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Why Breastfeeding is Best for Baby
By Dr. Sally Robinson and Dr. Keith Bly

One of the first choices that parents have to make is whether their baby will be breast or bottle-fed. Though this is a personal choice, there are many benefits to breast-feeding that parents should consider:

• Breast-feeding allows antibodies to pass from mother to baby. Antibodies are produced by the body as defense from conditions, such as ear infections, diarrhea,allergies, whooping cough, and coughs. Breast-fed babies often have fewer infections than babies that are fed formula.
• Breast milk is easier for a baby to digest and contains more nutrients that your baby needs.
• It is free.
• Breast-feeding is more convenient because there are no bottles to mix or sterilize and breast milk is free from bacteria.
• It does not have to be heated, unless it is pumped and stored in bottles.
Pumping breast milk can allow either parent to feed the baby and allow for the same flexibility that bottle-feeding. Babies that are fed formula may have more gas and firmer bowel movements than those fed breast milk and formula does not provide antibodies. If possible, do not microwave your baby’s bottles. Microwaving changes the composition of breast milk and heats it irregularly and may burn your baby. Always check the temperature of any bottled milk by squirting a few drops on your hand before you feed
your baby.

If you choose to breast-feed your baby, make sure that you let the hospital staff know so that your baby is not given a bottle. Breast milk may take a few days to come in, especially if you have been given pain medication or anesthetics during delivery or a caesarean section.

Nurse your baby as soon as possible after birth. If you are having problems finding a comfortable position or your baby is having trouble latching on properly, ask a nurse to help you. It may take a few tries before your baby latches on properly. You may have to wake your child up to eat to ensure that he or she is getting enough to eat and that your milk supply will increase. Newborns may seem to nurse constantly during the first few weeks of life.

Keep distractions to a minimum while feeding your baby. It may take a few days before you find the most comfortable feeding position for you and your baby. To make nighttime feedings easier, you may want to consider putting your child’s crib or bassinet in your room for the first few months, but only if there is no smoking in the room.

Smoking is associated with a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
For nighttime feedings, keep the room dark and stimulation to a minimum. This will encourage your baby to fall back asleep. Because babies grow at different rates, you may wonder if your child is getting enough nutrients to develop properly. Four to six wet diapers per day is a good indicator that your child is getting enough to eat.

Breast-feeding may not be an option for mothers with medical conditions, such as HIV, AIDS, or some types of hepatitis and those undergoing chemotherapy or treatment with certain medicines. Check with your doctor if you have any of these conditions.

Dr. Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit: www.utmb.edu

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