The world of breastfeeding is expansive. Some moms have no issues with breastfeeding. Their little ones immediately latch, and their milk supply is ample, while other moms experience latching issues and wavering milk supply.
Breastfeeding comes naturally to some moms, and others struggle to find that sweet spot at various stages in the feeding process. Some moms exclusively breastfeed while others use a pump and/or supplement with formula.
Frankly, the list of variations for breastfeeding could have us here all day. So, we’ll spend the next few weeks covering all things breastfeeding, so no matter where you are in the process and whatever issues may arise, you will feel ready to tackle the world of breastfeeding.
Why Breastfeeding Is Important
First, “fed is always best.” Not all moms can breastfeed for various reasons. The pressure to breastfeed can be isolating because research wavers highly in favor of breastfeeding.
Here are some of the benefits that make breastfeeding so important:
- Skin-to-Skin Contact: Has the touch of someone ever repulsed you? How about the opposite? Has anyone’s touch made you feel warm and loved? For newborns, who are used to the inner womb world, skin-to-skin contact is the best thing to experience after birth. Research supports the physical and emotional benefits¹ of skin contact, which is increased on contact during breastfeeding.
- Reduce Allergic Diseases: Think obesity, asthma, and type 2 diabetes¹.
- Lower Respiratory Tract Infections: exclusively feeding for more than 4 months reduces the need for hospitalization for respiratory infections by 72% in the first year².
- Lessens Gastrointestinal Tract Infections: breastfeeding reduces gastrointestinal infections by 64%².
- Reduced Risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome): a 36% reduction in SIDS has been associated with breastfeeding².
- Lowers Infant Mortality Rate: one study correlated that 900 infant lives may be saved yearly if 90% of mothers entirely breastfed for 6 months.
Other benefits include²:
- A 52% drop in developing celiac disease.
- A 31% reduction in inflammatory bowel disease.
- A 15-20% risk drop for leukemia.
- Several short and long-term benefits for preterm infants who are breastfed.
- 90% of mothers in the US could altogether save $13 billion yearly if they exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months.
The benefits most certainly continue, but the aforementioned are just a few to keep in mind as you explore the evidence-based arena of breastfeeding. Now that we’ve covered some of the scientific-based breastfeeding elements, let’s add some human touch back in the mix with a few frequently asked questions and tips to get you started.
How Long Do I Breastfeed For?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), World Health Organization (WHO), and the Institute of Medicine recommend a minimum of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. They also suggest continuing for a year if mom and baby desire to. This suggestion is supported by research demonstrating the benefits of breastfeeding in infants who never breastfed and those who fed for four and six months².
Which breast do I use?
Which side to breastfed on is a combination of preference between you and your baby. If your baby is hungry, he or she may drink from both breasts. You can switch sides after 15 minutes or so, depending on how full each of your breasts are, to prevent painful engorgement. Some moms use pins or ribbons to remind themselves which breast to start feeding on. Some babies also tend to prefer one breast over the other. In that case, feed your baby from the side they least prefer first when they are hungry.
How long do I feed my baby for?³
It’s recommended you feed your baby every 2 to 3 hours for about 10 to 15 minutes per breast, which is about 20 to 30 minutes each session. However, there is often no time limit as some babies can feed for upwards of an hour. Let your baby guide you. You will start to notice their time preference. Make sure you always have a burp cloth ready. Spit ups are common because your baby’s stomach is getting used to the process of digestion.
Will breastfeeding hurt?
Breastfeeding should not be painful. If you’re experiencing pain, you may need to adjust your baby’s latching, which is the usual culprit. It can also be an issue of tongue functioning, nipple confusion (if baby uses bottles or pacifiers), or something else⁴. Consult a lactation specialist for assistance.
If you need help, ask. You will reduce a lot of frustrations for you and your baby. Many moms give up because they are made to feel like breastfeeding is intuitive, and if they can’t figure it out, shame arises. However, there are many resources for lactation support simply because it can be a challenge.
Children are intuitive eaters, so let your baby set the pace. During the first few weeks, you will see a drinking pattern of about every two to three hours, which is typical for most babies. Infants feed this way because their stomachs are smaller, thus they need to fill themselves up consistently.
Learn your baby’s hunger cues. If you’ve ever been hangry, you know how to feels. A baby is used to getting their needs met right away in the womb. Watch for stirring, sucking motions, lip movements, and stirring.
Delay the use of a pacifier. Though it may seem like a good idea because babies enjoy sucking, it can hinder breastfeeding. Give your baby about a month until you have a breastfeeding routine down.
Don’t forget to take care of your nipples. When you first start breastfeeding, your nipples may experience adjustments doing something it’s never done before. Make it easier by letting milk dry on your nipple, using bra pads for leaks, and get yourself an all-natural nipple balm.
What you do to your body is reflected in your milk supply. Make sure you eat healthy to keep up your energy and ask your doctor about a multivitamin. Stay hydrated with water to help your milk supply up, but you can also drink juice and consume water-based foods like vegetables and fruits. Drink coffee in moderation. Though it may seem impossible to rest, get as much as you can. Avoid smoking and being around secondhand smoke. If you’re taking medication, consult your doctor about how it can affect your milk supply.
Breastfeeding can be frustrating but know it will get easier! Be patient with yourself. This is a new frontier for you and your baby. You will have both good and challenging days. Reach out to moms you know who have or are breastfeeding, find a support group, such as our KeaBabies community, ask your doctor, or check out La Leche League.
How Can KeaBabies Nursing Pads Enhance Your Breastfeeding Experience?
KeaBabies completely understands how challenging breastfeeding can be. We designed our nursing pads with those challenges in mind. Our nursing pads have 4 layers of breathable organic bamboo to absorb leaks. The outer layer is waterproof, meaning that leak won’t end up all over your clothes! Our pads come in 3 sizes, several colors, and are totally reusable - just throw them in the wash!
You will love wearing our comfortable and convenient breast pads during the day or at night. With our 365 days 100% money back guarantee, you have nothing to lose. Your next biggest challenge? Choosing from one of our many colors!
Tips by Mayo Clinic
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Nadia Rumbolt
Nadia Rumbolt is a mom of many trades, including creative writing, blogging, van life, minimalism, veganism, the beach, nature, and the occult.