Mother bonding with infant on bed
Children's Health, Women's Health

Benefits of Breastfeeding and Proper Infant Feeding

In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, Bayhealth’s Lactation Services Program Coordinator Gail Smith, RN, IBCLC, discusses the benefits of breastfeeding and how to use supplements to breast milk to ensure proper infant feeding and development.

“Breast milk, or human milk, is important because it supports the infant gut microbiome, which is made up of a large number and diverse types of microorganisms. The microbiome plays a crucial role in everything from healthy intestinal development to immune and nervous system function,” said Smith. “This explains why some of the primary benefits of breastfeeding include helping to prevent allergies and ear infections. On the other hand, formula feeding increases risk of diarrhea, lower respiratory infection, diabetes, and asthma in childhood.”

While breastfeeding is the best choice when it comes to infant feeding, for some women and babies it is not an option; for others, they may require supplementation to breast milk. Smith says, in these cases, it is important to use appropriate supplements to breast milk for optimal health and development for the baby.

According to breastfeeding expert Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC, who spoke a few years ago at the Assessing the Breastfeeding Dyad, an annual event hosted by Bayhealth for lactation specialists and other clinical staff, there is also a recommended hierarchy when it comes to infant feeding. Mothers should review this list, and with assistance from clinical staff and lactation specialists, use the option closest to the top that is most viable for her and her baby:

  • Mother’s own breast milk/colostrum
  • Mother’s own breast milk that’s been refrigerated
  • Mother’s own breast milk that’s been frozen and thawed
  • Mother’s own breast milk that has been fortified (if necessary) prior to birth
  • Pasteurized donor banked human breast milk
  • Hypoallergenic formula
  • Elemental infant formula
  • Cow’s milk based infant formula
  • Soy infant formula
  • Water or glucose water

If you are an expectant mom or are currently breastfeeding, Bayhealth has lactation specialists available to provide both in-person and phone consultations, education, and support. It also offers a free breastfeeding class, as well as a free monthly support group facilitated by peer counselors. Visit Bayhealth Classes and Events page or call Bayhealth’s Lactation Services at 302-744-7233 for more information.

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