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Breastfeeding may seem like it should come naturally to new moms once they’ve given birth, but it’s also a skill that, like many things in life, requires practice. If you’re pregnant and this is your first go at breastfeeding, don’t stress! Here are some common breastfeeding FAQs to help calm those nerves. 

The first question that probably crosses most soon-to-be-mothers’ minds is how does breastfeeding benefit the baby? Breastfeeding benefits your baby in the following ways: 

Breast milk has the right amount of sugar, fat, water, protein, and minerals necessary for a baby’s growth and development. As your baby grows, your breast milk changes to accommodate to the baby’s fluctuating nutritional needs. Breast milk is easier to digest as opposed to formula. Breast milk carries antibodies that protect infants from diarrhea, ear infections, respiratory illnesses, allergies, etc. Infants who are breastfed have a lower chance of facing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Any amount of breastfeeding helps lower this risk. If your baby is born preterm, breast milk can actually help lessen the risk of many of the short-term and long-term health issues that preterm babies go through, like necrotizing enterocolitis or other infections. 

With this being said, another important question would be how does breastfeeding benefit you? Breastfeeding benefits you in the following ways: 

Breastfeeding burns about 500 calories per day, which could make it easier to lose that weight you gain during pregnancy. Women who breastfeed for longer periods of time have lower rates of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin that makes the uterus contract. This helps the uterus revert back to its regular size faster and can subside the amount of bleeding you experience after giving birth. 

Now you know the benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby, but how long should a mother breastfeed? It is recommended that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the initial 6 months of life, followed by continuous breastfeeding combined with the introduction of appropriate complementary foods for a year or so. The more time an infant is breastfed, the better protection from certain illnesses and long-term diseases there is. However, any amount of breastfeeding has benefits so don’t stress if you do not reach your original duration goals. 

The longer a woman breastfeeds (combined breastfeeding of all her kids), the greater the benefits to her health as well. Children should be introduced to foods besides breast milk or infant formula when they’re about 6 months old. 

When should you start to breastfeed? Most healthy newborns are ready to breastfeed within the first hour after birth. Hold your baby directly against your bare skin right after birth. Doing so will trigger reflexes that help your baby to latch onto to your breast. As your baby latches on and starts to breastfeed intently, you may feel a tingly pins-and-needles sensation. Not all babies latch on within the first hour. Don’t worry if your baby takes a little longer. 

How will you know when your baby’s hungry? When babies are hungry, they’ll nuzzle against your breast, suck on their hands, flex their arms and fingers, and clench their fists. Crying is typically a late sign of hunger. Once they’re full, they relax their arms, legs, and hands and close their eyes. 

How will you know your baby is getting enough milk? Your baby’s tummy is very tiny, and breast milk empties from a baby’s stomach more quickly than formula. Based on those reasons alone, you’re looking at having to breastfeed at least 8 to 12 times within 24 hours throughout the first weeks of your baby’s life. If it’s been over 4 hours since the last feeding, you might have to wake up your baby to feed them. Once your breast milk transitions from colostrum to mature milk, your baby will soak at least six diapers a day with urine and have at least three bowel movements a day. After 10 days, your baby should be back up to near birth weight. Although breastfeeding works for most women, it may not work for everyone. 

What are the different stages of breast milk, and how can they be distinguished? Breast milk has three different and distinct stages: colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk. Colostrum is the first stage of breast milk. It happens throughout pregnancy and lasts for several days after birth. It looks either yellowish or creamy in color. It’s also a lot thicker than the milk that’s produced later in breastfeeding. Colostrum is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are antibodies that transfer from the momma to the baby and give off passive immunity for the baby, protecting them from bacterial and viral illnesses. Two to four days after birth, colostrum will be replenished by transitional milk. 

Transitional milk comes after colostrum and lasts for roughly two weeks. It is comprised of high contents of fat, lactose, and water-soluble vitamins, and has more calories than colostrum. 

Mature milk is the last of the milk that’s produced. 90% of it is water, which is imperative to keep the infant hydrated. The other 10% is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that are essential for both growth and energy. 

If this is your first time with breastfeeding, you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Dr. Ghea, a top female obgyn in Fort Lauderdale, will happily go over all the breastfeeding concerns you may have while also providing you with other necessary women’s health tips, and can help you plan accordingly for a productive start to breastfeeding. 

Call 954-473-2011 to request an appointment with her offices at Westside OB/GYN Group or fill out an online request today! 

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