The Basics and Benefits of Breastfeeding

Eileen Ryan, RN

This week marks the 25th annual World Breastfeeding Week, which is now celebrated in 120 countries.  It’s the ideal time to highlight the importance of breastfeeding for moms and babies right here in Rhode Island.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is truly what nature intended. Breastmilk is the perfect food, carrying exactly the right amount of fat, protein, sugar, and water to help your baby develop and grow. It also contains important enzymes to protect your baby’s digestive and immune systems. Plus, it’s readily available, always the right temperature, and free.

Evidence shows that breastfed babies have:

  • Fewer ear and respiratory illnesses.
  • Lower risk of developing allergies or asthma.
  • Reduced risk of childhood obesity and diabetes.
  • Reduced occurrences of eczema.
  • Reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Breastfeeding isn’t only beneficial for babies. Studies show concrete emotional and health benefits for moms as well. Aside from the emotional bond with your baby that breastfeeding promotes, it also reduces your risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer, can help you lose your “baby weight,” and reduces your diabetes risk. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

What are some of the barriers women find to breastfeeding?

Every woman is different. Some mothers find breastfeeding very easy, while others have a hard time at first. Women can suffer from sore nipples, difficulty getting the baby to latch on, or poor milk supply. Professionally, some women look forward to returning to work, and see breastfeeding as a deterrent. They can also have reservations about pumping in the workplace.

How can a lactation consultant help?

We can teach you how to get the baby to latch on properly, explain the process of getting your milk in, which doesn’t happen immediately, and go over all of the basics. After discharge, lactation consultants can provide ongoing support if you’re having problems, or the baby is not growing properly. We evaluate the breastfeeding process, help to establish a good milk supply, provide solutions for sore nipples, and assist with other common issues.

Getting through the first few weeks of breastfeeding can be challenging, but if you can get through it, the process gets much easier. The right support and resources can make all the difference. An appointment with a lactation consultant can help with practical obstacles. A breastfeeding support group, like the free group that meets weekly at Newport Hospital, can provide the peer support, knowledge, and camaraderie to help you stick with it. Breastfeeding is truly the best gift you can give your baby!

Breastfeeding support group »