Breast-feeding is the act of a mother feeding a baby from her breasts, which is the natural way for babies to feed during the early part of their life. Research indicates that breast-feeding imparts a number of advantages to the health and wellness of both the baby and the mother. Still, the practice can sometimes be a challenge for new mothers. Most health organizations recommend that a mother breast-feed for at least 12 months, if possible, and feed the baby exclusively breast milk for the first six months.
Advantages of Breast-Feeding
When babies are first born, the milk they receive from their mother is called colostrum. It’s thicker and filled with nutrients and antibodies to help the baby get off to a good start. As time goes on, the breast milk changes and gets thinner, but it still seems to help the baby in many ways. Research has shown that breast-fed babies have lower levels of asthma, diabetes, obesity and other future health problems.
What’s more, breast-feeding seems to have a number of advantages for the mother, as well. Lower levels of postpartum depression, diabetes and ovarian and breast cancers have all been linked to breast-feeding. And from an economic standpoint, breast-feeding is much more economical than formula feeding.
Help for Breast-Feeding Mothers
Though breast-feeding has a number of advantages, it can be challenging for new mothers. The act of breast-feeding takes practice and patience to get it right, and it can be painful at times. Women can help themselves by getting good prenatal care, taking a breast-feeding class or getting help from a lactation consultant. Trying different positions and different strategies for getting the baby to latch can also help mothers find the approach that will work best for them.
SOURCES: U.S. Office on Women's Health
Options for the workplace
Study finds delays beyond typical 3-day start to production in larger women
For both mother and child
No reason to delay this type of birth control after having a baby
Hormonal changes may play a role, researchers say
Think of it as an early stealth strategy in the war against picky eating, researchers say
It also reduces the child's future cancer risk, cancer institute reports
Breastfeeding for 15 months or longer may reduce your risk of developing this chronic autoimmune disease, study finds.
If at first you don't succeed, try again
Benefits reported for women who nursed 15 months or more
Benefits of breast-feeding might have overshadowed any potential protective effects, doctors suggest
Study finds the longer a woman does it, the lower her risk drops
Criticism of parenting skills usually comes from family members, on topics from discipline to diet
Study authors say finding provides another good reason to encourage women to nurse
How, where and when to store it
30 percent of beneficial bacteria in infants' intestinal tract comes from breast milk, study finds
Limiting visitors early on and relying on the help of a lactation expert can get mothers off to a good start
But study suggests that children who were nursed may be less hyperactive at age 3
Does breast feeding lower the risk of hyperactivity in children?
But one type of formula may be linked to greater chances if given in week 1, study suggests
But pediatricians' group warns against informal 'milk-sharing' or buying it online
Study suggests that possibility, review authors say, but more research needed to confirm findings
Education, practical help urged by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
Lactoferrin is safe for newborns and might prevent pneumonia and meningitis, researchers say
Use these safety tips to protect your baby from disease-causing germs
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies get only breast milk for the first 6 months of life
Research points up the need to support new mothers' efforts to breast-feed
C-section birth may also diminish diversity of these colonies of helpful microbes, study shows
Improvements seen in function and size 20 years later
Infants given the drugs were prone to infections and obesity in childhood, researchers say
Babies were more likely to get ear infections if they were fed pumped milk, study found
The number of hours a new mother works significantly affects her breastfeeding decisions, new study finds.
Study found little change at 20 hours a week or less, but full-time employment was a different story
MRI scans found infants who drank more of it had more brain tissue, study found
Help keep baby safe
Practice may boost breast-feeding, reduce dangerous gut infections, study says
Global economy would also benefit from more mothers nursing their babies, study contends
Physicians can be resource for new moms, says American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Study shows vaginal birth and breast-feeding create different intestinal bacteria from C-section and formula
Study looked at moms who had already diabetes in pregnancy
Breastfeeding may help prevent common eye disease in preterm infants, study finds.
Exclusive use of human milk lowers odds of potentially blinding condition by 75 percent, study suggests
But at least one pediatrician is skeptical of the finding, and urges mothers to breast-feed
Breastfeeding may not reduce the risk of allergies in babies, new study finds.
Put less pressure on your spine
Researchers call for removing obstacles to breast-feeding in home, community and workplace
Naturally occurring complex carbohydrates could play a role in obesity