is born, learn about breastfeeding. Good resources include your local WIC officeLa Leche League and your healthcare provider. Identify a breastfeeding support system and have realistic expectations and goals. Be open and honest and talk with other people about your questions. Get accurate information. Before the baby is born, find out what your hospital recommends for labor, delivery, breastfeeding and postpartum practices.

Additional tips to new parents who want to breastfeed baby:

  • In the hospital, tell staff that you plan to breastfeed. After birth, cuddle skin-to-skin, with your baby on your chest until after the first feeding.
  • Practice breastfeeding with your baby often. If possible, keep your baby in the room with you during your stay; you will both sleep better.
  • Learn your baby’s feeding cues, such as trying to put fists into their mouth, opening their mouth, looking for something to suck on, starting to squirm or making sounds. Crying is a late sign of hunger.
  • Learn to identify what an effective suck-swallow pattern is for your baby.
  • Avoid giving your newborn any fluids other than breast milk, unless medically necessary.
  • Learn how to express milk with your hand.
  • Ask for help if you have pain with feedings.
  • Wait three to four weeks before introducing a pacifier or bottle.

Be ready for breastfeeding patterns to change over time. In the first 24 hours of life, your baby will need a minimum of three feedings. Your baby will need to feed more with each new day. Expect your baby to breastfeed 8-12 times a day. Although your baby may not eat each time, this is good practice for both of you. Your breast milk is specifically designed for your baby and will change to meet their needs. Parents who make a feeding plan can often be more successful with breastfeeding longer. Lastly, be patient. It takes time and practice to feel confident and comfortable with breastfeeding.

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