Breast milk is the best food for your baby during the first year of life and we recommend exclusively breastfeeding for about the first six months. Your milk helps your baby grow healthy and strong and can protect him from many illnesses. How does your breast milk do this?
• has hormones and the right amount of protein, sugar, fat and most vitamins to help your baby grow and develop.
• has antibodies that help protect your baby from many illnesses. Antibodies are cells in the body that fight off infection.
• has fatty acids, like DHA (docosahexanoic acid), which help support your baby’s brain and eye development. It may lower the chances of sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS, too (SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old).
• is easy to digest. A breastfed baby may have less gas and belly pain than a baby who is fed formula.
• changes as your baby grows so he gets exactly what he needs at the right time. For example, for the first few days after giving birth, your breasts make a thick, yellowish form of breast milk called colostrum. Colostrum has nutrients and antibodies that your baby needs in the first few days of life. It changes to breast milk in 3 to 4 days.
• is always ready when your baby wants to eat. Your body makes as much breast milk as your baby needs. The more your baby breastfeeds, the more milk your body makes.
What if you are sick? Should you still breastfeed?
In most cases, yes, you should continue to breastfeed. The antibodies your body produces to fight off an illness will be passed to your baby through your milk and protect him. If you stop breastfeeding when you are sick, you will reduce your baby’s protection and even increase his chance of getting sick. If you feel a cold coming on, rest, drink plenty of fluids and keep on breastfeeding. If you are uncertain about whether to breastfeed while sick, ask your Lactation Consultant or baby’s pediatrician.
Have questions? Text or email us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org. We are here for you.