Breast feeding babies has many benefits

July 01, 2014 By Annmarie Golioto, M.D.

Expectant mothers have a lot to think about before the birth of their infant, including whether or not to breast-feed. It's a decision that should not be made lightly but rather with careful consideration as to what is best for herself and her baby, as well as how infant feeding fits into her lifestyle and parenting goals.

More than two decades of research have established that breast milk is perfectly suited to nourish infants and protect them from illness. Breast-fed babies have fewer illnesses because human milk transfers to the infant a mother's antibodies to disease. Scientific evidence shows that breast-fed babies are less vulnerable to respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Breast-fed babies are at lower risk from sudden infant death syndrome and serious chronic diseases later in life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nursing may also provide psychological benefits to the infant, creating an early emotional attachment between mother and child. Many psychologists believe that a nursing baby has a sense of security from the warmth and presence of the mother, especially when there is skin-to-skin contact during feeding.

Breast feeding isn't always easy. A new mother should learn as much as possible about breastfeeding and what to expect before her baby is born. Obstetricians, pediatricians and childbirth instructors can all offer information about nursing.

Initial steps after birth to ensure success include immediate skin-to-skin interaction between mom and baby and the first breast feeding occurring within one hour of delivery. Research also shows that keeping mom and baby together as much as possible after delivery without any separation helps the new mom recognize when her baby is ready to eat rather than relying on a clock. Allowing the baby to nurse without any restrictions or separation allows mom to develop optimal milk supply for her infant.

Long-term success depends on ongoing support for a nursing mother after the birth, especially from someone who has successfully nursed a baby.

The World Health Organization recommends that healthy infants be fed only breast milk for the first six months of life. The United States public health campaign, Healthy People 2010, has breast-feeding as a core program, recognizing that increased breast-feeding rates would save lives and decrease medical expenses of common childhood illnesses as well as save consumers money on infant formula.

The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) is on a journey to become a Baby Friendly®-designated hospital. Such a designation recognizes that a hospital promotes optimal infant feeding education and practices. HOCC offers prenatal breastfeeding classes, lactation support after delivery and a weekly breastfeeding support group for new moms. Please call 860.224.5566 ext. 2071 for more information.

Neonatologist Annmarie Golioto, M.D., is a member of The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) medical staff and director of Nurseries. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 800.321.6244.