University of South Alabama

Choosing how to feed your baby is an important decision that has lifelong effects for your baby and for you. What you have seen and learned about infant feeding from your family, friends and teachers is likely to influence your attitude and perceptions. Whether you definitely plan to breastfeed or you are still uncertain, the research is pretty clear. Your milk is the best milk for your baby, and it is the ideal first food for your baby's first several months.

Listed below, you will find additional information regarding breastfeeding your baby, for which we have provided a brief overview.

Breastfeeding Support

Classes, office visits and phone consultations are available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. It’s absolutely free! Call our Lactation Consultants at 415-1285.

Why Breast Milk is the Best Milk:

There are many reasons why breast milk is the best milk, including the following:

  • Nutrients
    Human survival depends more on brain power than on strong muscles, rapid growth (rapid maturity) or body size, so your milk is rich in the nutrients that best promote brain growth and nervous system development. Research has found that breastfed babies perform better on different kinds of intelligence tests as they grow older. They also develop better eye function. This is due mostly to certain types of fat (fatty acid chains) in human milk that are not available in artificial formulas.

    The sugar (carbohydrate) and protein in breast milk are also designed to be used easily and more completely by the human baby. Your milk is the perfect first food to help your baby achieve every aspect of ideal growth and development.

  • Anti-infective properties
    Only human milk is alive with many different kinds of disease-fighting factors that help prevent mild to severe infections. Babies who are fully or almost-fully breastfed, or breast milk-fed babies, have significantly fewer gastrointestinal, respiratory, ear and urinary infections. Antibodies in human milk directly protect against infection. Other anti-infective factors create an environment that is friendly to "good" bacteria (referred to as "normal flora") and unfriendly to "bad" bacteria, viruses or parasites. Human milk also appears to have properties that help a baby's immune system work best. If your baby does become ill when breastfeeding and receiving your milk, the infection is likely to be less severe.

  • Easily digested
    Since nature designed human milk for human babies, your milk is the most easily digested food your baby can receive. A nutritious, yet easily digested first food is important for a baby's immature digestive tract. Your baby uses less energy, yet breaks your milk down more completely into its basic ingredients, so the nutrients, anti-infective factors and all the other ingredients in your milk are more available to fuel your baby's body functions and to promote your baby's growth and development.

  • Bio-availability
    Bio-availability is a fancy way of referring to how well the body can use the nutrients in a food. The high bio-availability of nutrients in human milk means your baby gets more benefits from the nutrients it contains, even for nutrients that appear in lower levels in breast milk when compared to artificial formulas, because your baby's body can absorb and use them most effectively. It also means your baby saves the energy that would be needed to eliminate any nutrients he/she had difficulty digesting or using.

  • Suitability
    Your milk is best suited to, and is more gentle on, your baby's body systems. The suitability of your milk plays a role in your milk's digestibility, and it allows your baby's body to function most efficiently while spending a lot less energy on body functions. Suitability is also thought to be one reason that breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergic-related skin conditions and asthma. The digestibility, bio-availability and suitability of your milk means that your baby's body is able to work less, yet receive more, nourishment.

How Milk is Made

Many mothers find they can appreciate their babies' breastfeeding patterns or the need for frequent feedings when they understand how breast milk is produced. Initially, hormones play a greater role. After the first one or two weeks postpartum (after the baby is born), milk removal has a greater effect on the amount of milk produced.

With the expulsion of the placenta after a baby's birth, a drop in the hormones that maintained the pregnancy soon occurs and allows the hormone prolactin to begin to work. Prolactin "tells" the breasts it is time to begin producing large amounts of milk. A mother feels the result of prolactin when her milk "comes in" at around three to five days postpartum. Increased milk production usually occurs at this time even if a baby has not been breastfeeding well or often. However, frequent breastfeeding sometimes speeds up the process of establishing increased milk production. Occasionally, a mother experiences a delay in the production of large amounts of milk.

Eating Healthy After Your Baby’s Birth

Breastfeeding moms:

  • Require an extra 500 calories (2,000 to 2,200 calories per day) to produce milk
  • Lactation increases the need for energy, protein, calcium, vitamins A, C, E and zinc
  • Drink enough fluids to satisfy your thirst. Urine should be light yellow in color after you no longer have vaginal bleeding (5-7 days).
  • Continue taking prenatal vitamins. Take with citrus juice to enhance absorption.
  • There is no evidence that gassy and spicy foods or chocolate (in moderation) causes problems in breast-fed infants. If your baby becomes colicky, think back 12-24 hours to what foods may have been different in your diet and eliminate them for a few weeks.
  • If infant has allergies, traces of wheat, cow’s milk, eggs, fish or citrus eaten by the mother can be found in breast milk and could cause a reaction.
  • Limit alcohol intake, which can interfere with “let down.” Infants have been found to consume less milk after mother drinks alcohol.
  • Smoking is discouraged because nicotine interferes with “let down” and results in low milk supply. Infants who have mothers that smoke may gain less weight.
  • Caffeine intake should be moderate because infants may become restless or fussy. An average of 1-2 cups of coffee, tea or soda a day.
  • Eat a balanced breakfast.
  • Have snacks in between meals to avoid hunger and fatigue.
  • Avoid dieting. A one-to-two pound weight loss is expected per month when lactating. All excess weight is usually off in six months.
  • Dieting or decreasing protein intake by the mother may decrease milk volume production.

What should a breastfeeding mom eat?

  • 9-11 servings (1/2 cup, 1 slice) starch, bread, pasta, rice, grits or cereals
  • 3-5 servings (1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw) vegetables
        1 serving should come from vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, greens
        1 serving should come from vitamin C: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes
  • 2-4 servings (1/2 cup, 1 med. size piece) fruit.
        1 serving should come from vitamin C: grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, OJ, tangerines
  • 3-4 servings (3 oz.) meat, chicken, fish, eggs, peanut butter, beans
  • 4-5 servings (8 oz.) milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese

Postpartum Exercise:

  • Begin with 10-15 minutes or moderate activity. Increase slowly to 30-60 min. / 3-5 days per week
  • Stretch for at least 10 minutes before AND after exercising
  • Walk or jog outside with your baby in a stroller (1 hour burns 300-500 calories)
  • Go shopping with your baby (1 hour burns 200 calories)
  • Dance with your baby (1 hour burns 250 calories)
  • Ride a bike with your baby (1 hour burns 370 calories)
  • NOT recommended for breastfeeding moms. Cutting back 500 calories a day through either diet or exercise will allow 1 pound weight loss each week; 3,500 calories = 1 pound of fat.

How Can I Know if My Baby is Getting Enough Milk?

This may be the most asked question we hear!  It is understandable; since breasts are neither see-through nor marked off in ounces.  Thank goodness there are other signs that indicate baby is getting enough milk.

Typically during the first few days, while the baby is receiving mother's thick, immunity-boosting colostrum, he will wet only one or two diapers per day.

Once mother's milk comes in, usually on the third or fourth day, the baby should begin to have 6-8 wet cloth diapers (5-6 wet disposable diapers) per day. (An easy way to feel the weight of a wet disposable diaper is to pour 2-4 tablespoons of water in a dry diaper.)

In addition, most young babies will have at least two to five bowel movements every 24 hours for the first several months, although some babies will switch to less frequent but large bowel movements at about six weeks.

A baby that is sleeping rather than feeding every 2-3 hours or is generally lethargic may need to be assessed by a health care provider to make sure that he is adequately hydrated.

These are additional important signs that indicate your baby is receiving enough milk:

  • The baby nurses frequently, averaging at least 8-12 feedings per 24-hour period.
  • The baby is allowed to determine the length of the feeding, which may be 10 to 20 minutes per breast or longer.
  • Baby's swallowing sounds are audible as he is breastfeeding.
  • The baby should gain at least 4-7 ounces per week after the fourth day of life.
  • The baby will be alert and active, appear healthy, have good color, firm skin, and will be growing in length and head circumference.
The physical act of breastfeeding is more than the quantity of milk that is supplied, as you will find once you hold your baby in your arms. Breastfeeding is warmth, nutrition, and mother's love all rolled into one. Understanding and appreciating the signs of knowing when your baby is getting enough to eat is the one of the most important things a new mother can learn. If you have any concerns regarding your baby, they should be addressed with your health care practitioner.

Successful Breastfeeding

Take a Class on Breastfeeding - Attending may increase your chances of success while providing you with an opportunity to talk with other parents and to practice latching-on with a doll. Please use this link for a list of classes offered at the hospital.

Obtain a Book on Breastfeeding - The more information you have the more likely you are to succeed.  A book is more readily available in the middle of the night when most problems seem to occur.  Recommended books include, "The Nursing Mother's Companion," by Kathleen Huggins and "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding," by La Leche League.

Watch a Video on Breastfeeding - The Medela video reviews much of the pertinent information you will be given during your prenatal visits. However, its most valuable attribute is its in-depth footage showing three different newborn babies latching-on. (CAUTION--the video does not replace the prenatal information). Spouses, partners, mothers or other family members may also enjoy watching the video along with you.  It's about an hour long, so you may want to watch it in two sittings.

Obtain a Pump or Learn to Hand Express - Once the baby arrives, it can be overwhelming and hard to learn anything new (especially in your new, sleep-deprived emotional state!). If you will be using a pump, contemplate reading the directions, putting your pump together and running it. Practice manipulating the suction. With the machine off, check to see that the flange fits your breast. It will be much easier to learn how the pump works now than after delivery or under duress because your baby is unable to nurse correctly. If interested, ask for our hand expression handout.

Feed on Demand - Remember that the baby will need 8-30 feedings on the first day and 8-15 a day for a few more weeks.  The baby's stomach can empty in as little as 45-90 minutes, so it is possible to feed for 45 minutes and then feed again just 45 minutes later.  When a baby feeds frequently they are getting a lot of the hind-milk needed for good weight gain.  Frequent feeding like this is common during a growth spurt.  There are at least five growth spurts; 2-3 in the first six weeks of life and one at three months and again at 5-6 months.  There are some schools of thought that a baby needs to be on a rigid schedule from day one.  While all children thrive on routine, breastfed children thrive with feeding on demand.  Your baby is growing and will need more breast milk during these growth spurts.  Furthermore, during the first few months your body is learning how to make breast milk.  Therefore, placing the baby on a rigid schedule will interfere with your baby's growth and your milk production.  Moreover, it is painful to make a baby go hungry - that is one reason why they cry!  Finally, feed at the earliest signs of hunger, such as licking, hand sucking, etc.

Practice Proper Positioning and Latch-on - Your baby will be better able to latch-on correctly if mother limits labor pain medications and baby is allowed to rest on mother's abdomen immediately upon delivery until he or she finishes nursing.  Baby should not be removed unless ill.  On subsequent feedings, position your baby so that his or her abdomen is facing yours and tickle the baby's lip with your nipple until the mouth opens wide.  When the mouth opens wide, quickly latch the baby onto a generous amount of areola.  If there is any discomfort after about 30 seconds, place your finger in the corner of the baby's mouth to break the suction.  Once the suction is broken, re-latch and work on getting more of the areola into baby's mouth.  Lastly, flare the lips, and press the baby's chin and nose into the breast.

Rally for Support - The early weeks of parenthood have many challenges.  All your energy is focused on this new little being.  There is so much to learn about caring for a baby.  Sometimes chaos occurs, simply because education and preparation cannot replace the real-life experience of having a newborn.  Parents can only prepare so much for it.  When chaos occurs it is imperative that the mother receive support from her helpers.  Surround yourself with helpful supportive people.  Clear your schedule for these early weeks. Plan to have your spouse, a family member or other help available for a few weeks.  Prepare dinners and freeze them ahead of time.  Eat off of paper plates.  Limit guests.  Let others prepare food, grocery shop and house clean.  Above all, keep your focus; the most important thing for you to do is to take care of yourself so you can feed the baby.

10 Facts on Breastfeeding

TOP 10 REASONS WHY OUR MOMS BREASTFEED

10. Breastfed babies are healthier babies.

9. Decreases Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Crib Death.

8. Breastfed babies are smarter.  I.Q. points may be up to 10 points higher.

7. Breastfed babies get fewer allergies.

6. Mom loses weight faster.

5. Breastfed babies are beautiful.  Babies grow just right on mother's milk. Not too fat and not too thin.

4. Breastfed babies are lucky.  Breast Milk agrees with them.  Fewer tummy aches.

3. Breastfed babies smell wonderful.  Even their "poopy" diapers don't smell as bad.

2. It's FREE!!!

AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON TO BREASTFEED:

               It's BEST for YOU & Your BABY!!!

 

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