By Gail O’Connor
Imagine if a single food could help your baby avoid catching colds and recover from them more quickly, prevent allergies, reduce risk for becoming overweight and even make your little one smarter. You can’t find it on store shelves, but this magical substance does exist, and only you can provide it: breast milk.
So perfect and powerful is human milk that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year (and for however long as mutually desired by mom and baby after that). “Many of the health benefits associated with breastfeeding are greater with longer duration of breastfeeding, so the longer the baby breastfeeds, the better,” says Joan Younger Meek, M.D., clinical assistant professor at Florida State University in Orlando and editor of The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding (Bantam, 2002). The benefits extend to mom, too: Nursing a baby reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, cuts your odds of developing osteoporosis later in life and helps you get back into your pre-pregnancy jeans faster by burning as many as 600 additional calories a day.
Breastfeeding may be the most natural thing a mother can do for her infant (after giving birth, of course), but doing it successfully takes some knowledge and technique. Despite an avalanche of evidence touting its unparalleled benefits, only 33 percent of American women still breast- feed exclusively by six months after their baby is born. But with a little preparation, you can pave the way for a happy, successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Here are a few pointers…