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The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) now recommends women breastfeed for at least 1 year starting within 1 hour after birth and breastfeed on demand. They also recommend pumping and storing your milk if you cannot directly breastfeed. Approximately 60% of new mothers breastfeed but only about 20% are still breastfeeding after 6 months. The AAP also recommends not introducing solids until 6 months so that the baby gets only breastmilk (if possible) during this important time.
Commercial formulas attempt to immitate breastmilk. However, there are many things that science cannot reproduce. Some of the amazing facts about breastmilk include:
  • Premature babies who were breastfed for the first 4-5 weeks had an average of 8.3 points higher on IQ tests 7.5 years later. (From The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. See the books page.)
  • There are at least 400 nutrients in breastmilk that are not found in formula.
  • The nutrients in breastmilk are specifically designed for the human infant and therefore are more easily absorbed by the baby's system. For example, between 50-75% of the iron in breastmilk is absorbed whereas only about 4% of the iron in formula is. Since less nutrients are absorbed from formula, the nutrients are passed through your baby's digestive system as waste (explaining why the stools of formula fed babies smell while those of breastfed babies do not) and may over-tax the waste-disposal system of formula-fed babies. The stools of breastfeed babies are non-offensive because there is less waste from breastmilk.
  • Breastmilk composition changes according to the time of day, and changes as your baby grows, giving him exactly what he needs.
  • Each drop of breastmilk contains white blood cells and immunoglobins which help reinforce the baby's immature immune system.
  • Colostrum contains an antibody (IgA) only available to the baby by breastmilk (it is not passed through the placenta) which protects the baby from germs which enter the baby from the throat, lungs, and intestines. These germs are only a problem after delivery and therefore the mother provides this for the infant at its time of need (delivery) through colostrum. These antibodies are most plentiful a few hours after birth so it is important to feed the baby during this time. (From The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League)
  • Mother can make antibodies on demand for germs encountered by baby. If a baby is infected by a germ for which an antibody is not present in the mother, the germ is passed from the baby to the mother by sucking at the breast. The breast in turn produces an antibody for the germ and passes it back to the baby. (From The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League)
  • Body fat of a breastfed infant is different from that of a formula fed infant and specifically designed for the baby. The fat in breastmilk contains high levels of cholesterol which not only help the brain and nervous system develop but may protect the grown adult from having high cholesterol levels.
  • Long term benefits include increased protect
  • Breastfed babies have fewer ear infections, allergies, diarrhea, bacterial meningtis, and lower risk of SIDS. It may also protect against diabetes and childhood lymphoma.
  • Studies have shown breastfed babies have better oral development and fewer dental problems.
  • Breastmilk contains sleep-inducing proteins to relax your baby. Also the act of baby sucking releases hormomes in the mother which relax her.
  • Breastmilk contains a large amount of water so breastfed babies normally do not need any additional juices or water.
  • Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and early breast cancer.
If you are unsure about breastfeeding or are considering stopping breastfeeding, please read the section entitled "Why Breast is Best" in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and the chapter entitled "Breastfeeding: Why and How" in The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. (See the books page for more informationon on these books.) These two books go into detail about the amazing qualities of breastmilk. I thought I knew alot about the benefits of breastfeeding but was amazed at what I read in those books. It made me glad I had decided to breastfeed.

Ecological Breastfeeding

Through ecological breastfeeding, women can naturally space their babies without using any birth control. This involves frequent nursings by the baby (breastfeeding on demand). This is achieved through mother/baby togetherness, having breastmilk be the primary food for baby (not supplementing with formula), feeding frequently at night (hormomes that encourage ovulation are released more at night), and not using pacifiers which may reduce the baby's need to suck at the breast. It is the frequency of the baby sucking which allows this to happen. When the baby sucks at the breast, it signals the mother to release hormones which supress ovulation. The books page of this site has a book by Shiela Kippley which talks about ecological breastfeeding in depth.

Great Books!

Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing : How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies by Sheila K. Kippley

    Talks about natural mothering and how it is used to space babies. This isn't a breastfeeding how-to book (like the ones below) but stresses the benefits and ways of natural mothering. Goes into a lot of detail and is very good if you are considering ecological breastfeeding.

The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins

    I have read a number of breastfeeding books and this one is my favorite for getting started. The book is a great source of information, and includes an appendix listing drugs that can affect breast milk. I found the entire book to be extremely helpful.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Le Leche League

    Very comprehensive. Discusses everything from nursing the newborn baby to nursing the toddler, diet, fathers and breastfeeding, family bed / nighttime parenting, even has a page on ecological breastfeeding, etc. It is a thick book and very pro-attachment parenting. It is much more than a breastfeeding manual. I loved it! I have heard similar positive comments and recommendations from people I know.

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