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Breast-feeding Questions Answered

Elizabeth Hilliard, M.S., R.D., Assistant Professor of Practice Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Why should I consider breast-feeding my baby?
Breast milk, or human milk, is made by your body to meet the needs of your baby. Your body will put just the right type and amount of calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals into your breast milk. You can think of it as custom baby milk.

Will breast-feeding help keep my baby healthy?
Yes! Breast milk has proteins called immunoglobulins that help your baby get sick less often. Babies who are breast-fed tend to have fewer incidents of ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, wheezing, bronchitis, meningitis, and other bacterial and viral infections. Breast-fed babies are also less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Breast-feeding may help babies grow into healthy adults. It also may help prevent adult obesity, diabetes, asthma, eczema, colitis and some types of cancer.

Will breast-feeding help keep me healthy?
Yes! Breast-feeding will help your uterus return to its normal size after the baby is born. Breastfeeding may help you lose your pregnancy weight, too. If you had difficulty with low iron in your blood during pregnancy, breast-feeding may help your body build iron stores by delaying the return of your period. Breast-feeding may have some long-term benefits as well. It may protect you from developing ovarian and breast cancer, and having bone fractures later in life.

What food should I eat while breast-feeding?
You can eat the same foods you ate while you were pregnant. A healthful, balanced diet including lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, at least three servings of low-fat dairy per day and lean meats will help your body make breast milk. You also should drink about 12 cups of water per day so your body has enough water to make milk. You likely will be more hungry and thirsty, so if you listen to your body, you should have no trouble getting what you need. You even can have a cup of coffee or an occasional soft drink, too. However, if you notice your baby is fussy or not sleeping well, you might want to change to a decaffeinated variety.

Does my baby need any other foods or drinks besides breast milk?
For the first six months, breast milk is the only food or drink your baby needs. At 6 months of age, breast milk still should be the main food in your baby’s diet, but you can add infant cereal and other simple baby foods. You can start giving a few ounces of water at 6 months, too. Between 6 and 12 months, your baby should take breast milk, along with other baby foods and finger foods. At 12 months (one year), babies can start drinking whole cow’s milk. However, breast-feeding can continue and still will provide health benefits past 12 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages breast-feeding for 12 months and beyond if it suits mother and baby.

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