Every year in the first week of August, more than 120 countries around the world honor World Breastfeeding Week. If you're a new mom or know a new mom, we invite you to spend this time learning more about this natural, nourishing, and important bonding opportunity between mothers and their infants. Supporting women and their breastfeeding goals promotes the health and well-being of our future generations, so the more we all know about it, the better!

Breastfeeding: An Overview

Prenatal and pediatric health experts agree: breast milk is the best nutrition for infants in their first year of life. It's packed with essential nutrients that a young child needs to grow and develop properly, including:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Hormones
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Antibodies (immune cells) from mom

Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that infants are fed only breastmilk in their first six months. This is especially critical so babies have access to their moms' extra-nutritious "colostrum," the early milk produced during pregnancy and right after birth. Women should continue breastfeeding their babies at least through their first year, even as they get introduced to new foods.

Every mom and baby are different, and feeding schedules (frequency and duration) can vary. On average, a woman who has reached full milk production will generally produce about 25 to 35 fluid ounces of breast milk every 24 hours, and newborns will feed every 2 to 3 hours. Generally speaking, the more a baby breastfeeds, the more breastmilk a mom's body will make. Pumping (the use of a mechanical device used by a new mom to extract milk from her breasts) can help ensure all the milk is produced; pumped milk can be stored in bottles and given later to an infant.

For many reasons, some women are unable or choose not to breastfeed. Deciding whether to breastfeed involves highly personal decisions between mom and doctor. Our celebration of breastfeeding should never be misconstrued as a judgment against non-breast feeding mothers.

While our team at SIU Medicine recommends that all new moms who can breastfeed do breastfeed, we understand in some cases a mom needs to make a different choice for herself and her family.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies (And Moms!)

Aside from delivering essential nutrients, breastfeeding offers young babies a range of surprising health benefits, including:

  • Increased rate of survival in first year of life
  • Decreased risk of infections and illnesses, both in infancy and later in life (including infections, obesity, asthma, allergies, sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes and even certain types of cancer)
  • Improved digestion (breastmilk is easier to digest than formula)

These beneficial effects are found in babies who are born prematurely or with special needs, in addition to babies who are born in typical health.

By the way: moms benefit, too! Breastfeeding helps moms bond with their babies, recover from birth-related trauma, and even lower their risk of health conditions like type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer (breast, ovarian).

Common Challenges Faced by Breastfeeding Women

We know how beneficial breastfeeding is. But it's important to know breastfeeding comes with certain challenges, too. These include:

  • Sore nipples
  • Engorged breasts (breasts feel full and painful)
  • Clogged ducts (this can feel like a tender lump in the breast)
  • Mastitis (painful breast tissue infection, related to clogged milk ducts)
  • Difficulty in getting a baby to latch
  • Low milk supply
  • Exhaustion and mental or emotional strain
  • Stigma, judgment, or not having a private place to pump or breastfeed while at work or out in the community

These challenges are normal. No mom should ever feel that she’s “failing” if something isn’t going well with her breastfeeding. Working with a lactation specialist or doctor can be incredibly helpful for addressing any of the above challenges.

Are You a Breastfeeding Mom?

Our team at SIU Medicine is honored to be a part of a woman's journey through motherhood. Contact us at 217-545-8000 to connect with an experienced team of OB/GYNs and other specialists who can help you and your baby thrive during this special time.

Topics: Breastfeeding