The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom and Baby

DrReneSantinRene Santin, MD
Board-certified Neonatologist at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center

Having a baby leaves new parents with many decisions to make regarding how to raise the child. One of those decisions is whether or not to breastfeed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes exclusive breastfeeding as the best method of feeding and nurturing infants. Breastfeeding offers not only health benefits, but also savings of money and time.

Breastfeeding is low in cost, convenient and readily available. In contrast, formula is expensive and not as easy for babies to digest as breast milk. With breast milk, babies have the right amount of milk, which comes naturally available at the correct temperature.

The nutrients found in breast milk have many health benefits for newborns, including reducing the incidence of allergic reactions, constipation, diarrhea, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, colds and dental caries. But breastfeeding provides health benefits for mothers as well, helping return the uterus to pre-pregnant state much faster in addition to facilitating physical and emotional bonding between mother and baby.

Many moms believe they must follow a special diet when breastfeeding. This is not always true. Eat a variety of foods, as too much of one food can bother your baby’s tummy, and remember that moderation is key. While nursing moms should limit use of tobacco, alcohol, artificial sweeteners and weight-loss medications, other products may be okay in moderation. Juice and milk should be taken minimally, with water being mom’s main drink. Watch your intake of caffeine – found in coffee, tea, chocolate and soda – but one soda or cup of coffee is often acceptable.

One question that often troubles new mothers is how often to nurse and whether the baby is getting the right amount to eat. Babies may nurse anywhere from eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period, but feed on demand rather than on a strict hourly schedule.

Because you cannot measure the amount your baby is receiving from the breast, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your baby satisfied after nursing? Baby should be content for at least one hour.
  • Is your baby urinating once for every day of age until day six? Then six to eight urinations a day (or more) after day six?
  • Is your baby giving three to five bowel movements a day (or more) in the first few weeks? As fat content in your breast milk increases, the bowel movements may slow down.
  • What color is the stool? Yellow and seedy means the baby is getting high fat content, which is what we want. Green means they are not getting enough fat while nursing. If stool is green, increase the length of time the baby feeds on one breast, and make sure the baby’s latch is sufficient.
  • Is the baby gaining weight? Babies should regain their birth weight within two weeks. After the first two weeks, baby should steadily gain four to seven ounces in weight each week.

Moms should call their lactation consultant or pediatrician in the event of the following issues, as they may warn of a more serious problem with the baby’s nursing:

  • Baby urinates fewer than six times per day after day six.
  • You do not feel your milk has come in by day five.
  • Your milk is in and you do not hear swallowing when the baby is nursing.
  • Your baby seems to be breastfeeding all the time without a one-hour break.
  • Your baby has not regained his/her birth weight by two weeks of age.
  • If one or both breast(s) is/are red and hot and you have a fever of 100 degrees or greater.

Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center holds breastfeeding classes to help prepare mothers for nursing, as well as a breastfeeding support group where new mothers can come together to encourage each other and discuss questions they may be having. Our internationally board-certified lactation consultants are available before, during and after your baby’s birth to make your breastfeeding experience as smooth as possible. To learn more about our breastfeeding class, breastfeeding support group and other classes available at the BirthCare Center, visit www.FloridaHospitalBabies.org/classes.

Rene Santin, MD is a neonatologist with the BirthCare Center at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center. Board certified in pediatrics and neonatology, Dr. Santin has more than 15 years of experience in pediatric and neonatal care. To reach Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center’s parent educators and internationally board-certified lactation consultants, call (386) 231-3152.

To suggest a medical topic or ask a question to be answered by a Florida Hospital physician, please e-mail marketing@fhmmc.org.