When it comes to feeding a newborn baby, breast milk is best, but it isn’t always easy.
Many women struggle to keep up with supply and demand when they return to work.
It’s not just a lifestyle choice
Coe Bell, MSN, RN, a lactation specialist at Cleveland Clinic, admits the challenges are real, but said the custom-made nutrition and benefits that breast milk provides for the baby is worth the effort to try.
“When you think about infant nutrition and how you’ll feed your baby, you want to remember that the decision to breast-feed is not a decision to take lightly,” said Bell. “It is not a lifestyle choice, but it is a healthcare decision.”
Benefits for baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms continue to breast-feed until the baby’s first birthday, but a lot of moms aren’t aware of the reasons behind that recommendation.
Breast milk contains antibodies that help a newborn baby fight off infection and viruses right away.
There are life-long benefits too. Breast-fed babies have a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies, as well as certain childhood cancers.
Bell said research has shown that breast-fed babies have a 20 percent lower risk of death between the age of one-month and one-year than babies who were not breast-fed.
Benefits for mom
Breast-feeding has benefits for mom as well.
Short-term benefits include a quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight due to the calories expended while feeding and studies have shown that the longer moms are able to breast-feed, the less likely they are to develop breast and ovarian cancer.
Bell said breast-feeding can also help new moms deal with the most challenging times in the weeks following delivery.
“The hormones that are released when babies are nursed actually help relax the mom, they help her sleep better,” said Bell. “We find that moms have less postpartum depression when they’re breast-feeding.”
Bell said that even if moms are unable to breast-feed, many states have programs where they can receive donor milk for their babies.