Benefits of Breastfeeding
Benefits of Breastfeeding
By Rebecca Cline
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Infant Decreases rates of: Promotes: Benefits of Breasfeeding for the Mother Decreases: Promotes:
It is well-known what wonderful benefits breastfeeding has for both the mother and the infant. Human milk is the best food for newborn infants for the first year of life or longer, especially for premature or sick newborns.
Breastfeeding multiple times throughout the day can positively affect the infant’s health and development as he or she grows in the first months of life; moreover, nursing the infant for an additional month during this time is associated with a lower probability of disability. Breastfeeding should be considered by all mothers for healthy growth of the infant. Exclusively breastfeeding helps protect the infant from infections and have little risk of the development of anemia, even with the low concentration of iron in human milk. Breastfeeding is one of the best things a mother can do for her baby.
Infants Born with a Disability
Babies who are born with a disability need human milk even more than infants who are born without a disability. The benefits the mother’s milk provides for the infant with disability will help the little one gain appropriate weight and become strong for any potential surgeries that may need to be planned. Depending on the type of disability the infant has, the infant can benefit tremendously from the milk. For instance, human milk will boost babies with Down Syndrome’s respiratory systems and may help with bowel issues. The same goes for infants who have cystic fibrosis – the newborn can gain weight and protect its immune system more efficiently with human milk than with formula. The easily digestible human milk is also pleasant for infants who have cleft palates, as it is less sensitive passing through the nasal.
Breastfeeding an infant with a disability may take a little more practice and patience. Mothers should ask for or seek out information about breastfeeding and breast milk pre- and post-natal to better prepare for any challenges. Getting the baby to latch correctly and stay interested will take determination and perseverance from the mother; the medical team or lactation consultant should be able to provide support so that a successful nursing session can take place.
For babies who have a cognitive disability, it may be challenging to breastfeed as these individuals may have too much muscle tone or not enough to properly nurse; therefore, extra provision of cuddling and guiding the chin and jaw can aid with feeding and improve the baby’s abilities. If the infant is not strong enough to continue sucking, it is still important to initiate skin-to-skin contact and attempt a latch. The contact between the baby and the breast benefits both the infant and the mother to create a closer bond.
While nursing the infant with a disability, the mother may need to use different equipment to help with feeding. Additional equipment, such as propping pillows, latex-free items, or supplemental feeding gear should be available for the mother to use while she is at the hospital and once she returns home. These items can be provided for free or at a low-cost loan when collaborating with disability organizations.
There are breastfeeding classes and educational resources available so that mothers and families of infants with disability know about the signs and symptoms of feeding difficulties. These resources also discuss common questions and what to expect when breastfeeding infants born with disability. Refer to the following resources on breastfeeding strategies for infants with common disabilities or babies who may require extra help with feeding:
• Down Syndrome
• Cleft Palate
• Cystic Fibrosis
• Sensory Disability
• Tethered Oral Tissues
What to Do When Breastfeeding Isn’t Working
When breastfeeding is not working at the time for the infant with or without a disability, this can be a very emotional time for the mother. She may experience feeling the loss of something very important to her and may go through grievous and sensitive stages. Even mothers who have followed all of the instructions and suggestions correctly may still not be successful. Try pumping as soon as possible to stimulate milk production. Mothers should express milk and maintain lactation even if the infant is not able to breastfeed temporarily. She should also continue to pump if she is separated from her infant due to a potential medical surgery and may be in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). To assist mothers with milk production, look at a picture or video of the baby while pumping. Be sure that there is also a safe, chilled place to store the milk.
Again, the mother’s milk is the best thing for the infant’s development. This is why it is so important to continue expressing milk even if the infant with a disability cannot properly latch or suck. If the infant is in the NICU, the mother can request that only breast milk is fed to the infant. Likewise, she can request the same if the infant is not able to breastfeed due to a cleft palate, surgery, or other limited function.
For mothers who may have problems producing milk, exploring breast milk banks is a great option. Learn more about breast milk banks and locate one near you by visiting Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
Breastfeeding Resources and Support Groups
There are many resources online and meeting groups in person to support any mother who is planning to breastfeed and/or has questions. Below are some resources listed to learn more about guidelines, statistics, and support groups:
• La Leche League International – http://www.llli.org/
• La Leche League Leaders or Groups – http://www.llli.org/webus.html
• CDC’s “Breastfeeding” – https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/
• Breastfeeding Support – http://breastfeeding.support/
• Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Peer Counseling – https://lovingsupport.fns.usda.gov/wic-staff/peer-counseling
• Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues (MOBI) – http://www.mobimotherhood.org/
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Infant
Decreases rates of:
Benefits of Breasfeeding for the Mother