Feeding your infant, whether it is breast milk or formula, provides more than just nutrition. Most parents enjoy feeding as it gives you a chance to hold your newborn close, cuddle him or her, and make eye contact. These are enjoyable moments for you both and bring you closer together emotionally.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and then continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced with continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and baby. Breastfeeding provides numerous benefits for babies, mothers and families.
Breast milk provides all the protein, sugar and fat your baby needs to grow and develop. It also contains many substances that benefit your baby’s immune system, including antibodies, immune factors, enzymes and white blood cells. These substances protect your baby against a wide variety of diseases and infections, not only while your baby is breastfeeding, but in some cases long after he or she is weaned. There is also evidence that breastfeeding babies have a lower risk of some allergies as well as a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Breastfeeding mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster and have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer. They also experience less post-partum bleeding, as the hormones that help with breastfeeding also make the uterus contract.
Breastfeeding facilitates bonding. Fathers and other children can participate by helping the mother with burping and rocking, as well as making sure the mother is eating and drinking enough. Breastfed babies are at a lower risk of being obese children as well as less vulnerable to developing type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The decision to breastfeed is a personal one. Sometimes mothers either desire or need to formula feed. We are lucky that today we have so many wonderful formulas that come very close to human milk. Formula feeding in no way makes a mother a bad mom! A mom should not feel guilty if she formula feeds. What is ultimately important is that you and your baby are relaxed and happy about feeding, and that your baby is gaining appropriate weight.
Gina Potts, M.D.
Memorial Hermann Medical Group
2520 B F Terry Boulevard
Rosenberg, TX 77471