MS, RDN, CDN
Allison is a registered dietitian who holds a Master’s in Nutrition and Physical Fitness. She also loves helping families get creative with their wellness choices.
The first 1000 days of your baby’s life, from the first day of your pregnancy up to 2 years of life, represent a critical period of growth and development and gives us parents an opportunity to provide an environment that will help support life-long health. This includes the nutrition a baby receives during this period which can have a resounding impact. The most complete form of nutrition for infants, breast milk, offers a range of benefits for health, growth, immunity, and development. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months (and even up to two years and beyond) because of the long-lasting benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby. Many studies—whether focusing on the properties of the milk itself or its effects on babies’ short and long-term health, confirm the significance of these recommendations.
Breast not only is the “best” for both you and baby, but it’s also the norm – it’s how our babies have been fed since the beginning. One of the most important decisions you can make during these first 1000 days of your baby’s life is to choose to breastfeed your baby.
What exactly is in breastmilk? It’s a unique nutritional source that is easy to digest and provides the perfect balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and nutrients to promote the growth and development of your baby. Breastmilk contains hundreds of invaluable substances in human milk – probably more that have yet to be identified – including:
Breastfeeding not only provides your baby with tailored nutrition, but it’s available on demand, day or night, and it’s free of charge! The health benefits go well beyond convenience and cost, however, and will have a far-reaching impact on both you and your baby long after the breastfeeding journey has ended.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby:
Scientific research suggests a substantial number of potential health benefits from breastfeeding. These benefits include:
And if this wasn’t enough, breastfeeding also exposes your baby – through the milk you’re producing – to the varying tastes and flavor profiles of the foods you eat, which can influence food acceptance and preferences when she herself begins to eat food, and throughout her lifetime as well.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for you:
Your baby isn’t the only one who benefits from breastfeeding. The health benefits for the mama (you!) are also significant and include:
Breastfeeding can also just make life easier for you and for the environment, too. At night, putting a baby to your breast is much simpler and faster than getting up to prepare or warm a bottle of formula. It’s wonderful, too, to be able to pick up the baby and go out—whether around town or on longer trips—without having to carry a bag full of feeding equipment. Not to mention you’re sparing the environment the creation and recycling or landfilling of so much formula packaging all while sparing your bank account!
Educate yourself on the benefits of breastfeeding
If you’re pregnant, it’s never too early to learn about breastfeeding to help you make informed decisions about how you’d like to feed your baby.
Plan ahead for breastfeeding success
Before giving birth, familiarize yourself with breastfeeding, latching and what to expect in the first few weeks of nursing. You’ll be swept up in lots of excitement when your baby is born, so having some initial familiarity with these concepts will help with the transition.
Know where to find breastfeeding support
Familiarize yourself with your hospital or birth center’s onsite breastfeeding support as well as support you can access once you’re back home. Supports can include lactation counselors or consultants and breastfeeding hotlines. If you are delivering in a hospital, find out if the hospital supports The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
Identify a local lactation consultant in advance of the birth
Breastfeeding is a new skill for both you and your baby, whether it’s your first or your 4th! While you’ll learn and find your way together, you still may need or simply want additional support, or a home visit. It’s best to locate these helpful individuals in advance! In addition to relying on a Happy Family Coach or lactation consultant, seek out a local lactation counselor or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Aim to breastfeed exclusively (breast milk only) until your baby is about 6 months old
At approximately 6 months, you can introduce solid foods as a complementary feeding method while continuing to breastfeed as the benefits continue well through the first and second years.
If you are unable or choose not to breastfeed, speak to a Happy Family Coach who can help guide and support you in making the best feeding plan for you and your family
Keep in mind the hierarchy of infant feeding choices for the term baby according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:(1) breastfeeding; (2) mother’s own milk expressed and given to her child in some other way; (3) milk from Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) or state licensed milk bank (4) cow-based milk formula; and (5) soy-based formula.
Why It Matters. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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