From the Office of Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services

Breastfeeding Fact Sheet

The experience of breastfeeding is special for so many reasons: the joyful closeness and bonding with your baby, the cost savings, and the health benefits for both mother and baby. Every woman’s journey to
motherhood is different, but one of the first decisions a new mom makes is how to feed her child. Here, you’ll find facts about breastfeeding and get practical tips on how to make breastfeeding work for you while
getting the support you need.

Q: Why should I breastfeed?

A: Breastfeeding is normal and healthy for infants and moms. Breastmilk has hormones and disease-fighting cells called antibodies that help protect infants from germs and illness. This protection is unique and changes to meet your baby’s needs. Some reasons to breastfeed are:

• Breastfeeding offers essential nutrients and a nutritionally
   balanced meal
• Breastmilk is easy to digest.
• Breastmilk fights disease

Q: How long should I breastfeed?

A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months, and for as long as both the mother and baby would like. Most infants should drink only breastmilk for the first six months.

Q: Does my baby need cereal or water?

A: Until your baby is 6 months old, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding your baby breastmilk only. Giving your baby cereal may cause your baby to not want as much breastmilk. This will decrease your milk supply. You can slowly introduce other foods starting around 6 months of age.

Q: Does my baby need more vitamin D?

A: Most likely, yes. Vitamin D is needed to build strong bones. All infants and children should get at least 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day. To meet this need, your child’s doctor may recommend that you give your baby a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU each day.

Q: Is it okay for my baby to use a pacifier?

A: If you want to try it, it is best to wait until your baby is at least 3 or 4 weeks old to introduce a pacifier. This allows your baby time to learn how to latch well on the breast and get enough milk. Once your baby is breastfeeding well, you should use the pacifier when putting your infant to bed to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Q: Is it safe to smoke, drink, or use drugs?

A: If you smoke, the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to quit as soon as possible. If you can’t quit, it is still better to breastfeed because it may protect your baby from respiratory problems and SIDS. Be sure to smoke away from your baby, and change your clothes to keep your baby away from the chemicals smoking leaves behind. Ask a doctor or nurse for help quitting smoking!

You should avoid alcohol in large amounts. An occasional drink is fine, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting two hours or more before nursing. You also can pump milk before you drink to feed your baby later. It is not safe for you to use an illegal drug. Drugs such
as cocaine, heroin, and PCP can harm your baby. Some reported side effects in babies include seizures, vomiting, poor feeding, and tremors.

Q: Can I take medicines if I am breastfeeding?

A: Most likely. Almost all medicines pass into your milk in small amounts. Some have no effect on the baby and can be used while breastfeeding. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about medicines you are using and ask before you start using new medicines. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and dietary or herbal supplements. For some women, stopping a medicine can be more dangerous than the effects it will have on the breastfed baby.

Q: Do I still need birth control
if I am breastfeeding?

A: Yes. Breastfeeding is not a sure way to prevent pregnancy, even though it can delay the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. Talk to your doctor or nurse about birth control choices that are okay to use while breastfeeding.

Q: Does my breastfed baby need vaccines?

A: Yes. Vaccines are very important to your baby’s health. Breastfeeding may also help your baby respond better to certain immunizations, giving him or her more protection. Follow the schedule your doctor gives you. If you miss any vaccines, check with the doctor about getting your baby back on track as soon as possible.

To view the original fact sheet document in it's entirety, click this link: Office of Women's Health Breastfeeding Fact Sheet.

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