August is National Breastfeeding Month, a celebration of the exceptional
benefits of breastfeeding. This month, and all year long,
Frederick Regional Health System is committed to protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding mothers
and their babies. Throughout August, we plan to extend our support by
sharing education and resources available in Frederick County and encouraging
everyone in our community to get involved and share the life-giving benefits
of breast milk.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports,
breastfeeding is an investment in health, not just a lifestyle decision. Only 1 in 4 infants are breastfed exclusively as recommended by the time
they are 6 months old. Most mothers want to breastfeed their babies but
stop early due to a lack of support or education.
To support mothers and babies who are breastfeeding, we must focus on the
benefits for both infants and mothers. Breast milk is an excellent source
of nutrition for infants and provides added benefits for mothers, too:
- Because breastfeeding creates a unique bonding experience between mom and
baby, women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postpartum depression.
Breast milk is rich in nutrients, making it the perfect natural food for
babies. Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese and have lower
risks of developing ear infections, respiratory infections, allergies,
childhood cancers, and
- Breastfeeding mothers burn extra calories each day, helping them return
to their pre-pregnancy weight quicker. In fact, moms burn about 500 extra
calories a day while producing breast milk.
Later in life, breastfed teens and adults are less likely to develop rheumatoid
arthritis and lupus,
heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and pre- and postmenopausal breast cancers.
- Other emotional benefits for mom include stress reduction and positive
feelings because of the naturally soothing hormones produced during breastfeeding,
increased confidence and self-esteem, and greater wellness of body, mind,
and spirit for the whole family.
- The antibodies found in breastmilk build stronger immune systems, helping
babies fight off viruses and other bacteria and protecting them from infection.
They also improve brain maturation.
Women who breastfeed tend to have lower rates of developing
breast cancer and
ovarian cancer. They have fewer urinary tract infections, too.
Common Breastfeeding Questions
Whether you’re a new mom or parenting pro, breastfeeding comes with
its fair share of questions. At one time or another, every mother has
asked them. Here are some answers to common questions you may have:
How often should I breastfeed my baby?
Every baby is different. How much and how often your baby feeds depends
on your baby’s needs. In the first few days, your baby may eat as
often as 1-3 hours. As your baby grows, their belly grows, too –
along with your milk supply - so your baby will drink more breast milk
at each feeding. Over the first few weeks or months, feedings may occur
every 2-4 hours, while some babies may feed as often as every hour (cluster
feedings). Your baby may breastfeed about 8-12 times in 24 hours.
From 6-12 months and on, breastfed babies’ feeding patterns vary
and will likely change as they grow and start to eat solid foods. Continue
to follow your baby’s feeding cues and breastfeed when you notice
signs of hunger.
Visit the CDC to learn more about how much and how often to breastfeed.
How long should I breastfeed?
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are breastfed exclusively for about the first
6 months with continued breastfeeding and introducing of appropriate complementary
foods for 1 year or longer. Mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed
their children for at least 1 year. The longer an infant is breastfed,
the greater the protection from certain illnesses and long-term diseases.
The more months or years a woman breastfeeds (combined breastfeeding of
all her children), the greater the benefits to her health as well.
How do I know if my baby has latched?
Infants should stay on the breast continuously during feeding. It is common
for infants to have intermittent sucking while at the breast. Full cheeks
and flanged lips also indicate a good latch. You should feel a strong
pulling or tugging while your baby is sucking. Usually, dimpled cheeks
or a clicking sound indicate that the infant is not well latched.
My baby seems hungry. How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
The early milk, called colostrum, is available for your baby in a small
amount - about a teaspoon per feeding. The baby’s overall health
will determine if they are getting enough breast milk. Your nurse and
pediatrician will look at the number of diapers, weight loss, vital signs,
and daily exams to determine the health of your baby. Your doctor or your
nurse will let you know if they have any concerns about the amount of
breast milk the baby is getting.
When your baby is a day or two old, it’s normal to experience cluster
feeding, or wanting to feed all the time. It often happens as higher volume
milk is produced. The best thing you can do is continue to offer your
breast. The more your baby suckles, the more milk they will receive. Cluster
feeding can feel frustrating, but your baby will be more satisfied after
feeds once your higher volume milk comes in around 2-4 days after birth.
If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor.
What legal rights do I have as a breastfeeding mother?
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
have laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.
The full state-by-state breakdown can be found
here. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers should be familiar with all
workplace laws andtravel laws, too.
Should I feed the baby from both breasts?
After the infant is done breastfeeding on one side, if the infant is awake
and interested, offer the second side. It depends on the infant whether
they will nurse on both sides. It’s always best to offer both sides
the first few days until more milk comes in. If the baby only nurses on
one side during a feeding, offer the opposite breast at the next feeding.
If your baby feeds on both sides, offer the side you ended with during
the previous feeding to provide enough stimulation for both breasts.
For more answers to commonly asked breastfeeding questions, visit our
Breastfeeding FAQs page.
Breastfeeding Support Services Available
FRHS is just one of several resources available to breastfeeding mothers
and babies in Frederick County.
Baby BEST (Breastfeeding Education & Support Together) is a program offered at our
BirthPlace to support nursing mothers. Here, our international board-certified lactation
consultants promote successful breastfeeding by offering education and
Baby BEST services include:
- A monthly class for expecting couples.
- Assistance with bra fitting.
Bravado nursing bras available to purchase.
- Inpatient breastfeeding rounds daily.
- Telephone helpline.
- Weekly support group for moms and babies (we meet every Friday at FMH in
the mother/baby classroom from 1:30-3 p.m.).
Baby BEST can be reached at 240-566-3880, and services are available by
appointment. The Baby BEST office is located near the BirthPlace on the
first floor of the hospital. You can also visit our
Breastfeeding FAQs page. Otherwise, the CDC has a wonderful
online hub for breastfeeding. Check it out for statistics on why breastfeeding matters, recommended
guidelines, and other helpful resources.