Breastfeeding: Benefits, Challenges, Pumping, & Products

Breastmilk is designed to be the ideal and exclusive food for a baby’s first six months. A fed baby is most important, but if you are able to breastfeed, breast milk trumps formula in every way. There are innumerable benefits to breastfeeding for almost any length of time (some degree of benefit is typically observed after three months), and the benefits seem to increase the longer a baby is breastfed. As mothers, our bodies were made to breastfeed our babies and confer innumerable health benefits to them. After birth, the hormonal changes that accompany lactation also help our bodies recover and return to their pre-pregnancy state.

Breastfeeding your baby is a wonderful experience, but it can also be full of challenges and self-inflicted pressure. If you plan to breastfeed your little one, I recommend having an experienced professional lined up to guide you through the initiation, and through challenges that may arise. I had a team of midwives and a doula (who assisted me in delivering my daughter at home) that helped me learn breastfeeding technique and tips in those first few days.

The reason I’m sharing my experience and evidence-based benefits for baby & mom, is because research tells us that moms who are educated in the benefits are more likely to initiate and continue breastfeeding.1 While infant feeding may be culturally viewed as a lifestyle choice, I view it as more of a health choice.

My Experience

I initiated nursing within ten minutes after my daughter, Maeve, was born. During the first two to three days I was producing small amounts of colostrum, and then became engorged with regular breast milk by day three or four. Initially, your body produces more milk than baby needs until it learns how much to produce, through matching your baby’s demand (nursing frequency and duration). During the first few days, weeks (and even months), I nursed Maeve very frequently. I’d offer the breast whenever she seemed hungry, fussy, cried, or when two to three hours had passed. After the first few months, we established a flexible routine with timing!

I’ve had a relatively uncomplicated time breastfeeding Maeve, but I’d say that the most challenging part is the time and physical presence it requires, alike to a full-time job, added on to already being a full-time mom. I cannot be away from my girl for longer than two to three hours at a time, and that was only possible once she turned four or five months old, since I was breastfeeding on demand (sometimes every hour and a half) for the first few months. This was something I wasn’t necessarily prepared for. Yes, whoever is caring for her can give her a bottle of pumped breast milk if I’m away, but if you skip nursing sessions, you need to pump in order for your milk supply to not decrease. Additionally, nursing not only provides nutrition, but also comfort for babies. I’ve found that Maeve sometimes needs the comfort of nursing, rather than just getting breast milk from a bottle. I chose to embrace the breastfeeding lifestyle and have scheduled time away, in short intervals, to be able to to other things. Every mom and baby eventually find their feeding routine, and it becomes easier to manage.

Pumping

Spectra S2 Plus Breast Pump

Once breastfeeding was well-established after two months, I started pumping with my Spectra S2 Plus pump every morning, for ten to fifteen minutes, in order to start building a supply of frozen milk, and to help keep my milk supply up. After I pump, I refrigerate the milk in a glass jar. Every three days, I freeze all the milk in silicone molds, then store the one ounce ‘pucks’ in a large freezer bag. When I know we’ll need the stored breast milk, I’ll defrost the pucks in the refrigerator, in silicone Comotomo bottles, and then warm the bottles in a basic electric bottle warmer. I chose Comotomo bottles because they’re made of non-toxic silicone, instead of plastic, and I find them a bit easier to use than glass bottles. I also chose to pump directly into the Comotomo bottles, instead of pumping into the plastic bottles that come with the Spectra pump. In order to do this, I used Papablic adapters.

We give Maeve a one ounce bottle of breast milk every night, and add her supplements to that milk. You can read about the supplements I give her in this post. It’s also part of her bedtime routine!

Recommended Products

Here are some additional breastfeeding products I use and love:

Silverette Nursing Cups

Silver is naturally antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. I used these nipple covers from day one, and they have helped prevent infection, bleeding/cracking, and soreness – commonalities when initiating breastfeeding.

Motherlove Nipple Cream

I use this daily and it helps to prevent nipple dryness or irritation. It has just a few natural organic ingredients, plus marshmallow root and calendula to soothe skin.

Milk Saver Cups

While Maeve nurses on one side, I use this on the other breast to collect milk from the let-down reflex. I usually save this milk, and it prevents your shirt from getting wet!

Organic Cotton Nursing Pads

I wear these overnight and sometimes during the day to absorb any leakage. Their absorption improves the more times they are washed! The material is 100% organic cotton and is a great non-toxic and lower waste alternative to disposable nursing pads.

Nursing Tank Tops

I started wearing these the day Maeve was born, and I still wear them daily! It makes nursing so easy, without having to shift your clothes around too much. You can simply unclip a strap with one hand to expose one breast at a time.

Nursing Sports Bras

These are my favorite nursing sports bras. I exercise daily and I can nurse Maeve immediately afterwards without having to change or remove clothes.

Organic Mother’s Milk Tea

This is a great organic herbal blend that I drink on a daily basis. When I was sick during the winter, I drank three cups per day and it helped increase my milk supply!

Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby

These are just some of the main findings that several research studies have concluded:

Long-term protection from chronic disease (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or blood lipids, cancer)2

Better cognitive development2

Lower risk of ADD and ADHD3

Lower risk of autism spectrum disorders3

Lower risk of obesity (for baby & mom)2

Lower risk of childhood ear infections4

Lower risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)4

More favorable dentition4

Lower risk of asthma4

Lower risk of diarrhea5

Lower risk of respiratory infections5

Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom

These are just some of the main findings that several research studies have concluded:

“Recently, a growing body of literature has indicated that lactation plays a critical role in a mother’s long-term metabolic health”6

Reduces risk of obesity later in life, which lowers the risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.6

Lower risk of cardiovascular disease6

If 90% of U.S. mothers were able to breastfeed for one year after every birth, an estimated 14,000 heart attacks would be prevented each year, and 54,000 U.S. women could avoid treatment for hypertension”6

Lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease (potentially because of the favorable effects on ovarian hormones and insulin sensitivity)7

Lower risk of ovarian cancer 8

Lower risk of certain types of breast cancers8

Are you pregnant, looking to become pregnant, or breastfeeding a newborn? I’d love to give you more specific, personalized guidance in nutrition, diet, supplements, and lifestyle coaching to support your motherhood journey. Let’s get acquainted!

Schedule a free ten-minute call with me HERE.

References

  1. Kornides, M., and Kitsantas, P. Evaluation of breastfeeding promotion, support, and knowledge of benefits on breastfeeding outcomes. Journal of Child Healthcare. (2013);17(3):264-273.
  2. Binns, C., Lee, M., and Low, W.Y. The long-term public health benefits of breastfeeding. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health. (2016);28(1):7-14.
  3. Bar, S., Milanaik, R., and Adesman, A. Long-term neurodevelopmental benefits of breastfeeding. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. (2016);28(4):559-566.
  4. Salone, L.R., Vann, W.F., and Dee, D.L. Breastfeeding: an overview of oral and general health benefits. The Journal of the American Dental Association. (2013);144(2):143-151.
  5. Horta, B.L., and Victora, C.G. Short-term effects of breastfeeding: a systematic review on the benefits of breastfeeding on diarrhoea and pneumonia mortality. World Health Organization. (2013).
  6. Schwarz, E.B., and Nothnagle, M. The maternal health benefits of breastfeeding. American Family Physician. (2015);91(9):602-604.
  7. Fox, M., Berzuini, C., and Knapp, L.A. Maternal breastfeeding history and alzheimer’s disease risk. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. (2013);37:809-821.
  8. Luan, N., Wu, Q., Gong, T., et. al. Breastfeeding and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2013);98(4):1020-1031.

Published by Dr. Alexandra Giuffre

Hello! I’m Dr. Alexandra Giuffre, ND, CNS, CDN (Dr. Alex!). I offer virtual Naturopathic Wellness Consultations. I work with individuals who are either ready to begin, or restructure their healing journey. With my training in clinical science, evidence-based medicine, and natural, holistic therapies, I work with individuals to create a personalized healing plan that is complementary to their current medical care.

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