• Consumer Health: Support for breastfeeding

a young Black woman breastfeeding an infant in her arms

World Breastfeeding Week will be observed Aug. 1–7, which make this a good time to learn more about the importance of breastfeeding and ways to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently affirmed its recommendation and advocacy for breastfeeding, stating, "Research has shown that breastfeeding is linked to decreased rates of lower respiratory tract infections, severe diarrhea, ear infections and obesity. Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome, as well as other protective effects."

Specifically, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation is for:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months of life before introducing nutritious complementary foods.
  • Breastfeeding as long as mutually desired for two years or beyond.
  • The need for support of mothers who choose to breastfeed.

As important as breastfeeding is, though, it's like any other new skill: It needs to be learned, and questions and concerns often can arise along the way.

Breastfeeding can be challenging. Reading about it is one thing. Doing it can be a very different experience.

Learning the positions that work best for you and your baby is an important first step. A newborn's feeding pattern can be unpredictable, but you can look for cues from your baby that can signal readiness to feed and satisfaction when finished.

Maintaining your milk supply during breastfeeding is important for your baby's health and growth. Many factors can cause a low milk supply, including not breastfeeding often enough, supplementing breastfeeding and an ineffective latch. Here are some tips to boost your milk production.

Babies sometimes suddenly will refuse to breastfeed after breastfeeding well for months. This doesn't necessarily mean your baby is ready to wean, though. Your baby may be trying to tell you something. Common causes of a "breastfeeding strike" include teething, illness, distraction and reduced milk supply. Here are some tips for managing this time and getting your breastfeeding pattern back on track.

Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients for your baby to boost the immune system and promote growth and health. You might have questions, however, about your own diet while breastfeeding. What foods are best? Do you need to increase your calorie intake? Are there foods you should avoid? Here are some basic nutrition tips for breastfeeding moms.

If you need to take medications while you're breastfeeding, you may have questions about safety and the effects on your baby. Almost any drug that's present in your blood will transfer into your breast milk to some extent. Most medications do so at low levels and pose no risk to most infants. However, some drugs can become concentrated in breast milk. As a result, every medication must be considered separately. Here's what you need to know about breastfeeding and medications.

If someone in your life chooses to breastfeed, your role is important. From learning about the benefits of breastfeeding and attending breastfeeding classes to providing encouragement and extra time for her to rest, your support can make all the difference.

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