Not every woman can breastfeed, and some choose not to. It's a personal choice that each mom has to make based on her life and what works for her and the baby. However, women who do breastfeed may wonder what all happens when they are nursing their little ones. Also, what happens when they choose to wean?
Researchers have studied breastfeeding extensively, so we know about the benefits of offering a child breastmilk for as long as mom feels it's a good fit. The World Health Organization recommends nursing exclusively for the first six months and trying to continue nursing until the year mark. Two years is even recommended, and some women choose to go beyond that.
When mom is nursing, she can rest assured that her baby is benefitting. Breastmilk is the perfect nutrient that builds a child's system up and helps them function properly. It's cheaper than formula, and it offers advantages that no other nutrient can.
Fed is best, and as long as a child is being fed mom shouldn't worry. However, women should know what will happen to the baby as long as they are nursing and what to look out for when it's time to wean.
Babies come into the world without much of an immune system. Luckily, breastfeeding helps protect them. The bacteria the baby comes into contact with while going through mom's birth canal will help, and offering breastmilk will then offer the baby immune support that is made just for him.
Besides being the perfect baby food, breast milk contains antibodies and enzymes that offer a baby protection during his most vulnerable time. This may be the reason breastfeeding is linked to less illnesses in infants. While formula can offer a child sustenance, breastfeeding offers babies a unique edge in the immune department.
Mom and the baby will bond whether breastfeeding takes place or not, but breastfeeding is a great bonding experience for both. The release of oxytocin, the cuddle or love hormone, while mom is nursing makes the bonding experience intense for mom and the baby. Plus, holding the little one close and embracing that cuddle time also does the trick.
Many women feel calm when breastfeeding their baby because it focuses their attention on their little one and helps them connect even more with the little person they helped create. Those moments are special and limited, and the nursing years offer many moms some of the most intimate memories of bonding from those days.
Babies learn by practice, just like adults. That's why they will be perfecting those latching and sucking skills during the time that they breastfeed. It will become simple for the little one to latch on and nurse in a way that gets him all the milk he needs to be full.
There is a learning curve for mom and the baby, so having a lactation specialist on hand to help out, in the beginning, is ideal. Nursing shouldn't be painful for mom consistently, and if it is that could be due to the baby not latching properly. If a child is nursing all the time and is still upset and seems hungry, that may be because he's not latching or sucking properly. Get help early, and then the baby can spend the breastfeeding days perfecting his skills.
What mom eats and drinks, the baby eats and drinks. That's why doctors recommend mom doesn't go completely wild while nursing. Spicy food, too much dairy, and alcohol may all upset a baby's stomach if consumed second hand through breast milk.
Children who seem to have upset stomachs after eating may be reacting to something in mom's milk that doesn't work for them. Pediatricians often recommend mom cut out the foods that are known to cause the most problems in babies and see if there is improvement. Mom should enjoy the days she can control what her little one eats because once he is off the breast, he will likely be a bit pickier.
The baby will go through multiple growth spurts early in life, and mom's breast milk will help give the baby all he needs to make it through these. Breastmilk is the perfect mix of nutrients for the baby from mom. Moms who make enough breast milk and let their babies eat when they're hungry will notice massive growth in those early days.
Kids continue to grow even when they are off the breast milk or if they are given formula, but breast milk is truly the perfect nutrient in most cases. Take tons of pictures in those early days because the baby will grow and change quickly.
While the baby will be growing like crazy while he's breastfed, mom will be burning calories every time she feeds him. That's why many women still throw some extra calories and plenty of water into their post pregnancy diets. Mom is eating for herself and the little person who is feeding off of her.
Whether or not this leads to weight loss is different for every woman. Some women drop weight quickly due to breastfeeding, while others don't feel it has any weight loss effects. Either way, mom is burning calories by just offering her child food, so that's a win.
Breastfeeding is a great time to hold the baby close, and holding the baby close means he will benefit from mom's warmth. Skin-to-skin time, which takes place most every time that mom nurses her baby, helps a baby warm up and regulate body temperature. This is important for babies as they are still working to develop fat.
A baby's temperature is not the only thing that regulates during this up-close feeding time. Blood sugar and breathing benefit all from the simple act of nursing a baby near the body. All of these functions are important, and nursing can help make sure they occur properly.
While taking in all the good nutrients in breast milk, the baby will also be getting ready to expel what isn't needed. In fact, many babies will poop while they are nursing, though some wait until they finish their meal. Breast milk tends to have a stool loosening effect, but not in a bad way. It just keeps the baby from getting constipated.
Because breast milk is made clean and pure from mom's body without additives, it processes through the baby's system quickly and efficiently. Breastfeeding moms change a lot of poopy diapers, but they may be spared the trouble of dealing with a baby whose stomach hurts because he can't pass stool.
Mom and her little one may find that breastfeeding feels like a natural sleep aid. When the little one latches on, he gets super comfy and often dozes off. Mom is flooded by oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, and will often find her eyes getting heavy as well.
Babies often wake up from their nursing naps milk drunk and content, but moms don't usually nod off all the way while feeding and caring for an infant. Still breastfeeding offers a time for both mom and the baby to relax and rest, and it's a nice way to recover from birth and labor.
Moms worry about SIDS pretty much non-stop when they have little ones. This mysterious issue isn't known to have one specific cause, but there is something that lessens the chance of it striking: breastfeeding.
Babies who were breastfed were around 60 percent less likely to have it, an incredible find. Researchers also found that breastfeeding a baby longer and exclusively added to the benefit when it came to avoiding SIDS. This reason alone is enough for many women to consider nursing. Besides all the other benefits of breastfeeding, mom can help her child have a lower risk.
Ear infections are painful for little ones and something every parent dreads. Though some will go away on their own, many have to be treated with antibiotics, and babies usually run a fever while their ears are infected.
Avoiding a ton of ear infections may be as easy as nursing. Babies who consume breast milk are less likely to develop ear infections. Because breast milk helps build the immune system, it can keep this childhood infection away and save mom and the baby the pain and sleepless nights it involves. Plus, no matter what position mom breastfeeds her little one in, the breastmilk should protect him.
Many parents don't know exactly when the teething process starts, but moms who breastfeed tend to notice. Teething, the painful process where a child's teeth start trying to push through their gums, usually results in an increased amount of nursing. Babies may even become more aggressive when nursing because their mouths hurt.
The good news is nursing while a child is teething can offer them a load of comfort. The bad news is babies who are teething may want to keep mom up all night chowing down. Plus, those daytime nursing sessions may feel like they never end if a child's gums are sore and they want to stay latched on to mom.
A child's brain develops quickly in those early days, just like their bodies. Researchers decided to find out if breastfeeding affected brain development at all, and the answer is yes! Babies who are exclusively breastfed had better brain development.
Mom shouldn't be discouraged if she breastfeeds and has to supplement. Those babies still showed better brain development than babies who were only formula fed without any breast milk at all. Since those early days offer such major leaps in brain growth, it's incredible that mom can give her little one an extra boost with her milk. It's free and effective.
Since breastfed babies receive a brain boost when it comes to development, they may also acquire words easier or earlier when mom nurses. Cognitive function and other brain development have been shown to go better when a child receives breast milk, and this can benefit a child when it's time to start talking.
A baby will also hear mom talk during nursing. Nestled close to mom's body, the little one will hear her speak and will start to figure out how to make or mimic those sounds. This can happen even if mom doesn't breastfeed, but moms who nurse have plenty of time to simply chat with their little ones while they eat.
Believe it or not, mom's milk has magical powers when it comes to relieving a baby's pain. Researchers found that babies who were breastfed while undergoing a blood test were not as upset as babies who were simply held. Researchers noticed if babies grimaced or cried and if their heart rates or breathing rates increased. Babies who were breastfed did not show as acute signs of pain.
Breastfeeding during or right after vaccines or other medical procedures is a good idea and can take the sting out of those doctor's appointments. It's an effective, easy way to help children make it through those hard days.
All that immune system support doesn't exactly disappear when mom stops nursing since the baby will have the residual benefit of the breast milk. However, many moms notice an increase in illnesses their kids catch when breastfeeding stops.
Some moms seek to lessen the damage, so they store milk before starting the weaning process in case it's needed. If a child starts to come down with something, mom can pull some frozen breast milk from the freezer and give it to the little one in the hopes of keeping the illness at bay. Breast milk truly feels like magic when mom realizes how much illness it likely spared her little one from contracting.
It's okay to nurse an infant to sleep, though many moms choose not to. For those who do, weaning may present some very specific challenges, mainly sleep regression. A baby who has enjoyed the comfort of the breast to doze is going to experience some upset when that process ends.
Planning ahead when mom is thinking about weaning can help with this process. Dad can be the one who starts the night time routine, and mom can start to ensure that she removes the baby from the breast before he falls asleep for naps. These small changes should make the transition easier.
Assuming a child is over six months old when mom quits breastfeeding, she can expect to see an uptake in how much her child eats. Solid food, which a child may resist in the beginning, will likely look tastier now that the breast milk is gone.
Mom shouldn't stop breastfeeding just to encourage her child to eat more solid food. The old saying goes, "Food before one is just for fun", so if a child wants to make a meal out of breast milk, that's okay as long as growth continues. Still, when the milk disappears most children take up the slack by eating more of whatever is offered.
Nursing is a wonderful process for babies and moms because of the connectedness it offers. It's an intimate process that many children grow to depend on for comfort, which is totally normal and natural.
When breastfeeding ends, mom should expect her child to be clingier for a while. Losing the nursing relationship is harder for some kids than it is others, but most want to still be super close to mom, just like they were when nursing. Mom should indulge in more hugs and snuggle time as a child transitions away from the breast. This phase won't last forever, but it can feel demanding when it is happening.
A child who is getting used to giving up the breast may grow to rely on other forms of comfort. Kids who were never interested in pacifiers may start using them to have something to do with their mouths. A blanket that was previously sort of special may be elevated to the most important item ever when a child gives up breastfeeding.
Many children look for the comfort and consistency of nursing in another item, and this is normal. As long as a child doesn't cling to something that can hurt them, many kids go through this phase and come out of it just fine.
Resources: Kellymom.com, Romper.com, Brown.edu