by Jennifer L. Reynolds LVN, CLE, IBCLC, Contributing Writer
What is the big deal with exclusive nursing? Well, there really is a lot a baby can benefit from. As lactation consultants, we encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed as much as possible. Exclusive breastfeeding is the best method for feeding infants according to experts, including the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics.
So, what does it mean to exclusively breastfeed? By definition, it is to give only breast milk to healthy term infants with no other food or drink for 6 months.
Infants should be introduced to nutrient rich solid foods, with particular attention to iron, at 6 months of age, while continuing to breastfeed. (For more information on starting solid foods…)
It also means that when we have a mom or an infant who is frustrated with a feeding, or a baby who feeds on 1 breast only, or even a baby who will not latch at 24 hours of age, we still want to continue supporting the effort to exclusively breastfeed.
At the time of these events, intervention may be necessary, but it doesn’t always mean giving a bottle as the first step. As long as there is no medical indication, let’s remember that the baby can do it. Hopefully we can give it some time to succeed.
When there is difficulty, try these suggestions:
- Use skin to skin
- Work on good and correct positioning using a pillow table to get the most effective latch
- Remember that providing positive encouragement and support can go a long way with a mother who desperately wants to breastfeed her baby
- The three P’s!– Practice, Patience and Perseverance
Lactation consultants assisting moms with these interventions may help them to succeed and exclusively breastfeed their babies.
Why Encourage Exclusive Breastfeeding?
We want to encourage exclusivity because it is linked to longer duration and because breast milk is the healthiest way to feed an infant. Breastfeeding is an unequaled method of providing the ideal food and nutrition for the healthy growth and development of babies. As a natural food, it has all essential nutrients needed for infants the first 6 months.
We would like all our mothers who are breastfeeding to be successful at it. The best way is put that baby to breast frequently – as often as possible because it is both a natural process and a learned behavior.
If a bottle of formula is introduced too quickly a baby’s chance of success is decreased. The baby needs to get used to her anatomy (his mom’s breast) and a bottle nipple is quite different. No matter how they try to replicate it, bottles will never be the same as a mom’s breast.
Exclusive Nursing Benefits for Mom
The benefits for mothers with exclusive breastfeeding are numerous. It provides many positive health outcomes. There is a delayed return of menses for a mother who is exclusively feeding. Maternal weight loss is also enhanced (it is greatest in a mother who breastfeed at least 4 months).
Exclusive Nursing Benefits for Baby
There are many benefits for the baby who is breastfed. Exclusive nursing reduces infant mortality due to common illnesses by strengthening immune support for a quicker recovery during illness. Gastro-intestinal illness is greatly decreased because breast milk adds additional protection against GI infections.
Let’s all try to be an advocate for these new moms who want to breastfeed and help her to achieve these goals!
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