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Breastfeeding Your Baby

How is breastfeeding good for my baby?

  • Breast milk gives your baby the best nutrition. Breast milk has the right combination of nutrients for your baby. These nutrients include protein, fat, sugar, vitamins, and minerals that your baby needs to grow. Colostrum is a special type of milk that is made by your breasts before your mature breast milk comes in. Colostrum is rich in antibodies (proteins that protect your baby's immune system). Breast milk starts to replace colostrum 2 to 4 days after your baby's birth. Your baby will need a vitamin D supplement soon after birth. Talk to your caregiver about the amount and type of vitamin D supplement that is best for your baby.

  • Breast milk is safe and easy for your baby to digest. Breast milk is easy for your baby to digest and absorb. Breast milk does not need to be prepared and is fresh and safe to drink.

  • Breast milk protects your baby against allergies and infections. Breast milk has antibodies and other substances that help protect your baby's immune system. The immune system helps fight off infection. Breastfed babies have a lower risk for allergy problems such as eczema. Eczema causes red, itchy, swollen skin. Breast milk can also help protect your baby against ear infections, diarrhea, and lung infections.

  • Breast milk decreases your baby's risk for certain medical conditions. Breastfed babies may have a lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They also have a lower risk of becoming obese or developing diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

How is breastfeeding good for you?

  • Breastfeeding can help you recover faster after delivery. Breastfeeding right after the delivery of your baby helps stop bleeding from your uterus. It also helps shrink your uterus back to the size it was before your pregnancy. You may be able to lose weight by following a healthy diet if you are breastfeeding. This can happen because of the extra calories your body needs to support breastfeeding. Ask your caregiver for more information about breastfeeding and your diet.

  • Breastfeeding may decrease your risk of postpartum depression and certain diseases. Breastfeeding may lower your risk of postpartum depression, and breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding also decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes if you did not have gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Breastfeeding can make your bones stronger. This can help prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life.

  • Breastfeeding has other benefits. Breastfeeding is a special experience that can help you bond with your baby. Breastfeeding can save you time and money because you do not have to buy and prepare milk.

Can I breastfeed my premature baby?

  • Some premature babies are not able to eat on their own and need to be fed through a tube. Even if your premature baby cannot feed directly from your breast, he can still be given breast milk. It can be expressed or pumped and then fed to your baby. As your baby grows and develops, he may learn to breastfeed. Express milk once your baby is born so that he can receive antibodies from colostrum. When you express milk from your breasts, you stimulate them to make more milk.

  • Breast milk is especially good for premature babies who have a very low birthweight. Premature babies are at risk for medical problems because their immune system is not fully formed. The antibodies and nutrients found in colostrum and breast milk can help to protect a premature baby against medical problems. Breast milk helps your baby's eyes, brain, and digestive system develop.

When should I not breastfeed my baby?

You should not breastfeed if:

  • Your baby has galactosemia, a condition that keeps his body from breaking down galactose (a form of sugar found in breast milk).

  • You have active tuberculosis that has not been treated for at least 2 weeks.

  • You have HIV or AIDS.

  • You use illegal drugs, or you drink alcohol often or in large amounts.

How can I care for myself while I am breastfeeding?

  • Ask about your medicines. Talk to your caregiver before you take any medicines. This includes all prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines may decrease the amount of breast milk you make. Other medicines may enter your breast milk and affect your baby.

  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Nicotine and other harmful chemicals are found in cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff). These go into your breast milk when you smoke. Your baby is exposed to these chemicals through breastfeeding and inhaling cigarette smoke. Your baby can have problems such as ear or lung infections and asthma if he breathes in cigarette smoke. Smoking can also decrease the amount of breast milk you make. Talk with your caregiver if you smoke and need help to quit.

  • Limit or avoid alcohol. Alcohol passes from your breast milk to your baby. If you choose to drink alcohol, breastfeed your baby before you drink alcohol. Do not breastfeed your baby for at least 2 hours after you have 1 drink. One drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

Where can I find more information about breastfeeding?

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    141 Northwest Point Boulevard
    Elk Grove Village , IL 60007-1098
    Phone: 1- 847 - 434-4000
    Web Address:
  • La Leche League International
    957 North Plum Grove Road
    Schaumburg , IL 60173
    Phone: 1- 847 - 519-7730
    Phone: 1- 800 - 525-3243
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your baby is feeding fewer than 8 times each day.

  • Your baby is 4 or more days old and has fewer than 6 wet diapers each day.

  • Your baby is 4 or more days old and has fewer than 3 to 4 bowel movements each day.

  • You have nipple pain while feeding or between feedings.

  • Your nipples look red, dry, cracked, or they have scabs on them.

  • You feel a lump in your breast that feels tender.

  • Your breasts become painful and swollen.

  • Your baby becomes jaundiced (skin and whites of the eyes are turning yellow).

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan how you are going to feed your baby. To help with this plan, you must learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. Ask your caregiver questions about breastfeeding. You can talk with your caregiver about the best way for you to feed your baby.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.