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Expecting? Welcome to Breastfeeding 101!

By: Katie Constantino, MSEd, IBCLC Catholic Charities WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator

Breast milk is the perfect food for your new infant. Your milk composition even changes as your baby grows to meet their needs. Your milk contains living cells that creates a lifetime of health benefits for both baby and the mother.

And did you know? Your baby will be ready to breastfeed/chestfeed within that first hour after birth. Putting your baby skin to skin directly after delivery is now the standard of care for all babies to help them transition to the world and be ready to breastfeed. New babies will need to nurse (or mom will need to pump) every 2 to 3 hours. Removing milk frequently is what tells the breasts to make enough milk.

The first milk that is created is called colostrum. It is golden in color and packed with nutrients. This is produced in a small amount that is the perfect amount for a newborn’s tiny stomach the first few days after birth.

Within the first few days, mature milk production will begin. Continuing to nurse the baby or use a breast pump every 2 to 3 hours will ensure a good milk supply is created. Your baby will give cues that they are ready to feed by such as: fussing, opening their mouth, smacking their lips, making noises and sucking on their hands.

We know when a baby is getting enough to eat by keeping track of their output of wet and dirty diapers and also their weekly weight gain. By Day 5 to 7, baby should have 6+ wet diapers a day and 4+ dirty diapers within 24 hours. Baby should gain about 7 ounces a week the first few weeks. All babies will lose a bit of weight in the first week but will start to gain once the mature milk begins.

Partners and other family members play an important role, too. They can hold baby skin to skin to cuddle, talk, read and sing to baby. They can enjoy giving baby a bath, going to doctor’s appointments and attending childbirth or breastfeeding classes along with you. They can help you cope with any stress that you may be feeling and help you reach out to any postpartum support that you may need. There are lactation professionals available at CC WIC and in the community and mental health professionals here at Catholic Charities that can help you with any challenges that you may be having.

One of the most important gifts that you can give your baby is your breast milk. Feed your milk as much as you can, for as long as you can. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend that infants receive breast milk until at least the age of 2 whenever possible. Each ounce provides health benefits that will last a lifetime.

According to the USDA WIC website, health benefits of breastfeeding include lowering your baby’s risk of certain infections and diseases such as:

  • Ear infections,
  • Asthma,
  • Lower respiratory infections,
  • Diarrhea and vomiting,
  • Childhood obesity,
  • Eczema,
  • Type 2 diabetes,
  • Childhood leukemia, or
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

For moms, breastfeeding can help you recover more quickly from childbirth. It can also reduce your risk for high blood pressure, certain breast and ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding may also help you lose weight after childbirth.

Families enrolled in WIC are able to receive breastfeeding support, including speaking with a breastfeeding expert, receiving basic information and tips, and working with a peer coach for mentoring and guidance.

Catholic Charities is the WIC administrator for Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua counties. To connect with Catholic Charities WIC, please call (716) 218-1484.