Benefits of Breastfeeding Extend to Both Mom and Baby
August 02, 2017
By Sarah Musselman, RN, BSN, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant , OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center
The benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child are widely established. Breastfeeding is considered one of the most important preventative care measures for children’s health, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for a year or longer.
Breastfeeding not only reduces a baby's risk of infections, but it also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood leukemia, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Moms also can benefit from breastfeeding and the act of making breast milk. Health benefits for mom include lowering their risk of illnesses such as breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. It also enhances the emotional health because mothering hormones are calming when breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months. That should be followed by continued breastfeeding as complimentary foods are introduced. Babies should continue to breastfeed for a year and for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby.
Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and infants. Breast milk helps a baby’s digestive system develop and work properly, it’s also easy to digest.
There are risks associated with formula feeding, including a baby receiving incomplete nutrition, a chance of contamination, increased risk of obesity later in life, potential for tooth decay due to baby bottle rot, and for some families, it can be a financial burden to use infant formula.
Good nutrition for mom and baby
When breastfeeding, the body burns extra calories making milk, so moms should try to eat at least 500 extra calories a day. It should be a well-balanced diet with all the food groups, including lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
Vegetarians should increase the amount of protein they eat by including more soy products, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
Other tips for nutrition while breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include the following:
OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center is the only baby-friendly designated birthing center in the Bloomington area. The designation is the gold standard of maternity care and recognizes OSF HealthCare St. Joseph for offering breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies. To learn more about the Birthing Center visit
- Continue to take prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding.
- Be aware of your iron levels. Iron is an important mineral that helps carry oxygen throughout the body to give you energy. A person may feel tired and run-down if they’re not getting enough iron.
- Make sure you are getting enough folic acid, which helps the body make healthy new cells. Sources of folic acid are fortified grains, green leafy vegetables, oranges, beans, and eggs.
- Breastfeeding moms also need adequate protein, which is the building block of our bodies.
- Drinking plenty of fluids is important when breastfeeding. Water is best, but other acceptable drinks include low-fat or fat-free milk, 100-percent fruit juice, tea, or coffee.
- Keep caffeine intake to no more than 300 milligrams a day, which is about two eight-ounce cups of brewed coffee.
- Breastfeeding moms need adequate calcium for healthy bones and teeth. You can get calcium from dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, in addition to soy products, green leafy vegetables, canned salmon, beans, calcium-fortified orange juice, and calcium-fortified cereals.
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