When you first find out that you're pregnant, your mind just goes and goes. You have so many questions, and you constantly wonder if you're doing everything that you should be doing to help your baby. I remember before I had my daughter, I had to decide if I was going to try and breastfeed her. I had a crazy schedule, and I didn't know if I was going to be able to do it. I had so many questions for my doctor, and I learned a lot about breastfeeding. It's been four years since I've had my daughter, and I know a lot of things have changed when it comes to having a baby. Plus, with COVID-19, I wanted to get the most current and best information about breastfeeding. I reached out to Beth VonLuehrte, the Perinatal Educator and Lactation consultant at The Christ Hospital Birthing Centers.
Benefits of breastfeeding
When you're pregnant, it seems like everyone wants to know if you're going to be breastfeeding. It starts with, "When are you due?" Then: "Do you know what you're having?" And finally, "Are you breastfeeding?" But why is breastfeeding so important? Beth told me that breastfeeding is a wonderful way to connect with and protect your baby. Your milk is easily digestible and provides calories, nutrients and antibodies that protect your baby from illness. Plus, there are a lot of benefits to breastfeeding, including health benefits for the mother like a lower risk of uterine, breast and ovarian cancer.
Another benefit is the increase in the hormone oxytocin, which promotes bonding with your new baby and reduces the risk of excessive bleeding after birth. The baby also gains many health benefits from breastfeeding, including a reduced incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and a reduction of childhood illnesses, such as diarrhea or infections, and diseases, such as diabetes.
Things you might not know
There is more to breastfeeding than just the nourishment it provides your baby. Providing your breastmilk impacts your baby's immune system to fight illness—including passing along COVID-19 antibodies if you're vaccinated.
It is helpful to know the more often you feed your baby or express breastmilk, the more your body receives the signal to keep your milk supply up. Small, frequent feedings throughout the day and night keep your baby satisfied and maintain the hormone prolactin, which helps you produce a good milk supply.
The calories needed to make breastmilk can make losing weight after pregnancy easier as well.
What are the rules for breastfeeding?
Beth told me that there aren't necessarily any rules when it comes to breastfeeding. For the most part, you can enjoy eating a variety of foods and take most medications, but to be safe, please consult with your physician or lactation consultant for specific information about medications while breastfeeding.
Drinking alcohol is possible while breastfeeding as well, but make sure to only drink small amounts of alcohol once or twice a week, and be aware of the exposure to your baby. Wait to breastfeed your baby 2-3 hours after consuming alcohol. It's also good to remember that going nine months without alcohol could mean you have a lower tolerance than you used to, so use care when having those first drinks.
In addition to deciding if you will be breastfeeding, it's also important to know when to stop. This is sometimes a big debate amongst breastfeeding mothers, but Beth told me that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends exclusively breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced. Continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer is recommended as mutually desired by mother and baby.
For more information or questions about breastfeeding, contact a lactation consultant at The Christ Hospital Birthing Centers: Mt. Auburn Campus at 513-585-0597 and Liberty Campus at 513-648-7671 or learn more about breastfeeding support and resources.