Benefits of Breastfeeding, Tips for New Mothers
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and all 95 counties in Tennessee are celebrating with 127 activities statewide! This is a great time to review the many benefits breastfeeding has for both babies and mothers. It’s also a good time to look at important nursing tips for new moms.
The biggest plus of breastfeeding is that breast milk is simply the best food for babies. Breast milk is very nutritious and contains all of the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months of life. It boosts babies’ overall health and protects them from many illnesses and sudden infant death syndrome.
Babies who breastfeed for at least six months are less likely to develop ear infections. They are also less likely to get diarrhea or respiratory illnesses. Research shows that babies who breastfeed are less likely to develop childhood obesity.
For mothers, breastfeeding can lower the risk for certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding can lower the risk for postpartum depression and may help you lose weight after the baby is born.
Breastfeeding also helps mother and baby bond.
Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Along with the many pluses may come a challenge or two for some new moms. Breastfeeding is a skill you need to learn.
Here are some breastfeeding tips for new mothers from the Mayo Clinic and other sources:
- Ask for help right away. A maternity nurse or lactation consultant can check to make sure the baby is latching on the right way. They also can give you tips like how to best position the baby. Ask to have your baby in your hospital room so you can feed on demand.
- Try to breastfeed in the first hour of birth. Babies are alert right after birth. Then they spend much of the next 24 hours sleeping. Nursing your new baby in the first hour or two after birth helps to start your milk production.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. It will help your body make enough milk. A good idea is to sip from a glass of water while nursing.
- Have your baby sleep in your bedroom, but not in your bed. Place your baby to sleep in a crib or bassinet in your bedroom so you can breastfeed more easily at night. Research has found that when a baby shares a bedroom with their parents, the baby has a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Learn the ABCs of Safe Sleep to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths.
- Learn your baby’s hunger signs. For the first few weeks, most babies breastfeed every two to three hours around the clock. Watch for early signs of hunger, such as putting their hands or fists to their mouths, making sucking motions or acting restless.
- Give it time. If breastfeeding is tougher than you expected, try not to get down. Feeding a baby every few hours can be tiring, and it's OK to have a slow start. Remember that the more often you breastfeed your baby, the more milk you will produce.
Before you start breastfeeding, it’s helpful to know the signs of correct and incorrect nursing. Here’s a breastfeeding checklist from healthychildren.org:
Signs of Correct Nursing
- Your baby’s mouth is open wide with lips turned out.
- Baby’s chin and nose are resting against the breast.
- Baby has taken as much of the areola (ring of pigmented skin around nipples) as possible into their mouth.
- Baby is suckling in rhythm and deeply, in short bursts separated by pauses.
- You can hear them swallowing regularly.
- Your nipple is comfortable after the first few suckles.
Signs of Incorrect Nursing
- Your baby’s head is not in line with their body.
- Baby is sucking on the nipple only, instead of suckling on the areola with the nipple far back in their mouth.
- Baby is sucking in a light, quick manner rather than taking deep, regular sucks.
- Baby’s cheeks are puckered inward or you hear clicking noises.
- You don’t hear them swallow regularly after your milk production has increased.
- You have pain throughout the feed or have signs of nipple damage (such as cracking or bleeding).
Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline
At any time, you can call the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline toll-free with questions at 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667) and speak to a lactation professional. This service is 24/7 and available in any language.
National Breastfeeding Month 2018 – Breastfeeding Celebrations
Tennessee will kick off National Breastfeeding Month with World Breastfeeding Week from Aug. 1-7 and the Global Big Latch On from Aug. 3-5. Events continue throughout August and wrap up with Black Breastfeeding Week from August 25-31. Find out what’s happening in your community.
Find helpful information in Your Guide to Breastfeeding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.