Breastfeeding



Breastfeeding is the act of feeding a baby with milk from the breast, which is the most appropriate and natural source of nutrients for a growing baby.

 
  • Overview
  • Action Plan
  • Ask The Doctor
  • Related Info
  • Success Stories

Overview


I recommend all mothers make a strong effort to breastfeed their babies as long as they can. Currently, the percentage of infants in the U.S. who are being breastfed is relatively high (77%), however, less than 50% of infants are breastfeeding at six months of age, and a little more than 25% are still breastfeeding at 12 months of age.1 These statistics have improved significantly over the years due to increased education and support to mothers but are still too low.

From the baby’s point of view, the more breastfeeding continues, the more the baby benefits. Breast milk is the perfect infant nutrition, especially when the mother is following a Nutritarian eating style. The list of benefits of breastfeeding is quite long and includes an association with:

  • reduced infection rates
  • improved cognitive and social development and function
  • improved development of normal healthy immune system
  • lower risk of allergies, eczema, asthma, and autoimmune disease
  • lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome
  • better oral health
  • better psychological and emotional health from better bonding with the mother
  • lower risk of obesity later in life
  • lower risk of breast cancer and other cancers in later life
  • much more

From the point of view of the mother, breastfeeding is associated with:

  • lower risk of post-partum depression
  • quicker post-delivery weight loss and uterus shrinking
  • lower autoimmune disease risk
  • lower anemia risk
  • lower risk of later life breast cancer
  • much more
 
References
  1. Breastfeeding Report Card United States, 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Action Plan


Ideally, breastfeeding should be exclusive (without the addition of any solid foods) up to 4-6 months and should continue later with the addition of solid food up to 2 years.

As many know, there are often challenges with breastfeeding, primarily during the initial few days to weeks, due to:

  • Sore nipples
  • Low milk or high milk supply
  • Engorgement/plugged ducts
  • Infections (mastitis, fungal infections)
  • Inverted, flat, or large nipples
  • Lack of time (work schedule, etc.)
  • Depression

A Nutritarian diet, in conjunction with proper supplementation including DHA/EPA, is important to prevent problems in pregnancy and lactation. It also improves the quality of the breast milk. In most cases, these problems associated with breastfeeding can be alleviated or prevented with superior nutrition and proper breastfeeding technique, as well as other simple strategies that can be learned by working with a lactation consultant or other experienced professional. Many women who stop breastfeeding prematurely report one or more of these problems as the cause(s), even though they are almost always preventable or workable.

For more advice and help, seek out organizations such as La Leche League and others. La Leche League can even help mothers find breast milk donors if they cannot breastfeed themselves.

 

Ask The Doctor


The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)

Q.

I am breastfeeding my four-week-old baby. The pediatrician said to give him 400IU of Vitamin D daily because breast fed babies are usually found to be deficient in Vitamin D. Is this because the mom is usually deficient? I have had my vitamin D levels checked and am in the normal range. Will I pass this on sufficiently to my baby, or should I indeed be supplementing him with 400 IU daily?

A.

I do recommend baby vitamin D drops too. You don’t want to take the chance because the vitamin D level is so important for their normal development, and it is not adequately passed in the breast milk if the mother is low or borderline. If the mother’s Vitamin D level is normal (I would suggest above 40 in this instance), then studies do show that the child gets enough without supplementing. So, I guess if you are really certain your blood levels are excellent, you can forgo the baby drops.

 
Q.

I am breastfeeding but do not think I am producing an adequate amount of breast milk for my two week old baby. The doctor wants me to supplement but I don’t want to use baby formula. What would be an alternative? I am taking Dr. Fuhrman’s Prenatal vitamin.

A.

La Leche league can be very helpful. Sometimes it is just a matter of repositioning the baby or other things to help. In the meantime, a Nutritarian diet with about 4 oz. of seeds and nuts a day plus the DHA-EPA supplement works great to produce plenty of great tasting milk.

 
Q.

I have an 11-month-old who is currently breastfeeding. He was exclusively breastfed for the first six months before being introduced to foods. He is breastfeeding less often and also breastfeeds for shorter amounts of time. One reason is obviously because he is eating foods, but the other reason is that he’s NOSEY! He doesn’t want to nurse for very long because he must think he’s missing out on other important things. So, I am producing much less milk, almost to the point of not having enough for him on a daily basis, and he won’t drink formula. What can I do if I’m not producing enough milk and he won’t drink formula?

A.

I would not worry about it because even the little bit of breast milk he is getting will be supplying valuable immunoglobulins and other beneficial factors. So, just keep encouraging him to nurse by nursing him when he is hungry instead of giving him food first. Use a breast pump once a day if you have to in order to stimulate milk production.

 
Q.

My seven-month-old is breastfed and now eating pureed vegetables and fruits all made fresh. I hope to nurse until he is one. Can I introduce foods like nuts pureed with veggies to make a creamed soup or berries or potatoes other than sweet potatoes?

I am concerned because I know certain foods could cause allergic reactions, like those mentioned, and should not be introduced until a year old. What is your feeling on this? How about peanuts (peanut butter) and honey? At what age?

A.

The key to preventing allergies is to introduce all the new foods that the mother is eating while nursing is continued. It is stopping nursing and then introducing new foods that increases the risk of allergies. That means, if you hold off until one year of age to introduce nuts after you have stopped nursing, you will be increasing the risk of nut allergy. The best thing to do is to introduce new foods early, not late, and make sure that you and the baby eat them together and the nursing continues well after all the new foods have been introduced. I strongly recommend that nursing be continued for 18 months.

It is best not to introduce honey to a young child at all. It is dangerous before a year but still an unhealthy substance that just fosters a desire for sweets. Peanut butter can be introduced at one year as long as you are eating it first and breast feeding is continued.