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Articles to Stay Healthy.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

By Olivia Clinton (she/her), Health Advocate and Certified Lactation Counselor, Finger Lakes Community Health with nine health centers in the region.

When you are pregnant, there are so many decisions to make. Choosing whether to breastfeed or not is one of those decisions. As a Health Advocate and Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) my job is to help people have a positive experience with breastfeeding. This article will touch upon some of the questions I hear from people about breastfeeding.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), breastfeeding has health benefits for both babies and mothers. Breast milk provides a baby with ideal nutrition and supports growth and development. Breastfeeding can also help protect the baby and mom against certain illnesses and diseases.

Breastfeeding can be rewarding and empowering! Imagine you will be the only one providing nourishment for your child or children. And yes, that can sound challenging, but you can also get your significant other involved with feeding the baby. Many people use a pump to extract breast milk and fill bottles so their partner and family members can share in the joy of feeding the baby. Breastfeeding can be challenging, that’s why resources like Certified Lactation Counselors will be so helpful.

How can you be successful with breastfeeding?
The most asked question is about moms feeling that they do not have enough breast milk to feed the baby – especially during the first couple of days after birth and before their milk comes in. When the baby is first born, breast milk (or colostrum) is a thicker substance than normal milk. It takes a few days for the milk to fully come in. Rest assured your body’s making just enough milk to feed your baby. Here’s more on this topic: When milk is released, it is called a “letdown,” and it takes about 30 seconds of suckling before it occurs.

There are things you can do to help with milk production like eating nutritious foods — fruits and vegetables and drinking lots of water. Some people have success eating oatmeal, but you need to eat a well-rounded diet. Do lactation cookies work? Not always. You would get the same effect, increased milk production if you ate a balanced diet including lean meats, eggs, dairy, lentils, and leafy greens. Will breastfeeding help with weight loss? Not always since you need to take in more calories to produce milk, and chestfeeding can make you hungrier.

Do not forget to drink plenty of water to get a healthy amount of milk. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as a nursing parent, you need about 16 cups per day of water, which can come from food, beverages, and drinking water, to compensate for the extra water that is used to make milk. One suggestion: drink a large glass of water each time you breastfeed your baby.

What foods should you avoid?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, someone who drinks small amounts of caffeine throughout the day is unlikely to affect their nursing newborn’s sleep patterns; however, breastfeeding people should discuss this with a healthcare provider. It is considered safe to have 2-3 cups of coffee a day while breastfeeding. For more information:

You should abstain from alcohol when breastfeeding. Many people have heard that drinking beer increases milk supply, but this is not true.

What else can I do to increase the milk supply?
Another way to increase your milk supply is by nipple stimulation, pumping more frequently, and wearing a loose-fitting bra. The theory behind nipple stimulation is that it mimics breast-feeding and causes sensory cells in the nipples to signal the brain to release oxytocin. Some people use a breast pump to stimulate the nipples and increase milk supply, others may prefer to use their hands for stimulation.

To ease you and your baby into breastfeeding, I often recommend that you unwind and take a bath with the baby on your breast. It will relax you both and make producing milk a bit easier. The more stressed out you are, the harder it is to produce. I also recommend trying different positions and switching sides when breastfeeding.

Can I go back to work and still breastfeed?
The answer is yes. Many working parents pump at work so their child has milk at home. Use a breast pump to get your milk for bottles. It is the best way to continue feeding the baby your breast milk while you are working. There is a New York State labor law that allows pumping at work. Your employer must allow you this but do let them know in advance.

More questions? Give me a call at 315-719-3518. I will be happy to help!


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