August 1-7: World Breastfeeding Week
5 Things New Moms Need To Know with Dr. David Jaspan, Chairman, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia
1. Formula cannot replace breast milk.
“Breast is best,” states Dr. David Jaspan, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. “The formula companies try to capitalize on their product’s convenience and imply that it is equivalent to breast milk. It is not.”
The main difference between formula and breast milk: antibodies. “The mother makes antibodies that are protective for the baby and those are passed through the breast milk,” Jaspan explains. “Formula companies have not replicated those antibodies. If a baby doesn’t get breast milk, he doesn’t get those antibodies.”
What about using formula as a supplement to breast milk? “In a perfect scenario, the baby would be thriving from breastfeeding without any formula whatsoever,” Jaspan says. “That’s not always possible, but it is the goal.”
2. Babies don’t automatically know how to breastfeed. They have to be taught.
“Breastfeeding is actually a lot of work for babies,” Jaspan explains. “They have to take hold of the nipple and areola. Babies don’t want to do that because it is a lot to have in their mouths. But babies do innately know to suckle, and once they learn that breastfeeding gives them their food, they do it easily. In fact, there is something called the rooting reflex. When babies are hungry and we place them on their mothers’ bare skin, they open their mouths and turn their heads, looking for the breast.”
3. Breastfeeding can begin immediately, although moms first produce colostrum, not milk.
“We encourage skin-to-skin right away,” Jaspan says. “As soon as the mother has the strength to breastfeed, the nurses help her do so. At Einstein, we have lactation consultants and our OB nurses are trained in breastfeeding. They are right there to help moms learn how to do it.
“When women initially breastfeed, they think they should be generating a huge amount of milk to supply the baby, but that’s not the case,” Jaspan explains. “Right after birth, moms produce colostrum, a yellowish substance with a jelly-like consistency. It is full of antibodies and rich in nutrients — and it is exactly what babies need. By the third or fifth day, it changes over to milk.”
4. Weaning is easier for babies than moms.
“We’d like for moms to breastfeed as long as possible and six months would be fabulous,” Jaspan says. “Weaning can be a bit painful for moms. There is a myth is that we can give women medicine to dry up their milk. There is that medicine, but it also can cause seizures, so we don’t prescribe it.
“Women have to go through it the old-fashioned way,” Jaspan explains. “When women are finished breastfeeding, they have to get their breasts to stop producing milk by avoiding all nipple stimulation. We give women several suggestions, like wearing two bras so the breasts are compressed. Ice helps with the discomfort. Even stuffing bras with cabbage leaves helps because cabbage has an enzyme that soothes the nipple and causes involution of the breast. Sometimes, women think that they will relieve the pain by squeezing out a little bit of milk, but if you do that, the body will start producing it all over again. You have to quit breastfeeding cold turkey.”
5. Regardless of the negatives, breastfeeding is positive for babies — and moms, too.
“We have data showing that breastfeeding lowers the risk for post-partum depression in moms,” Jaspan says. “It may also lower their risk of developing diabetes. We know that breastfeeding allows new moms to lose weight. It also helps moms bond with their babies, sometimes in a way that makes men jealous.”