The Advantages of Breastfeeding During The First Six Months of Life
By: Jeanne Reilly, MS, RD
Breastmilk is food designed to perfectly meet and adapt to baby needs for the first six months of life.
Attempt breastfeeding and having baby latch within the first hour of life, or as soon as possible.
The benefits of breastfeeding extend to mothers.
Why Breastfeeding Matters
Breastmilk perfectly meets and adapts to a baby’s needs for the first six months of life and beyond. Often referred to as “liquid gold,” it is a nutrient-rich food that provides a bounty of benefits.
Breastfeeding and the nursing relationship between mother and baby help a baby reach optimal development, growth, and long-term health.
Likewise, nursing benefits the mother, aiding her recovery from pregnancy and birth, prevents diseases, and forms a bond with her baby that aids in initiation and maintenance of successful breastfeeding1.
Despite the multiple benefits, breastfeeding evokes feelings of success and failure, frustration, and bliss. Some liken breastfeeding to a full time job and feel overwhelmed by the added pressure. However, the resulting advantages offer protection against a number of potential health issues, for baby and mother alike2.
In short: Attempting breastfeeding rewards both mother and baby.
Fed is best. It so happens that breastmilk is free food that offers complete nutrition for you baby.
How Does Breastfeeding Reward Mother and Child?
From the first days of a baby’s life through the end of the breastfeeding relationship, any effort a mother makes is beneficial. Fed is best.
It so happens that breastmilk is free food that offers complete nutrition for your baby3. Incredibly, it adapts and changes composition based on your baby’s growth and development. Breast milk is known to promote sensory and cognitive development in babies. It reduces a baby’s risk of developing digestive or breathing issues, diabetes, obesity, and the likelihood of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Breastfeeding supports a healthy metabolism, self-regulation of appetite, and improved immune function in babies—preventing the length and severity of common childhood illnesses3.
The benefits of breastfeeding extends to mothers as well. The hormone surges a mother experiences as a result of breastfeeding support her body as it heals from pregnancy and birth, aid in loss of excess pregnancy weight, and reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease4.
“Any amount of breast milk provided to the baby is beneficial to their health.”
How to Stick with Breastfeeding
Whether a mother is able to breastfeed or not, it’s important the baby receives enough nutrition to grow. Any amount of breast milk provided to the baby is beneficial to their health, especially during their first six months of life. Don’t get discouraged! Try the following suggestions to start and stick with nursing or pumping through the first six months:
Attempt breastfeeding and having baby latch as soon as possible within the first hour of life.
Ask for help early, and often. Don’t suffer through pain, supply, or latching issues. Seek help from a lactation consultant as soon as you experience any challenges or discomfort.
Breastfeed exclusively, on-demand, as often as baby wants, day and night. Sure you’ll be tired, but it will also make for a secure, healthy, growing baby and a successful breastfeeding experience for mother and baby5.
Avoid pacifiers and bottles with nipples until a baby’s latch is well-established and mother’s milk has come in fully (usually about two weeks after birth).
If you have to go back to work, speak to your human resources department and ask them to accommodate your need for a private room to pump several times a day.