You’ll have to make many important decisions about how to raise your baby throughout the next couple of decades. While some decisions during pregnancy are pretty clear cut, such as whether or not to vaccinate your child (which we absolutely recommend), the decision about how to feed your baby can be deeply personal and even difficult to make.
Health experts recommend breastfeeding as the healthiest option for your baby, but it’s not always an easy thing to do. Alan Patterson, MD explains the benefits of breastfeeding, offers tips to make it more successful, and offers a few reasons why you might choose to feed formula instead.
Why experts recommend breastfeeding
Breast milk is widely agreed upon as the best option for both baby and mother. Breast milk contains the perfect balance of all the key nutrients needed for your baby’s growth and development, without any supplementation needed in the first four to six months.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, breast milk also contains all the antibodies that your baby needs, providing some protection against diseases and viruses until he or she is old enough to get vaccinated.
Some of the other benefits of breastfeeding include the following:
- Lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Reduced risk of ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and allergies
- The correct balance of fat, sugar, protein, and water, which adapts as your baby grows
- Breast milk is easier to digest than formula
For you, breastfeeding helps your postpartum body return to normal more quickly since creating breast milk burns about 500 calories a day and helps your uterus to contract. These uterine contractions help to shrink it back down to its pre-pregnancy size more quickly.
Another benefit for you, as the mother, is that breastfeeding is considerably more convenient than bottle feeding in most circumstances. You don’t have to worry about warming up bottles of formula for late-night feedings, for example. If you want a night out away from your baby, you can pump breast milk in advance to be fed by a bottle.
What to do if breastfeeding is difficult
Breastfeeding can be challenging, especially if this is your first baby. Many women didn’t grow up around examples of other women nursing their babies, and they may lack support from partners or family members.
If you decide you want to give breastfeeding your best shot, we strongly recommend seeing Dr. Patterson as soon as possible. Many challenges with nursing appear in the first few weeks and can be due to relatively simple, easy-to-fix issues such as an improper latch.
It’s important to put your baby to the breast shortly after birth, but don’t be alarmed that you may not produce much milk in the first few days. What you do produce, however, is an important substance called colostrum, a nutrient-rich concentrated milk that’s high in protein and antibodies.
You may find support groups helpful if you’re determined to breastfeed, and La Leche League is one such group. In addition, you may wish to see a lactation consultant to resolve any particular difficulties that you may be having.
When breastfeeding might not be the best option
Sometimes, breastfeeding doesn’t work out, or you already know that it’s not the right option for you or your baby. While the official guidelines recommend breastfeeding for up to one year, any breast milk that you can give your baby is helpful.
You or your baby might have certain medical conditions that aren’t compatible with breastfeeding.
Some of these include some of the following:
- You had previous breast implants (some women can breastfeed successfully with implants, but not always)
- You had hormone imbalances prior to pregnancy and required fertility treatment
- You need to take certain medications to manage other health conditions
- You have certain health conditions that pose a risk to your baby, such as HIV or active tuberculosis
- Your baby has a metabolic disorder, such as PKU or galactosemia
Ultimately, whether to nurse your baby, and for how long, is a personal decision. Babies who are fed an appropriate commercial formula still grow and develop well.
If you would like to learn more about breastfeeding and your pregnancy, Dr. Patterson would be happy to discuss this with you. Call our office in Coral Springs, Florida, or request an appointment online.
1. We are still seeing obstetrics patients in our office to ensure that our pregnant patients are getting the care they need. If you are pregnant, please call us to book your appointment today. We are also seeing patients in our office that are having Gynecological problems or Gynecological emergencies.
2. Here's what we're doing to ensure the safety of our patients who come into the office for their appointments:
We are ensuring that patients are not experiencing respiratory issues when they visit our office.
We are sanitizing all services on a regular basis.
We are wearing masks and gloves to reduce the probability of virus transmission.
We are washing our hands for 20 seconds after every interaction we have, inside and outside of the office.
Patients may not be accompanied by other people at their appointments.
3. We are offering Telemedicine appointments for the following conditions: yeast infections, UTIs, birth control consults, vaginitis (vaginal infections), hormone replacement therapy consults, pre-menopause, menopause, amenorrhea, and abnormal periods. Please call us to determine if your need for services qualifies for a telemedicine appointment.