Breastfeeding is "nature's way" to feed a baby; but only recently have scientists begun to uncover the amazing health benefits for both baby and mother.
These benefits range from the presence of unique antibodies in breast milk that help protect infants from numerous illnesses and diseases, to reducing the mother’s risk of diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers and postpartum depression.
While breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby, the process doesn't always feel so natural. In fact, many new moms have trouble breastfeeding. With the right information and support, however, you can be successful.
In this segment, Sarah Krieger shares tips for new moms and discusses the many health benefits tied to breastfeeding.
Melanie Cole (Host): Breastfeeding is a natural way to feed a baby, but only recently have scientists begun to uncover the real health benefits for both baby and mother, associated with breastfeeding.My guest today is Sarah Krieger. She’s a registered dietician-nutritionist who’s counseled hundreds of family as a nutrition consultant. Welcome to the show, Sarah. So, tell us about the benefits of breastfeeding.
Sarah Krieger (Guest): Well, there are short-term and long-term benefits, and then there’s the baby and the mom. Let’s talk mom first. Short-term benefits for the mom would be once breastfeeding is established, less mess with bottles, right? You don’t have to deal with bottles. You can just grab your bag and go. It’s easier at night because, again, you don’t have to mess with the bottles. There is decreased risk of postpartum depression, which would be a short-term benefit because that usually happens within a couple of months after delivery. For the baby, the number one benefit is the baby is in charge of intake. Since I counsel so many families for childhood obesity, this is my main message for moms because we want the baby to develop lifelong eating habits, and breastfeeding is where it starts. Then there are long-term benefits. The long-term benefits for mom would be decreased risk of breast cancer. It’s not a guarantee but it does help to prevent future breast cancer cases, because we’re basically using our breast the way that they’re meant to be and that’s always a positive thing. Also for the baby, long-term, is decreased risk of Type 1 diabetes, asthma, and even leukemia. So, those are the things that why wouldn’t a mom want to at least try to establish breastfeeding right after the baby is born because there are short-term and long-term benefits?
Melanie: Now, do you think, Sarah, that this is something that mother should really make the decision while they’re pregnant and is there any pre-preparing that they need to do before they have their baby?
Sarah: Yes. A lot of moms, if they mentally tell themselves, “Okay, I’m going to do this,” they have a good support group, maybe they have friends, maybe their mother did it, you can take a class, usually hospitals will provide a breastfeeding class, you can meet with a lactation consultant. But the funny thing is that sometimes you forget everything as soon as that baby comes. With my three kids, my third one was actually what I would call the “non-latcher” and I ended up using a lactation consultant in the hospital before we were discharged, and that was the best thing because she was able to show me positions that I never used with the older two. So, you can have your expectations and be prepared, but just know that it may not go “textbook” every time, and that’s okay. The other thing too is most hospitals will provide support groups. When my firstborn was three to four days old, I went to that first breastfeeding support group, and I’m still friends with a lot of those moms 12 years later, so that definitely helped. Especially for moms who may not have the male role model support or friends and a grandma, “You know what? Let’s just give the baby a bottle.” If you surround yourself with other mothers that are breastfeeding, sometimes that is the number one support that a mom can have to keep going with the breastfeeding.
Melanie: So they’ve decided this is something they’ve talked themselves into it, they’ve decided that this is what they’re going to do, and then their baby is born. Is this a natural thing, Sarah? Is it something that just comes naturally? You said you had one “non-latcher.”
Melanie: Is it something you just take the baby, put him to your breast, and right away, boom, they go? Or do you need a little help, a little discussion about how and where? Then talk about the mother’s comfort doing it.
Sarah: Okay, so right after the baby is born, the colostrum is the first to be discharged from the breast, and that’s that sticky, yellowish, full of antibodies that most moms are like, “If I can do that, at least I did the best part of the breastfeeding.” That happens within 24 hours of birth. When the actual milk comes in, it’s usually on average, not for everybody, but usually within two to three days after birth, and for most moms, myself included, I was already at home, so the milk doesn’t come in until you’re home. One of my greatest moments though of the breastfeeding was when you’re in the hospital and your baby has that first wet diaper. You don’t really feel anything on your breast yet but, okay, you saw the baby, sucking and latching, but did he swallow? Did he get enough? Am I able to produce enough milk? I don’t see anything coming out of my breast yet because the baby is latched on. But then the baby has a wet diaper and you’re like, “Wow, I did that.” Sometimes, just the act of seeing your baby swallow, even though you might not see breast milk all over yourself, just know that growth, wet diapers, messy diapers, that’s the best way to see that you’re giving your baby enough nutrition. A lot of moms think that they’re not making enough milk. It’s a supply-and-demand issue. If you want to nurse, if you want to breastfeed, put that baby to the breast. That’s the best way to have “letdown” so that the baby gets the nutrition. Every time a mom offers a bottle of formula, her supply will go down. If someone says, “Okay, I’ll give the baby a bottle, you go out for a couple of hours, I’ll watch him and give him some formula,” just know that if you can pump or express milk, even on one side of the breast when the baby is on the other breast, and then you can collect that milk, still give the baby the milk when you’re not there, the breast milk, and the supply will keep going on and on.
Melanie: How can you get dad involved? What’s the best ways and give some tips for getting dad involved?
Sarah: I was fortunate to have a great partner who was very supportive and especially in the night. Dads, all they have to do is say, “Hey, here’s the baby. He needs to eat.” So I don’t know why more dads aren’t involved because they don’t have to do as much. If they can change the diapers, take the babies for a walk, the feeding is up to the mom. Like I said, when you’re pumping and expressing, dad can definitely get involved with the breast milk in the bottle when mom is away. But personally, all three of my kids, I did not ever give the baby the bottle, only the breast, and so mom is the breast, dads and grandmas, they’re the bottle of breast milk. So that is one way that dad can get involved, by encouraging them to get some fresh air, walk around the block, go to the store, whatever, and then dad would give the breast milk in the bottle. Taking a class during the pregnancy also helps because, especially for the first child, dads may not have any idea what this breastfeeding means, so it definitely helps for them to understand that “This is mom’s commitment, at least for a year, so what can I do to help? Oh, I can help with the diapers, I can help do dishes, but give mom that time to be comfortable, get her a comfortable chair to sit in.” That’s the support that dads can do.
Melanie: Sarah, we only have a minute and a half or two minutes left, but speak about some common breastfeeding challenges and the ways that mom can overcome those.
Sarah: I work for All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete and when I see infants that are hospitalized, it can be very stressful obviously for the mother. Anytime a newborn is admitted to the hospital right after birth, mom has all these great intention, sometimes births don’t go the way that we expected, right? So my number one tip for moms is stress will affect your supply. So, more than food—here’s the dietician saying it—more than food and water, if you can get enough sleep, try to manage the stress as best as possible, that will help the supply. There are awesome pumps that you can rent or borrow from a hospital or health department, so just look out for those in your area especially if the baby is in the hospital. But there are definitely tools to use even if the baby, say, has a cleft palate, there are special tools that you – I don’t mean tools – tubes and different pumps you can use that the baby can latch onto the machine but still gets the breast milk. Fortunately, we’re not in where we were hundreds of years ago. There are so many benefits for the baby, and moms can definitely make it happen but you have to talk to your doctor, make it happen before you’re discharged from the hospital after birth.
Melanie: Thank you so much. You’re listening to Eat Right Radio with our friends from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is Melanie Cole. Stay well.