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Why Breastfeeding Is Healthy for Babies and Moms

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. It’s a good time to review how breastfeeding helps both babies and moms. There are also tips for returning to work after maternity leave. Studies have proven that nutrient-rich breast milk is the best food for your baby’s first year of life. Breastfeeding also offers mother and baby the chance to bond emotionally.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, research shows that babies who drink only breastfed milk for at least six months are less likely to develop ear infections. They are also less likely to get diarrhea or respiratory illnesses. Research shows children who breastfeed may be less likely to develop childhood obesity.

Breastfeeding is good for a mother’s health in important ways. It can lower your risk for certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression. It may help you lose weight after your baby is born. Breastfeeding may also help shrink your uterus to pre-pregnancy size. For other benefits, visit kidcentral tn.

During Your Pregnancy

If you decide to breastfeed, here are some tips to help you get ready.

  • Consider buying nursing bras and/or clothes for after the baby is born.
  • Buy bottles and make sure to follow recommendations for different nipple sizes based on the child’s age.
  • Choose a quality breast pump.
  • If you’re a working mom, join a breastfeeding support group to talk with other mothers about breastfeeding while working.
  • Talk with your supervisor about your plans to breastfeed. Talk about different types of schedules, such as starting back part-time at first or taking split shifts.
  • Find out if your company provides a lactation support program for employees. If it doesn’t, ask about private areas where you can comfortably and safely express milk. Employers are required by federal and state laws to provide a place other than a toilet stall.

During Your Maternity Leave

If you plan to breastfeed, here are some suggestions to follow while you’re away from work.

  • Take as many weeks off as you can. At least six weeks of leave can help you recover from childbirth and settle into a good breastfeeding routine. Twelve weeks is even better.
  • Practice expressing your milk by hand or with a quality breast pump.
  • Freeze 2 to 4 ounces of breast milk at a time to save for your baby after you return to work. Remember, breast milk can be stored for up to six hours at room temperature. It can also be stored up to eight days refrigerated and up to 12 months in the freezer.
  • Help your baby adjust to taking breast milk from a bottle (or cup for infants 3-4 months old) shortly before you return to work. Babies are used to nursing with mom, so they usually drink from a bottle or cup when it’s given by someone else.
  • See if there is a child care facility close to work, so you can breastfeed your baby there. Ask if the child care facility will use your pumped breast milk.

Return to Work Gradually

Resuming your job gradually gives you more time to adjust and helps your body make a good supply of milk. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers these tips for women who want to continue breastfeeding as they re-enter the workforce:

  • Start back to work part time for a short period before working full time.
  • If possible, work from home or combine working at home and at work.
  • Go back to work on a Thursday or Friday or just before having one or two days off, depending on your work week. This gives you and your baby a shorter period to adjust to being away from each other before you go back full time.
  • Take Wednesdays off for a few weeks for a mid-week break. Breastfeed on your baby’s schedule to rebuild your milk supply.
  • Work a split shift, with a long break in the middle of the day to go home and be with your baby. This can work well for restaurant workers.
  • When you arrive to pick up your baby from child care, take time to breastfeed first. This will give you both time to reconnect before traveling home and returning to other family duties.

Additional Resource

At any time, you can call the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline toll-free with questions at 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667) and speak to certified lactation counselors. This service is available in any language.