Pediatric Perspectives: Why should I breastfeed?

Dan Galka

By Dan Galka, MD, Pediatric Partners at Valley View

Welcome to my first ever blog post. I thought the perfect place to start is at the beginning—feeding your baby! Moms have a lot to think about after delivering a newborn, but none more forefront than how to feed your baby; breast milk or formula.

I try and encourage all new moms (and dads) to consider breastfeeding. Breast is best and you will be hard-pressed to find a pediatrician or doctor that will tell you otherwise. There are certainly reasons why nursing may not be the right choice for you, and I will be the first in line to tell you, that’s okay!

Why choose breastfeeding?

It doesn’t get any more natural than breastfeeding. Your breast milk is full of calories, nutrients and minerals that are custom made just for your baby. It’s also instantaneous; no fuss, no muss and ready immediately without any warming needed. Plus, your body makes it on demand, which means if your baby is eating every two or three hours, your body will be ready at the exact time when the baby is ready. Some people will even tell you that a mother’s body will change the content of the milk from feed to feed to meet the baby’s exact needs. This process is incredible!

Breastfeeding is also hugely advantageous in your baby’s immune system. Your milk contains antibodies specially designed to help protect him or her from things like the common cold, ear infections, allergies, diarrhea, and intestinal illness. Breastfeeding can even be protective in preventing or minimizing asthma! While this protection is a helping factor, it is not absolute. Breastfeeding your baby does not mean that they can’t get sick.

One important thing to note about breastfeeding is that Vitamin D is not present in breast milk. This vitamin is the one that your body gets from the sun and is important for developing strong bones and preventing disease such as rickets. Although not impossible, it is difficult to get enough Vitamin D in the milk to transfer over to the baby; thus, moms of breastfed babies should supplement with Vitamin D drops. You can find these drops at most grocery stores or online, and dosing is generally around one drop to one mL per day; however, be sure to follow the directions on the box.

Formula

There are times when formula may seem appealing to you and your baby. One common reason I see is the time it takes for a mom’s milk to arrive.  On average, breast milk takes 72 hours, from the minute your baby is born, to “come in.” This means that sometimes it is sooner and sometimes later. This is part of the reason why babies eat so much—their tummies are small, about the size of an almond—and they fill up quickly, but also empty quickly. Don’t give up on breastfeeding because there is no milk in the first few days. Your baby is designed to take this.

Technique is also a reason some mom’s may choose formula. Breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby. It takes time and experimenting. Even if you have already nursed five other kids, your sixth baby could be completely different. My advice is to not give up!

Tongue ties can also be another barrier to breastfeeding. Many babies have a tongue tie, but this does not necessarily mean there will be an issue or that anything needs to happen; however, it can lead to difficulty while breastfeeding. If you suspect your baby has a tongue tie, talk to your doctor about what your options are, and keep in mind, the best medicine might be just a little time.

Making your choice 

As you near your delivery date, you and your family will likely be asked often if you plan to breastfeed, and if not, why not. If your reasons why not are because you are afraid, nervous, don’t want to fail, or it didn’t work last time (all reasons I’ve seen), let’s talk more together and give it a try. If there is more to it and nursing just isn’t for you, that’s okay too. I encourage you to use your resources, find a lactation nurse to help and ask questions.

As a pediatrician I can provide you with recommendations and information, but when the tires meet the road, I have no experience in nursing a baby (surprising, I know), and to be truly honest, the science and art of nursing is a specialty in and of itself.


Dan Galka, MD is a board-certified pediatrician at Valley View’s Pediatric Partners. Born and raised in upstate New York, he earned his medical degree from the State University of New York (SUNY) and its Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook. He completed a pediatric residency at the Naval Medical Center San Diego. After eight years’ active duty in the Navy as a lieutenant commander and primary care physician, he moved his family from North Carolina to Glenwood Springs. Dr. Galka’s patient care philosophy is to put the kids first. He enjoys getting to know both his patients and families equally and enjoys running into them at the grocery store in this small community. Outside of work, aside from being a Star Wars nerd, he enjoys family time, cycling and competing in triathlons. He is currently welcoming new patients of all ages, birth to 18, in Glenwood Springs, Silt and Willits in Basalt. 

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 970.947.9999.

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