Breast Milk is Your Baby's Perfect Food

By  on March 22, 2007

One of your most important decisions is how you will feed your baby.

As a mother, you have a very special gift that only you can give your baby: breast milk. Breast milk is the best food for your baby because it gives the baby the best possible start in life.

Why Is Breastfeeding Best For Babies?

  • Breastfed babies are healthier. They are much less likely to get ear infections, colds, flus, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to have allergies.
  • Breastfed babies may have extra protection from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For more on SIDS, see page 12.
  • Breast milk gives your baby the nutrients she (or he) needs. In fact, your breast milk changes as your baby grows and her needs change.
  • Breast milk is easy to digest, so breastfed babies have less colic and fewer digestion problems.
  • Breast milk is always at the right temperature.
  • Breast milk is always fresh.
  • Breastfeeding helps a mother and baby to feel close, and to get to know each other. This closeness helps the baby's emotional development, and it helps the baby's brain develop properly.

Why Is Breastfeeding Best For Mothers?

  • Breastfeeding helps the mothers uterus (womb) go back to its original shape more quickly.
  • Breastfeeding helps mothers lose extra weight they may have gained during pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding may lower a womans risk of cancers of the breast, ovaries and uterus (womb).
  • Breastfeeding is convenient. No one has to spend time getting bottles ready or cleaning them.
  • Breastfeeding makes a mother feel good to know she is the only one who can nourish her baby this way.
  • Breastfeeding is free!

How Often Should I Breastfeed My Baby?
Babies stomachs are very small, so they need to be filled often. You should feed your baby whenever she is hungry. Newborn babies need to breastfeed eight to 12 times in each 24-hour period. Older babies and toddlers may breastfeed less often.

How Do I Know My Baby Is Getting Enough Breast Milk?

  • Your baby will have at least six to eight heavy, wet diapers in each 24-hour period.
  • Your baby will suck strongly, with a slow, steady rhythm during most of the feeding. Youll be able to see and hear your baby swallowing regularly.
  • Your breasts will feel full before feedings and softer after feedings.
  • Your baby's mouth will be moist.
  • Your baby will look relaxed, content and sleepy after feeding.
  • Your baby's urine will be clear or pale yellow, and wont smell.
  • Your baby will have at least one large, loose bowel movement every day for the first month. As babies grow older, they develop their own schedule.
  • Your baby will grow and feel heavier.

How Long Should I Breastfeed?
For the first months, babies only need breast milk. By six months most babies are ready for solid food in addition to breast milk. Some babies may be ready earlier. Talk to a public health nurse or your baby's doctor to find out when is the best time to introduce solid foods to your baby. Starting solid foods is not a sign to stop breastfeeding. When you give your baby some solid foods, she still needs breast milk. Breast milk is easier than cows milk to digest, and your breast milk will continue to help your child fight infection. You can continue to breastfeed as long as you and your child are both comfortable.

What Should I Do When I Have Problems?
Breastfeeding is natural but not always easy. Both mothers and babies need to learn how together.

For some women and some babies, breastfeeding doesn't happen easily. If you have a problem, be sure to get help right away. Don't give up if you can't do it right at first or if it is uncomfortable for you. Almost all breastfeeding problems can be solved with some advice.

A public health nurse, your midwife, a breastfeeding expert (called a lactation consultant), or a La Leche League leader can help you with any problems or questions. You can also ask other women in your life who are breastfeeding for support and advice. (See the chapter called Find help in your community, starting on page 162, for phone numbers.)

What About When I Have To Go Back To Work Or School?
Although some mothers have long maternity leaves, many need to go back to work or school before they've finished breastfeeding.

If you have to leave your baby with someone else during the day, you don't have to stop breastfeeding. With some planning, patience and help, you can keep feeding your baby with breast milk — the perfect food.

All you need to do is learn to express your breast milk. Then your partner, the baby's father, the baby's grandparents or a sitter can give it to your baby when you are not there.

You can also breastfeed your baby yourself when you are home, for example, before you go to work or school and in the evening.

You can express milk with your hands or with a breast pump, and the caregiver can feed the baby with a cup, a spoon or a bottle. The baby should be given this breast milk as often as when she would breastfeed.

Ask a public health nurse, lactation consultant, midwife or a La Leche League leader about how to express and store your breast milk, and how to warm it up properly before feeding.

Some babies who get a bottle too early seem to get confused. Because they have to suck differently from a bottle than from a breast, they can become less willing to breastfeed. This is why it is best not to use a bottle for at least the first few months.

What Can Others Do To Help
Sometimes fathers and other close family members feel left out because they cannot feed the baby. Even though the mother and baby have a close relationship because of breastfeeding, this doesn't mean that a baby can't develop close relationships with other people too.

These people can cuddle your baby and take care of her in other important ways such as diapering, bathing and bedtime.

It's important to understand how important breastfeeding is. The understanding and support a mother gets from her partner and others makes a very big difference in making sure that breastfeeding works.

What About Formula Feeding?
Most women are able to breastfeed their babies, with some practice and help. If you are not able to breastfeed (such as women who are HIV-positive), the next best thing is iron-fortified formula.

Talk with your doctor about what kind of formula to feed your baby. Formula comes in three different forms: liquid ready-to-feed, liquid concentrate and powder.

Find out how much you should give the baby and how often. Remember, the baby's bottles must be washed and completely sterilized for the first four months. Sterilizing is very important because it kills the germs that could make the baby sick.

Ask a nurse to explain exactly how to wash and sterilize your bottles, nipples, nipple covers, measuring spoons and mixing jars. Also ask a nurse to explain exactly how to heat the formula, how to store the formula, and when to throw it away. The instructions are very different for each kind, so be sure to follow the directions very carefully. If you make a mistake mixing the formula, it could make your baby very sick. EY

For more information call:
La Leche League Canada
1-800-665-4324


March 22, 2007

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