Breastfeeding Basics

Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding are among the most meaningful moments you will experience in your lifetime. Having a baby and nurturing your child are wonderful expressions of love.

Newborn baby breastfeeding

From nature’s point of view, breast milk is the best food for new babies. They digest it more easily than other foods, and it’s tailor made to their growth and development needs. Breast milk also contains substances that protect babies from disease. Breastfeeding benefits the mother, too. Every time a mother nurses, the muscles of her womb contract, which helps the uterus get back “in shape.” Most mothers also say that breastfeeding also gives them a special feeling of closeness with their baby.

If you decide to nurse your baby, ask the hospital nurses for help. Classes in breastfeeding are also available. Breastfeeding is part natural instinct, but it’s also a learned skill. If questions arise after you leave the hospital, please call your provider.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

The benefits of breastfeeding your baby are both emotional and physical. A special bond develops between the nursing mother and her baby. Today, 60 percent of all newborns are breastfed, and the number continues to grow. Your milk is the perfect food for your baby. During the first few days, your breast will secrete colostrum, a yellowish fluid that contains protective antibodies and a high percentage of protein. Gradually, this will turn into thinner, mature milk after birth.

Human milk is easily digested, so your baby will have fewer stomach upsets and less gas than a bottle-fed baby. While your baby’s immune system is developing, he or she will benefit by receiving antibodies in your milk that will provide protection from germs in the environment. Breast-fed babies are also more resistant to allergies and respiratory infections.

Though the mother nurses the baby, the baby’s father also plays an important role in nurturing his child and supporting the mother. Dad can take an active part in sharing the baby’s care by bringing him to mom at feeding time, cuddling, changing diapers, giving a bath, and playing with the baby.

Guidelines for Successful Breastfeeding

    • Continue to consume nutritious food choices—your nutrients need to remain high. For example, your requirement for calcium intake should stay at 1,500 mg, the same level during pregnancy.
    • You will need to consume about 500 more calories per day.
    • Nurse every two hours during the day. Expect one to two feedings at night, especially during the first month.
    • Alternate breasts at each feeding. Nurse for five minutes on each side, alternating as many times as necessary. Nurse at least a total of 15 minutes on each breast.
    • Drink plenty of fluids.
    • Rest when you’re tired, and try to sleep when the baby sleeps.

La Leche League International

La Leche League International (LLLI) is an organization dedicated to making breastfeeding easier and more rewarding for both mother and child. There are more than 8,000 League leaders nationwide who are available to offer advice and support to nursing mothers through monthly meetings and by telephone.

To find an LLLI group in your area, ask your nurse or lactation consultant, check your local telephone book or your local library, or call LLLI headquarters at 312.455.7730 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. You can also write to LLLI at P.O. Box 1209, Franklin Park, IL 60131-8209. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a valuable resource published by the organization. It’s available at bookstores, at League headquarters, and through local groups.

We wish you a wonderful future with your baby.