Breast-feeding provides many important benefits for you and your baby. Human milk has been developed by nature to meet the needs of human infants, and nature has had a long time to perfect the product. It is easily digested, passing through your baby’s stomach entirely in about 2-3 hours, as compared to 4-5 hours for formula. It provides all necessary nutrients for your baby, until at least six-months of age. Breast-feeding limits your baby’s exposure to foreign proteins, (such as cow’s milk and soy) and may lessen the chances of developing food or other allergies. It contains substances, which may bolster your baby’s immunity to common viruses that cause colds and diarrhea and to more serious bacterial infections. It is always ready to serve, with no danger of spoilage, and it is much less expensive than formula!
Use your brief time in the hospital to ask questions and establish techniques to successfully breast-feed your baby. Each newborn is a unique individual, and even if you have breast-fed an older sibling, you may need the guidance and support of the nursing staff. Breast-feeding can start as soon after delivery as you are able. No supplemental water or formula is needed unless you skip a feeding. Try to wait at least two weeks before supplementing breast-feeding with bottle feeding. It takes this long to build up your milk supply. Breast-feeding is a perfect “supply and demand” relationship between you and your baby. If he gets formula, he demands less milk from you, and you therefore produce less. To put it simply, the hungrier she is the harder she sucks and the more milk you make. This is why the same mother can provide adequate milk for a six-pound baby, a nine-pound baby, or even for twins.
Breast-feed your baby on demand. Most babies will fall into an every 2-3 hour feeding pattern. Wake your baby to feed during the day if she is sleeping for more than three hours between feeds, but let her go as long as she will “on her own” at night. Again, because of supply and demand, you can’t overfeed a breast-fed infant. When your baby is getting full, the vigor of his suck decreases and he gets less milk. Some breast-fed babies do get fat, but this does not increase their chances of being overweight as adults. Unfortunately this is not true for formula fed babies.
Offer one breast for 10 to 15 minutes. If your baby still seems hungry, offer the other breast. If only one breast was used, be sure to offer the breast that was not fed on at the next session. Most of the milk flows out in the first five minutes. Burp your baby between sides and at the end of the feeding. Some breast-fed babies seldom burp because they swallow very little air while feeding at the breast. Don’t wake a sleeping infant for burping at the end of a feed.
Keep in mind that if you skip a breast-feeding one-day but you don’t intend to skip it every day, you should express your milk to keep supply up. Breast milk can be frozen for several months and thaws quickly under hot tap water.