Although babies will thrive
whether nursed or formula-fed, breastfeeding provides advantages that formulas
cannot match. Breastfeeding is nature’s way of providing a good diet for the
baby. It is, in fact, used as the guide by which nutritional requirements of
infants are measured (Figure 12-3).
Mother’s milk provides
the infant with temporary immunity to many infectious
diseases. It is economical, nutritionally perfect, and sanitary, and it saves
time otherwise spent in shopping for or preparing formula. It is sterile, is easy to digest,
and usually does not cause gastrointestinal disturbances or allergic reactions.
Breastfed infants have fewer infections (especially ear infec-tions) during the
first few months of life than formula-fed babies. And because breast milk
contains less protein and minerals than infant formula, it reduces the load on
the infant’s kidneys. Breastfeeding also promotes oral motor devel-opment in
infants and decreases the infant’s risk of obesity and diabetes.
Within the first
several weeks of life the infant will nurse approxi-mately every 2–4 hours. As
the infant grows and develops, a stronger sucking ability will allow more milk
to be extracted at each feeding, and the frequency of nursing sessions will
decrease. It is recommended that an infant nurse at each breast for
approximately 10 to 15 minutes each session. Growth spurts occur at about 10
days, 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months. During this time, the infant will nurse
more frequently to increase the supply of nutrients needed to support growth.
One can be quite
confident the infant is getting sufficient nutrients and calories from
breastfeeding if (1) there are six or more wet diapers a day, (2)there is
normal growth, (3) there are one or two mustard-colored bowel movements a day,
and (4) the breast becomes less full during nursing.
From the mother’s
perspective at least, the bonding that occurs during
breastfeeding is unmatched. In addition, breastfeeding helps the mother’s
uterus return to normal size after delivery, controls postpartum bleeding, and
also helps the mother more quickly return to her prepregnancy weight.
Research has shown a
correlation between breastfeeding and a decreased risk of breast cancer and
osteoporosis in premenopausal women.
Breastfeeding had been
on the decline for many years, but a growing number of mothers are now nursing
their babies. If the mother works and cannot be available for every feeding,
breast milk can be expressed earlier, refrigerated or frozen, and used at the
appropriate time, or a bottle of formula can be substituted. Never warm the
breast milk in a microwave because the antibodies will be destroyed.