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Breastfeeding is best for your baby

By Michelle Brenner, MD, IBCLC*

By the time your baby is born, you will have made many decisions big and small. One of your most important considerations, perhaps the most elemental, is how to feed your baby. Breast or bottle? It’s a decision you’ll need to think about before delivery, because both methods require preparation. For breastfeeding, that means reading up, taking a class and talking to other moms so you’ll know what to expect. For bottle feeding, you’ll need to stock up on formula and prepare to make a lot of bottles.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates breastfeeding for the first year of life because it promotes the best overall health and the best developmental and psychosocial outcomes for babies. Studies reveal that the unique properties in breast milk, which are impossible to duplicate in a laboratory, provide the most advantageous start in life for babies.

The milk that your body produces for your child is best because it has special antibodies made just for your baby that will help to protect your baby from infections in the critical early months and perhaps for years to come. Babies who are breastfed have fewer gastrointestinal, respiratory, ear and urinary infections, as well as fewer allergies. If your baby does become ill when breastfeeding, the infection will likely be less severe. Breast milk is also rich in nutrients that promote brain development and eye function. It may even reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and childhood obesity.

Breastfeeding is a skill that both baby and mom have to learn. A lactation consultant will visit you in the hospital to offer assistance, including directions on helping your baby latch on properly. A wide-mouthed latch is the key to avoiding soreness. If your baby isn’t latched on the right way, start over and reposition the baby. Breastfeeding is good for moms, too. It decreases postpartum bleeding and the risk of breast and ovarian cancers while helping new moms return to their pre-pregnancy weights. It also saves hundreds of dollars and the time it takes to mix formula and prepare bottles.

The AAP recommends that babies who are exclusively breastfed receive additional vitamin D. Your baby’s physician can recommend the proper supplement. Perhaps the most important thing about breastfeeding is the satisfaction of nourishing your baby with the best food possible – made especially for your baby. And you will cherish the bond that develops.

Dr. Brenner practices with CHKD Health System’s General Pediatrics and is an *International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

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Breastfeeding: A Primer

About Dr. Brenner

Dr. Brenner is a pediatrician and a breastfeeding medicine specialist. She and her partners at General Academic Pediatrics supervise 66 pediatric residents and 135 EVMS medical students each year in outpatient pediatrics.

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