Benefits of Nursing
Breast milk provides abundant and easily absorbed nutritional components, antioxidants, enzymes, immune properties, and live antibodies. A parent’s more mature immune system makes antibodies to the germs to which they and their baby have been exposed. These antibodies pass to baby in the milk to help protect baby from illness and allergies (particularly beneficial if your family has a history of allergies!). As your baby’s immune system matures, it will make its own antibodies so baby will be more equipped to handle potential allergens and food sensitivities.
Your milk is always ready, always available, convenient, and (when nursing) the right temperature for feeding. Plus, it contains all of the vitamins and minerals your growing baby needs. Breast milk also contains hormones that naturally soothe infants.
Along with saving money on HMR (Human Milk Replacement), breast/chestfeeding can also help you to keep your medical bills down. Babies who are nursed fall sick less often and less seriously than babies on formula (HMR). They also typically have fewer ear and respiratory infections, as well as other health concerns.
Nursing also offers many benefits for you. Your baby suckling at the breast will cause contractions right after birth, leading to less bleeding and helping the uterus to restore its pre-pregnancy shape. Breast/chestfeeding also burns calories and helps shed pregnancy weight.
Expressing Your Milk before Your Baby is Born
There are even benefits to expressing milk before your baby is born. It allows you to collect and store breast milk to feed your newborn instead of formula, if needed for any reason. Your breast milk may come in more quickly after birth. Hand expression also offers an opportunity to become familiar with your breasts and build your confidence. Talk with your healthcare provider before you start to hand express your breast milk to make sure it is a good option for you.
Refusal to Nurse
Sometimes, a baby who has been nursing well may suddenly refuse to nurse. The baby will pull away from the breast then toss their head from side to side. This can happen at any time, so there is no way to predict whether or when it might happen.
Why a Baby Might Refuse to Nurse
When a baby is having difficulty latching onto the breast, it can look and feel like they do not like or want to nurse. Please be reassured that babies naturally love to nurse and be close to you!
If your baby is refusing the breast, put your detective hat on and figure out why. There is always a reason. This is also a great time to seek the help of an IBCLC. Commonly, a baby refuses to nurse because something does not feel right. The source of discomfort may come from torticollis, tongue-tie, body tension, positioning, or tenderness after a very difficult delivery.
Solving the Problem
First, try to identify what may have led to the breast refusal, then begin to treat the cause. Always remain patient and gentle with your baby. Be sure to hold your baby next to you, skin to skin, so they can take the breast when they want. This also teaches your baby that nursing is enjoyable and comfortable. If you are both still struggling, schedule a Lactation Consultation with an IBCLC.