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Breastfeeding is best for baby and mom

By Neeti Misra, M.D., FACOG

Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. For the first six months of your baby’s life, breast milk will be the only food that contains the perfect amount of nutrients while being gentle on your baby’s developing digestive system.  Babies under six months should feed exclusively on breast milk, after this point you can introduce solids to your baby’s diet along with breast milk until at least 1 or 2 years old.

Breast milk is rich in nutrients that are easily absorbed and used by your baby’s body. Formula does not compare in its nutrient quality, as your baby does not absorb the synthetic nutrients in the same way. Breast milk nutrients include sugar (carbohydrate) and protein, providing your baby with a hearty meal at every feeding. The nutrients in breast milk are the best for your baby’s brain growth and nervous system development. Studies of breast-fed babies have found that they do better on intelligence tests when they grow older. Additionally, due to certain types of fat in breastmilk, breastfed babies’ eyes also work better.

A baby that is a breastfed is also a healthier and stronger baby. The nutrient rich milk will provide babies with an extra layer of protection against infection and disease and they’re better equipped to fight anything from mild infections to more severe ones that might have otherwise led to hospitalization. Studies show breastfed babies also have far fewer digestive, lung and ear infections. If your baby gets an infection when breastfeeding, the infection is likely to be less severe. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for babies born early or prematurely, as they less likely to get a serious infection of the intestines called NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis).

Breastfeeding helps protects babies from many serious health problems; breastfed babies have a lower risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) as well as a lower risk of getting asthma and skin problems related to allergies. Formula-fed babies are more likely to have milk allergies, furthermore, breastfed babies have less diarrhea and a lowered chance of getting some digestive conditions as formula can actually change healthy bacteria in a baby’s intestines that helps with digestion and fighting disease.

Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother, breastfeeding mothers can restore their pre-pregnancy weight easier and are less likely to get breast and ovarian cancer later in life.

Breast milk is the best option when it comes to feeding your baby, unless a doctor recommends otherwise, you should not give your baby water, sugar water, formula or solids during their first six months. In addition to your breast milk a health care provider may also direct you to feed your baby vitamins, most often vitamin D, it is important to give your baby the exact type and amount of vitamins your doctor has recommended.

For all these reasons, breastfeeding only is almost always recommended; however, if there are any issues that arise making breastfeeding unviable, consult your health care provider to know what options are best for you and your baby.

To learn about and enroll in programs and services promoting good health for expectant parents and babies, stop by Baby Fest from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 3 in Raritan Rooms C&D, Raritan Bay–Perth Amboy. The event includes education, maternity unit tours, giveaways, refreshments, a raffle and more. To register for Baby Fest, call 1-800-560-9990.

Board certified obstetrician and gynecologist Neeti Misra, M.D., is director of the Women’s Health Center at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center.  Dr. Misra provides comprehensive health care services for women of all ages and accepts all insurances. The center is located at 466 New Brunswick Ave., Perth AmboyTo make an appointment with Dr. Misra, call 732-324-3250.

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