National Breastfeeding Month: Everything You Need to Know About Breastfeeding
This month marks National Breastfeeding Month. To raise awareness and promote this important month, I’ll be discussing everything you need to know about breastfeeding in this post.
Deciding to breastfeed is a personal choice that each mother should carefully consider. How you provide nutrition for your baby is up to your preferences and the current state of your health. However, breastfeeding offers many health benefits and allows you to form a deeper bond with your child.
Of course, choosing to breastfeed can be anxiety-inducing, especially if this is your first time breastfeeding. I have gathered all the important information you should know about breastfeeding here to help you make the best decision for you and your child.
Personally, I had a lot of anxiety breastfeeding my first child. I wasn’t sure if I would produce enough milk but to my surprise, I was able to produce more than enough by drinking at least 100 oz of water a day while eating oatmeal and incorporating a healthy diet. By the time I had my second child 5 years later, I was known amongst by friends as the “Milk Queen." That’s probably because I was able to feed my baby along with 4 of my friend's babies that were born around the same time.
A lot of different factors will influence whether you can breastfeed. Keep reading through my post to find out more about this topic.
Why Is Breastfeeding So Important?
Breastfeeding is more important than people realize. Not only is breastfeeding the most natural way to provide nutrition, but it also has some amazing health benefits for mothers and their babies. I’ll talk about the top benefits of breastfeeding in this section of the post to help you understand. Benefits include the following:
1. Lowers the Risk of Diseases
One of the most important benefits of breastfeeding, in my opinion, is disease prevention. Breastfeeding has been proven to help mothers prevent several types of diseases. This includes breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of developing these specific cancers and other types of cancer. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk for type two diabetes and high blood pressure.
You also want to consider that babies who are breastfed are given some disease protection as well. They are less likely to develop asthma, type one diabetes, obesity, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome.
2. Prevents Infections
Your baby will be prone to many infections when they are born. Luckily, breastfeeding can help keep them healthy and prevent major infections. When you breastfeed your baby, they will have fewer ear infections, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and gastrointestinal infections. The nutritional content in breast milk, along with the antibodies found in it, keep babies healthy and infection-free!
3. Protection Against Some Illnesses
In addition, breast milk helps protect your baby against some illnesses. Your antibodies are transferred to the baby through breastmilk. This provides immunity against illnesses that the mother has already had, which will keep your baby's immune system stronger. In other words, your child will have fewer colds, stomach bugs, fevers, and other illnesses. As a mother, the less sick my child gets, the better I feel. I’m sure many other mothers feel this way too.
4. Breastmilk is a Great Source of Nutrition For Babies
Finally, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your growing baby. I definitely see the appeal of other products such as formulas. They do have their benefits and uses! Nothing beats natural breast milk which is produced from the body and made specifically for babies. In addition, breast milk also changes to meet your baby's nutritional needs.
How to Store Breastmilk?
When you store your breast milk be careful, especially if you plan on storing your milk for longer periods of time. I’ll go over some general guidelines for breastmilk storage here. This way your baby can safely consume stored breastmilk.
Depending on how you store your breastmilk, it can be kept for different amounts of time. Things to think about include the temperature of your refrigerator, the amount of milk you are storing, and the cleanliness of the place your milk is stored.
Step 1: Wash Your Hands
Start by washing your hands with soap and water. If your hands are dirty, you will contaminate the breast milk. Then use a pump or your hand to pump out your breast milk.
Step 2: Get Clean Containers
Place the breast milk in a clean durable container. You want to purchase a food-grade container that can hold breast milk. There are specific products that are made to store breast milk, but you can also use BPA-free plastic bottles and containers to store breast milk.
Step 3: Label Your Containers
After you have your containers filled, label them with the date. This way you know how old they are and when they will expire.
Step 4: Store Your Breast Milk
Finally, store the breast milk somewhere that is easy to access for you. This can be in your freezer or in your refrigerator.
Fresh breastmilk will last for different amounts of time:
When stored at room temperature breastmilk will last for four hours
When placed in your refrigerator, four days
In the freezer, you can store your breastmilk for up to twelve months. You can freeze your breastmilk for longer than the recommended time, but it's best to stick with our recommended timeline for the best quality breastmilk.
How Long Should You Breastfeed?
When I was breastfeeding, I always wondered how long I should breastfeed. This answer differs a little depending on what you want to do. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed their babies for a minimum of six months. You should feed your baby exclusively with breastmilk for six months. After six months, you can start to include other types of food into your baby's diet including solid foods.
How long you decide to breastfeed is totally up to you, but your baby can benefit from being breastfed beyond their first six months of life. You can breastfeed your baby up to their first birthday, and if you are comfortable you can breastfeed beyond their first birthday. Some mothers even decide to breastfeed for two years or more which is perfectly healthy.
However, if you decide to breastfeed beyond six months, make sure to supplement the breastmilk with other nutritious food. Recent studies have shown that prolonged breastfeeding can have some major health benefits, but most women stop breastfeeding after six months.
This can be due to health reasons, or work responsibilities, or you might simply feel like it's time to stop breastfeeding. The choice is up to you when you want to stop.
Foods That May Increase Milk Production
You want to make sure that your baby is getting enough food, and meeting all their nutritional requirements. What if you aren’t producing enough breast milk? I know I was worried about this as I started to breastfeed. So, I researched some foods that will help you produce more breast milk.
If you are worried about not making enough breast milk for your baby, read through this section. I’ll go over some of the most popular foods that can potentially increase milk production.
Some women opt for supplements to increase milk production, but eating natural foods that are good for your body can actually be more cost-effective and healthy. Supplements aren’t bad but not all of them are well regulated, so I honestly recommend changing up your diet and adding the following foods to your meals:
Oats are a great way to boost milk production. This includes things like oatmeal and bread made with oats.
Protein is another food that can help with milk production. Add eggs, tofu, nuts, fish, chicken, and other types of meat you enjoy eating.
Dark green vegetables like spinach contain a lot of iron and other essential nutrients that can aid mothers who are breastfeeding.
Whole grains are a food group we recommend adding to your diet as well. You have a lot of options to choose from with these grains including bread, brown rice, pasta, and other products that contain whole grains.
Foods with flax seeds and sesame seeds are often recommended to breastfeeding mothers too. They help boost estrogen production and are a good source of fat.
Finally, add chickpeas to your diet. You can put these in your salads or make hummus out of chickpeas to increase breastmilk production.
There are also some foods that you want to try and avoid since they won’t help with breastfeeding. Broccoli, dairy, fish high in mercury, certain supplements, alcohol, caffeine, and highly processed foods should be taken out of your diet.
Best Breast Pumps
Breast pumps were one of my go-to tools when I was breastfeeding. While some mothers may choose to manually pump their own milk for storage, I really recommend getting a high-quality breast pump to make your life easier as you try to breastfeed.
Here are some great breast pump products for mothers:
The Spectra S1 Plus is a medical-grade breast pump that quickly and efficiently pumps breast milk. The cost is higher but if you are looking for a high-quality product you should consider buying this breast pump.
Finally, if you are looking for a customizable option try the Evenflo Feeding Deluxe. This lightweight electric breast pump has different size flanges and has a range of settings. You can check out this product at this link.
Common Breastfeeding Challenges And How to Deal With Them
While breastfeeding can be a rewarding process, it does come with its own challenges. In this final section of the post, I’ll go over some common breastfeeding challenges and discuss how to solve them here:
1. Breast Engorgement
Most breastfeeding women will deal with breast engorgement. This is when your breasts swell and become tight. Engorgement can be painful and uncomfortable. To relieve your breasts, breastfeed often, around eight to twelve times a day.
Also, pump excess breastmilk out into containers, and pump some out before you breastfeed your baby to make your breast tissue softer. You can also use a cold or hot compress to relieve some of the pain and swelling.
2. Plugged Ducts
In some cases, your milk ducts might get plugged up and clogged. Breastfeeding throughout the day can relieve this problem. You should also make sure your baby is actually latching onto your breast and getting milk out.
If they aren’t getting the milk out this could be causing the clogging. Finally, massage your breasts and use a warm compress to get your breast milk to flow again.
Thrush, a type of yeast infection, can develop on your breast and on your baby's mouth. To get rid of thrush, make sure to sterilize all your baby's bottles, pacifiers, toys, and breast pumps. Then bring your baby in for a doctor's appointment to treat the thrush.
4. Shallow Latch
Some babies don’t latch on well enough and can’t get enough breast milk out without pain or discomfort. If you are wondering how to correct a shallow latch breastfeeding, there are a few ways to do this. To get a deeper latch sit in a reclining position first.
Your baby's nose should be in line with your nipple. Make sure your baby is opening their mouth wide then guide them to your breast. You can also cup your breast in a c shape to push your nipple out more for your baby.
5. Too Much Breast Milk
Finally, some women, like myself do produce too much breast milk which can leave their breasts feeling overly full and uncomfortable. To solve this problem, breastfeed throughout the day and alternate between breasts.
Also, try reclining back when you feed your baby so they can drink at a slower pace. You can burp your baby between meals so they can drink more milk from your breasts.
Final Thoughts on Breastfeeding
While breastfeeding was the option I decided to go with, it wasn’t without its challenges at first. I can even admit that breastfeeding is messy and uncomfortable at times. Thinking about this can make it harder to decide what you want to do.
While breastfeeding is one of the best nutritional sources for infants, not every woman has the ability to breastfeed. In some cases, women might not have the time or the desire to breastfeed.
Still, whichever method of feeding you decide on, know that there are healthy alternatives you can use such as formula and breastfeeding with a breast pump. Some women decide to breastfeed exclusively with a pump. This way their baby drinks from a bottle and not their breast.
Hopefully, the information in this post was helpful to you and gave you the information you needed. If you need a second opinion or still aren’t sure, talk to your doctor about breastfeeding.