Mothers and Families
Are you pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant? Maybe you are a first-time mom to a brand new baby. Or, perhaps you are expecting (or just welcomed) baby number three! No matter where you find yourself in your parenting journey, breastfeeding can be a wonderful, exciting and rewarding addition to your life. You may have heard good or bad things about breastfeeding your baby. And you may also be wondering what is true and what is not. The Office of Women’s Health is a reliable, trusted source of information for you. The information that you will find below includes up-to-date research, local and national resources, myths and facts about nursing your baby and all the great programs that the Indiana State Department of Health supports. The Office of Women’s Health believes that every new mom should have the right support and information to successfully nurse her baby. We are here to help and support you and we wish you the best of luck with your new baby!
Breastfeeding: A few important facts
There are many websites and books that talk about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. But, what does the research tell us about:
The Benefits of Breastmilk
- It protects baby from ear infections, diarrhea and constipation, pneumonia, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), obesity, diabetes, asthma and allergies, childhood leukemia and eczema.
- It contains antibodies, hormones, anti-viruses, anti-allergens, anti-parasites, growth factors and enzymes that are not in formula.1
- Your breastmilk is made just for your baby. It changes as your baby grows and his or her nutritional needs change, no matter how long you nurse.
- It is always available for baby and does not require money, a car, bottles, clean water, warming or sterilization.
The Impact of Breastfeeding
- Research shows that there is a positive connection between breastfeeding and better cognitive development through school-age for children. 2
- Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of postpartum depression, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Physical contact is critical to the health and well-being of a newborn baby. Breastfeeding allows mom and baby to be “skin-to-skin” and helps the new baby feel secure, warm and comforted.
- The physical closeness of breastfeeding boosts your oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the hormone that helps breastmilk flow and it also helps relax and calm you.
- Making breastmilk and feeding your baby burns calories and can help you lose your baby weight!
- It is a money-saver in many ways! Families that choose breastfeeding typically save hundreds of dollars per year that might otherwise be spent on formula and supplies. It also saves our economy money because babies stay healthier and parents take fewer sick days at work and submit fewer health insurance claims. 3
Breastfeeding: Myths and Facts
- Breastfeeding hurts - The truth is that it can be quite an adjustment to nurse your new baby. Some tenderness is not uncommon in the first few days of nursing as you and the baby learn this new skill. But, breastfeeding should never be painful. If breastfeeding hurts then there is a problem and you need to seek support. See below for some helpful resources.
- I cannot make enough milk – No matter the size or density of your breasts, they are designed to feed your baby! Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. This means that, the more often you put your baby to the breast to nurse, the more your brain gets the message to make milk. You can tell if your baby is getting enough food if he or she is having a normal amount of wet and dirty diapers.
- Formula is healthier for my baby – Breastmilk is always best for baby. It changes as your baby’s needs change and contains antibodies, hormones, anti-viruses, anti-allergens, anti-parasites, growth factors and enzymes that are not in formula.1 There are cases in which an infant is unable to tolerate milk of any kind or in which a mother has certain health conditions that will not allow her to breastfeed. Some mothers also choose not to breastfeed their babies. In these circumstances formula will be needed for feeding.3
- Breastfeeding will ruin the shape of my breasts – After pregnancy, your breasts probably will not look or feel the same way they did before. In order to prepare your breasts to feed your baby, your body makes changes to the structure inside the breasts. Those changes occur whether or not you breastfeed your baby.4
- I cannot work or go to school if I breastfeed – Many mothers work and/or go to school while nursing their babies! You can use a breast pump to pump and store milk for your baby while you are away. Many breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies are available to you for free through your health insurance or through the Indiana Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
- I will not be able to leave my house and nurse my baby – The state of Indiana supports all breastfeeding mothers. Ind. Code § 16-35-6 allows a woman to breastfeed her child anywhere the law allows her to be. If you feel uncomfortable, there are many fashionable cover-ups and carriers that can help you maintain your privacy.
If you are interested in breastfeeding your baby, have questions or need some help, there are many local and national resources to assist you. You can find them listed below:
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- Breastfeeding USA
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Breastfeeding
- International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE)
- International Lactation Consultant Association
- La Leche League International
- National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
- United States Breastfeeding Committee
- Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health - Breastfeeding
- World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action