Breastmilk is often coined “liquid gold” and for good reason—it is nature’s perfect baby food. Lily Chang, M.D., a neonatologist with the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Maternal, Fetal & Neonatal Institute, explains the benefits of breastfeeding and offers helpful tips.
Why is breastfeeding important?
Breastmilk protects babies against allergies and illness, is easily digested and is perfect for a baby’s emerging gastrointestinal system. Studies have shown that infants who drink breastmilk for the first six months have fewer ear and respiratory infections, upset stomachs and incidences of sudden infant death syndrome. It also protects against diabetes and increased blood pressure later in life. For moms, their risk of breast and ovarian cancer is greatly reduced, and it helps to heal a mom’s body after childbirth.
When should milk come in normally?
Milk is created later in the second trimester but inhibited by two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. At birth, these hormones decrease and allow another hormone, prolactin, to begin the free production of breast milk. Suckling stimulates prolactin to produce milk for the next cycle. The more breastfeeding occurs, the higher the prolactin level each time, the more milk will come in. Some mothers bring their hormone levels up within a day or two while others take up to a week.
What should you do if baby is not latching well?
Try to stay comfortable and relaxed. Oxytocin, which is the hormone that helps squeeze the glands holding the milk, is blocked with stress and fear. Watch for the whole mouth to surround the areola as the suck stimulates the hormone oxytocin, which squeeze the glands holding the milk. It is not a good latch if the baby just has the tip of the nipple. A lactation consultant is an excellent person to talk to for help.
What are some common challenges moms face while breastfeeding?
Mothers sometimes struggle with supply issues, producing either too much or too little milk. Infants can also have trouble latching, and they could latch well but have trouble transferring the milk from the breast to the stomach. Seeking out help quickly is key. Birth hospitals often have lactation consultants on staff, and there are free community resources available such as through the government program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
How do we know if our baby is tongue-tied?
A pediatric dentist or ear, nose and throat doctor can help diagnose a tongue tie and evaluate if it requires any revision. In some cases, it can cause feeding problems, or issues with speech or dentition later in life.
What about storing breast milk?
Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on milk storage.
Most importantly, mothers should take care of themselves and get adequate rest, hydration and nutrition so they are healthy and strong enough to make milk for their babies. Visit here for a link to more resources on breastfeeding, or visit the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital breastfeeding page.
*Presented by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital