4 min|Rhiannon Lockhart

Nutritional Nourishment: The Powerful Benefits of Breastfeeding

Nutrition, Fertility

The World Health Organization recommends chest-feeding your child up to two years of age or beyond, with most healthcare providers encouraging exclusive chest-feeding until 6 months and avoiding total weaning until after their first birthday.

At the end of the day, fed is best – full stop. The most important feeding relationship is one that makes you and your baby comfortable and meets your needs. This blog is here to provide the health benefits of chest/breastfeeding. It is undeniable that breast/chest-feeding provides a host of benefits for both mom and baby. In this blog, we will dive into these health benefits for both you and baby, as well as common feeding issues.

Benefits of chest-feeding your baby/child

Chest-feeding benefits for baby

  • Reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

  • Aside from vitamin D supplementation, breast milk is seen as the perfect food and changes based on the needs of the baby at each stage.

  • Provides protection from infection and disease due to antibody content.

  • Can reduce the risk of metabolic disease for your child later in life, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

  • Nursing in the first few days of life provides the newborn with colostrum, which helps develop their digestive tract and provides important antibodies.

Breastfeeding benefits for you

  • For the feeding parent, it can reduce the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.

  • Chestfeeding is relatively cheap. Optional items like an electric pump will increase the cost, but often can be rented from your local pharmacy if needed short-term.

Although nursing is a very natural process, it doesn’t come easy for many first-time parents. It is important to be aware of some of the less-discussed difficulties with nursing. It’s easy to lose sleep over your baby’s nutrient intake, but there is support! Depending on where you are in Canada, you may have free access to a lactation consultant for the first few weeks postpartum. Discuss your options with your care provider as soon as possible.

Here are a few areas to explore if your nursing experience isn’t how you thought it may be...

  • Cow’s milk protein allergy. This means your baby is getting the cow’s milk through your milk and would benefit from its removal from your diet. Symptoms may include loose stools, blood in stool, irritability or refusal to eat.

  • Oral ties. Oral ties can impact a baby’s ability to express milk as well as cause pain for the parent. It is necessary to have oral ties assessed by a specialist, such as a lactation consultant who can best advise on next steps such as a release and/or exercises.

  • Poor latch. A shallow or poor latch can be common with many babies learning how to feed or with oral ties. This can also impact the feeding parent’s supply.

  • Reflux. Some babies will deal with reflux symptoms, including choking and coughing, arching back while feeding, irritability during or after feeds, or feeding refusal. Other babies can have “silent reflux” where there is a lot of spit up but little irritability or feeding issues from the baby. If it is a concern for you, discuss it with your lactation consultant.

  • Low supply. Low supply has a few root causes, some of which you can start working on today. Oral ties and an inability to efficiently express milk, poor latch, or not feeding frequently enough are common reasons for low supply. If all of those boxes are checked, have blood work to assess thyroid function, insulin resistance, or PCOS. In addition, ensure you are eating enough! When you are undernourished, you can’t make enough for your child.

  • Clogged or blocked ducts. This often occurs when the feeding parent goes prolonged periods without feeding or expressing milk, especially if they deal with oversupply. Be sure to utilize a pump or hand express as needed and cut back on feeds gradually when weaning to reduce your risk of clogged ducts and mastitis.

A final reminder

Your feeding journey is unique to you, whether you nurse, pump, or use formula. Only you can decide what is right for you and your child.

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