Breastfeeding: For You and Your Baby

Written by Dietetics Masters Student Kristina Croteau

Breastfeeding is the recommended feeding practice for new mothers, providing ample nutritional benefits to their babies. The first fluid the breasts make after delivery of baby is colostrum, often called “liquid gold” because it is packed with the mother’s antibodies which in turn help build the baby’s immune system from the start.  As the baby grows, the milk increases its fat, lactose (a milk sugar), proteins and other nutrients to optimize baby’s development.  Breast milk even changes when your baby is sick!  By passing mom’s infection fighting cells through the milk, breastfeeding can help your baby get over common colds and viruses.Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of childhood obesity. 2

Did you know breastfeeding has many advantages for new mothers, too?  Breast milk is free, and you can bring it anywhere!  For a new mom, that is one less thing to pack and carry. Breastfeeding also may reduce the mother’s future risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer, and high blood pressure. 4 The bonding that occurs skin-to-skin between the mother and the baby provides a strong foundation as the child grows, as well as may decrease the mother’s risk for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. 5

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2 and the American Academy of Pediatrics 3 recommends babies be breastfed for no less than 6 months and preferably up through 2 years old.  Breastfeeding can be a process which both challenges and fulfills new mothers as they learn this new experience alongside their baby.  You may encounter some speedbumps along the way including work, social pressures and constraints to nursing or pumping, difficulty with supply or clogged ducts, or baby having trouble nursing. Your health care practitioner can assist you with any challenges that arise, as can a lactation consultant. Luckily, any issues are often very short-lived.

Here are some ways to optimize your breastfeeding experience.

  1. Start off on the right foot. Educate yourself with the best techniques for latching and milk production. Talk to your OBGYN provider about lactation specialist supports, such as La Leche League, in your area. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  2. Stay hydrated and fed! Be sure to drink at least a glass of water per nursing session as well as eat up to 300-400 additional calories per day to promote milk production. Beans, peas, lentils, eggs, lean meats, seafood and dairy products all provide iron, iodine, choline and omega-3s which may be depleted during breastfeeding.6  Remember that what you eat and drink, baby gets, too.  Some babies may have an allergy or get irritated by some of these foods, so pay attention to what you have eaten if baby develops a rash or is extra gassy or fussy.
  3. Continue to follow pregnancy dietary guidelines which include low-mercury seafood intake per month, no more than 200mg of caffeine per day, and prenatal vitamins per day.









This material is funded by UDSA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.