Why Breastfeeding Matters: Five Things for New Mothers

A recent study released in Pittsburgh indicated that more needs to be done in hospitals to support new mothers and encourage them to breastfeed. If you are a first-time mother, these tips may help:

1. Remember, breastfeeding is about more than just nutrition.

Offering a complete infant support system, breastfeeding leads to babies with less respiratory infections, allergies, eczema, asthma, and a decreased risk of diabetes. Nothing beats holding your baby close, bonding and knowing they will be sick less often. Formula is not even close to breast milk in terms of the benefits it can offer.

2. Find out if your Doctor will commit to a breastfeeding partnership.

Some physicians place a high value on breastfeeding and others do not.  Before your baby is born, talk to your doctor to find out if he or she will commit to offering you 24/7 support.

3. Ask for help when you need it.  

Just because it is natural to breastfeed, that does not mean it is easy, particularly given the sleep deprivation of the first few weeks. Before you get discouraged, ask for help. Call your doctor, come to the office or contact a lactation helpline or La Leche League for support.

4. Have an enforcer.

In the early days of breastfeeding, privacy and rest are critical. Designate a spouse, friend or relative to be your enforcer, assuring that you get the privacy and rest you need. Let them encourage people to bring food and visit no longer than 15 minutes.

5. Remember, it gets easier.

The first few weeks with a new baby can be daunting. It gets easier. Beyond its spectacular health benefits, breastfeeding is convenient and efficient, saving time and money. Breastfeeding exclusively for the first 4-6 months is ideal and new moms should nurse their babies as long as they can.

In many ways, breastfeeding is like learning to dance with a new partner. It takes patience. Parents who want the best for their child understand the importance of using a car seat to assure that their child is safe. Breastfeeding is no different. It matters that much.

Dr. Renee B. Hickman is a member of the team of physicians at Premier Medical Associates and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.