The following information is designed with you, your family's primary caregiver, in mind. The Indian Health Service (IHS) Head Start Program looks forward to being your family's partner in health. Together, we can improve the health of our children and families -- today and in the future.
There are many benefits of breast milk for infants. These include better, more balanced nutrition, easier digestion and protection against infection. There are added benefits of breastfeeding for mothers also. Nursing mothers lose pregnancy weight faster and they enjoy bonding with their babies. Breastfed babies also tend to grow into healthier children and adults, with less risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Future generations of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children can have fewer of the major health problems we currently face.
Here are some important benefits breastfeeding offers to babies:
- Mother's milk contains antibodies that protect babies from ear infections, cold viruses, flu and diarrhea.
- Mother's milk is easily digestible, unlike some types of formula.
- Mother's milk is perfect, balanced nutrition for babies, the way nature intended.
- Mother's milk helps premature babies gain strength and overcome the health setbacks linked to preterm delivery.
- Mother's milk protects babies from obesity and from developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The longer babies are breastfed, the less overweight they tend to be as children and adults. This means they're far less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and other life-threatening conditions linked to obesity.
- Breastfeeding helps babies to bond with their mothers and to feel warm and secure.
Here are some important benefits breastfeeding offers to mothers:
- Breastfeeding is convenient and free. There is no formula to buy and no bottles to prepare or clean.
- Breastfeeding can help mothers to lose pregnancy weight more quickly.
- Breastfeeding helps to shrink the uterus and reduce bleeding.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers.
- Breastfeeding helps a mother bond with her baby.
Fathers play a vital role in all aspects of a child's growth and development. While mothers have the primary responsibility when it comes to breastfeeding, fathers can also participate. Here are some ways that fathers can be more involved with breastfeeding:
- Take your child to his or her mother when it is time to breastfeed.
- Help mom by taking care of any other children in the house while she is breastfeeding.
- Help her feel more comfortable while she is breastfeeding, and if she needs anything, get it for her.
- Set aside some alone time just for you and your baby.
Here are some breastfeeding challenges and advice on how to manage them. Always consult with your primary healthcare provider or lactation consultant regarding any of these complications.
- Sore nipples
- Plugged ducts and breast infection
- Inverted nipples
- Low milk supply
To combat breastfeeding challenges, keep these three helpful tips in mind:
- Nurse early and often.
- Nurse with the entire nipple and areola in the baby's mouth, not just the nipple.
- Breastfeed on demand.
To ensure that your baby gets fresh milk, follow these simple storage instructions:
- Any container can be used to store breast milk as long as it is clean and sterile.
- Leave about an inch of space in the container to allow the milk to expand when frozen.
- Label and date the container used to store the milk, and always use the milk with the oldest date first.
- Breast milk can be stored in bottles that fit directly onto your breast pump or in pre-sterilized plastic bags. Glass bottles are best for freezing breast milk because there is less chance of contamination.
- Frozen breast milk does not take long to thaw. Never place a frozen bag or container in a microwave to thaw. Simply place the container under cool, then warm running water, or heat the milk in a pan filled with water on the stove.
- Colostrum, the first milk expressed in the first few days after delivery, can be stored at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
- Mature milk, or breast milk that comes in six days after the birth of your baby and beyond, can be stored in the following ways:
- Room temperature
- At 60 degrees F for 24 hours
- At 66-72 degrees F for 10 hours
- At 79 degrees F for 4-6 hours
- At 86-100 degrees F for 4 hours
- At 32-39 degrees F for up to 8 days
- Can be stored up to 2 weeks if kept in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.
- Can be kept for 3-4 months if stored in a self-contained freezer either on top of or alongside of the refrigerator.
- Can be stored for 6 months or longer if kept in a deep freezer set at a constant 0 degrees F.
Breastfeeding Tips and Resources for Head Start Families:
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