Article courtesy of Consumer Reports
As you probably know, these days, “breast is best.” The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as a number of leading professional organizations, including the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the World Health Organization, recommend breast-feeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, unless there’s a medical reason not to do so, without supplementing with water, formula, or juice.
If you want to continue breastfeeding non-exclusively after that, these groups say all the better. That’s because breast milk—custom-made nourishment specially formulated by Mother Nature—offers so many benefits: It boosts your baby’s immune system, promotes brain development, and may reduce your child’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as well as diabetes, some types of cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, and asthma later in life. Breastfeeding helps moms return to their pre-baby weight faster, and may decrease the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and even osteoporosis.
Breast-feeding is convenient—there are no bottles to prepare and warm—and it’s free! There’s no formula to buy, which can run you up to an average of $124 per month, depending on the type of formula you buy. But unless you plan to take your baby with you wherever you go and the process always goes smoothly, you’ll probably need a breast pump. In fact, a pump can be indispensable for nursing mothers in a number of scenarios: You want to continue breast-feeding but return to work; you need to formula-feed your baby temporarily for medical reasons but want to resume breast-feeding when you get the go-ahead from your doctor; or you need to miss a feeding occasionally because you’re traveling or otherwise away from your baby.
A breast pump may come in handy during those first few days after you’ve delivered, when the breasts can become so full that a baby may have trouble latching on. Things can be sailing along in the hospital, but when you get home, supply can outpace demand. The solution is to express some milk with a breast pump—and to have one on hand before your baby is born, so you’re ready to go as soon as you return home after delivery. A breast pump also allows you to store milk (in bottles or storage bags) for later, then bottle-feed it to your baby or mix it with a little in cereal when she reaches the “solid” food stage at around 6 months.
You can refrigerate breast milk safely for 24 hours, or freeze it for three to six months. A housekeeping note: Date it when you freeze it and store it in the back of the freezer, not in the door. That’s a warm spot that can prompt thawing every time the door is opened. When the time comes to use it, thaw breast milk in warm water. Don’t boil or microwave it; both of those heating methods can destroy valuable immunological components that make breast milk the liquid gold it is. Microwaving can create uneven “hot spots” that can scald a baby’s mouth and throat.