Becoming a parent is one of life’s greatest joys. And once they lay eyes on their little one for the first time, any parent will tell you from that moment forward they’ll do anything to ensure the best for their child. But what’s best for baby has changed in the past few years, so read on to learn more.
Are you interested in protecting your baby from type I diabetes, childhood leukemia, obesity and high blood pressure? What about lowering your child’s risk of developing allergies or even cancer later in life while boosting his or her intelligence? What if you could do all that while helping yourself lose weight and lowering your stress levels? If you’re a mom you can do all that and more simply by breastfeeding.
“For a generation we were told formula was better than breastfeeding, but research shows that’s simply not the case,” says Rosie Sergenian, a lactation consultant with St. Mary’s Hospital. “We need to get back to making breastfeeding a normal part of life and that starts with providing education and support to moms.”
Sergenian says one of the most important things to remember is human milk is made for human babies. But what makes it so special is it adapts to meet baby’s needs.
“The first milk, called colostrum, contains antibodies passed on from mom to baby to help protect the newborn from any type of ‘bug’ that mom has been exposed to,” says Sergenian. “The other thing colostrum does is coat the lining of the baby’s stomach to protect baby from any bacteria it might ingest. Formula just doesn’t do that.”
Breast milk’s nutrients also change over time to meet baby’s growing needs. If baby needs more calcium, mom’s body will provide more through her breast milk, for example.
So why don’t more women breastfeed? Sergenian says part of the reason is past misconceptions that formula is better. Also, some moms and dads worry that baby isn’t getting enough nourishment with just breast milk. But Sergenian notes that’s something you can measure to make sure.
“We watch what the baby puts out – the number of wet diapers, poopie diapers -- and we ask moms to keep track in a log. Every day for two weeks there are output goals. If we know baby’s meeting the goals then they are getting plenty of milk. Very rarely do we see breastfed babies not gaining weight,” she says.
But with babies on formula there can be challenges. Because a bottle’s nipple is so firm, bottle-fed babies are at risk of overeating. She notes that bottle-fed babies often take very large gulps.
Some moms also worry they’ll be sore or won’t produce enough breast milk.
“Unless they have some medical issues, most moms will have no problem producing enough milk for their baby,” says Sergenian. “Soreness is something that can happen when breastfeeding, but it’s very temporary and something a lactation consultant can help moms minimize.”
Overall, Sergenian says the most important thing is to give breastfeeding a chance. It provides the right nutrients to your baby at the right time in the right amount. In addition, the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby are many and help babies develop, thrive and grow to their utmost potential.
Not all babies will breastfeed right after birth though. Sergenian says the staff at St. Mary’s monitor babies during the first 24 hours, letting them rest if they aren’t ready to feed. After that first day, if the baby still hasn’t nursed, moms are encouraged to use a breast pump and work with a lactation consultant to develop a feeding plan. The consultants even support breastfeeding moms who have gone home by answering questions through a special phone number that moms can call any time , day or night.
It’s “Back” to Sleep
Speaking of sleep, do you know which position is best for baby? For years, parents worried their child could choke while sleeping which is why most kids were put to bed on their side or stomach. Since 1994, though, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its guidelines. Doctors now know the safest way for a baby to sleep is on its back.
“Babies used to sleep longer and more comfortably on their tummies, so sleeping on their tummy seemed like the natural thing,” says St. Mary’s Clinical Nurse Specialist, Leslie Jones. “Now we know that placing them in this position puts them at greater risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”
SIDS, as it’s commonly called, is the most frequent reason newborns die in the United States, accounting for more than 7,000 deaths each year. No one knows exactly what causes it to strike, but we do know what you can do to minimize the risks.
“There’s some evidence that in deep sleep babies are not able to blow off enough carbon dioxide and that might be a factor in SIDS,” says Jones.
That might be why back sleeping helps. Babies don’t sleep quite as deeply which might wake them more often and prevent carbon dioxide from building up. Research also shows that back sleeping does not increase a child’s risk of choking.
As word has spread, more parents are putting kids “back” to sleep. But generational habits still exist. Women who raised children prior to the mid 90s may still be proponents of stomach-sleeping, not realizing it’s uncomfortable and could be dangerous as well.
Jones says, “We know that babies who are taught and used to sleeping on their backs and then are put on their tummies to sleep are at an 18 times increased risk of SIDS.”
The bottom line? Be sure to remind anyone who watches your child that “back to sleep” is best.
Jones says parents also are concerned about a child developing a “flat head” from laying on their back in the same position all the time. To make sure this doesn’t happen, she recommends placing the child on its stomach during playtime but only when an adult is there to supervise and never while sleeping.
Unfortunately, African American and Native American babies are at an even greater risk of SIDS with two to three times as more cases as Caucasian babies. In part, this is due to more parents placing their babies to sleep on their stomachs, higher tobacco use and bed sharing.
“We recommend babies be in the parent’s room and within arm’s reach but in their own sleeping areas,” says Jones.
Another way to reduce the risk of SIDS is to use a pacifier.
“Wait one month though until breastfeeding has been established,” she says. “The pacifier can help keep the child’s arousal level up and thus decrease the risk of SIDS.”
And remember kids are at highest risk for SIDS between two and four months of age, but it can strike as late as when the child is 12 months old.
Why Breast Milk is Best
- It protect baby from lung problems, stomach problems & ear infections
- May protect baby from obesity, childhood leukemia and SIDS
- Helps mom lower stress levels, lose weight, and decrease risk of some forms of cancer
St. Mary’s 24/7 Warm Line: 258-6474
Why SIDS is so Scary
SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is what a baby death is labeled when all other causes for death have been ruled out. As the name implies, it happens suddenly and without warning. It kills about 7,000 babies a year in the U.S. with African American and Native American babies at a two to three times higher risk.
Back to Sleep
At this point in time, SIDS cannot be prevented but you can greatly reduce a child’s risk by always placing babies on their backs for sleeping. Also, make sure to pass the word to other caregivers as babies unaccustomed to sleeping on their stomachs are at an 18 times greater risk of SIDS when placed on their stomachs to sleep.