• Dr. Lauren O'Byrne

August is National Breastfeeding Month!

August is National Breastfeeding Month. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children are exclusively breastfed for six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced until one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant. Breastfeeding and its benefits with respect to nutrition, gastrointestinal function, the immune system, and psychological well-being should be discussed throughout pregnancy and during the neonatal period.

Breastfeeding provides direct benefits to infants, such as reduced rates of gastrointestinal infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants. Long-term benefits for children include reduced rates of asthma, obesity, childhood cancer and possibly reduction of allergic diseases. Maternal infant bonding is also an important benefit of breastfeeding and can reduce infant stress.

It is important to acknowledge that breastfeeding can be difficult. It requires mom to be awake and feed often since newborns will be put to breast at least eight or nine times in a 24-hour period. Frequent feedings will also boost milk supply. Breastfeeding can become additionally stressful if your baby is premature, has jaundice, is having trouble gaining weight, or you plan to store milk in preparation of returning to work. Despite the challenges, breastfeeding is worth it, and I recommend it from both personal experience and as a medical professional. It’s an amazing way to bond with your child and devote time to him or her many times throughout the day.

Breastmilk can also be pumped and given by bottle. Giving your baby breastmilk supplemented with formula is better than none at all. If for some reason breastfeeding is not feasible, properly mixed formula is an alternative. There are medical reasons not to breastfeed, which include mothers who are HIV positive in the US, maternal use of illicit street drugs, mothers with Ebola virus, mothers with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II (HTLV-I/II), and infant galactosemia.

No matter how you end up feeding your baby, a good support system is important. My family, friends, doctor, pediatrician, lactation consultants, and patients provide great advice when I ask questions. Do your best to support any breastfeeding moms in your life!

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