Breastfeeding Basics: Part 1

August 1, 2016 by Tammy Howell

Key Takeaways

So What?
Now What?

By Anna Singleton, IBCLC

Anna Singleton, IBCLC with her daughter.
Anna Singleton with her daughter.

Most new parents have seen the lists of breastfeeding benefits and recommendations. However, despite having a plethora of information at our fingertips, the basics of breastfeeding often elude us. Throughout pregnancy, parents are presented with so much information that those lists often become a blur, and the motivation to delve into the research sometimes falls by the wayside. The purpose of this blog is to shed light on two commonly asked questions about breastfeeding: how long should I breastfeed, and what are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have stated that breastfeeding is the ideal food source for infants. The AAP recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding (with the addition of a vitamin D supplement), and continued breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods until the child is at least 12 months old, or as long as is mutually desired by mom and baby thereafter. The WHO also recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding until at least two years of age, with the addition of complementary foods.

Until 12 months of age, a baby cannot obtain the necessary nutrients from solid foods alone for healthy growth. However, the WHO’s recommendation that breastfeeding continue until a child is at least two years of age comes from research showing the fat and protein content in breast milk increases as the child ages beyond 12 months, and breast milk continues to be an excellent source of a variety of vitamins for the breast-fed child (American Academy of Pediatrics; World Health Organization).

When contemplating whether or not to breastfeed, one to two years of nursing may sound overwhelming. There are, however, significant benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and the child.

Benefits to baby include:

  • Decreased incidence of ear infections
  • Decreased incidence of digestive problems
  • Decreased (by 40%) incidence of Type II diabetes
  • Protects against the development of type I and II diabetes
  • Decreased risk of obesity later in life
  • Decreased incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Breast milk changes over the course of the baby’s life to match the baby’s specific nutritional needs

Benefits to mom include:

  • Decreased incidence of breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers
  • Shrinks the size of the uterus postpartum
  • Helps to prevent postpartum hemorrhage
  • Helps with weight loss postpartum
  • May delay the return of menses
  • Decreased insulin dependence in type I diabetes and decreased risk of developing type II diabetes

To learn about more breastfeeding benefits, visit

Breastfeeding is a natural process, but many times the word “natural” can cause confusion because of the assumption that natural means the process should occur without any problems. The truth is that breastfeeding can have many ups and downs. It can be very challenging because learning a new skill takes time and practice.

North Country HealthCare has board certified lactation consultants on staff to help you and your baby in the breastfeeding journey. North Country’s lactation consultants aim to provide a place for women and babies to come and receive the education and support needed to make the healthiest decision possible that fits the needs of both mom and baby. Call North Country HealthCare at 928.522.9400 to schedule a prenatal or postpartum consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant on staff.

Anna Singleton is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She is also a mother, and was previously a Community Health Worker at North Country HealthCare’s Health Start Program, a free neighborhood outreach program that works with pregnant women, new mothers and their families. She can be reached at

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