Natural Parenting

3 Steps to Breastfeed: Reduce Risks for Mom & Baby

Breastfed infants have lower rates of SIDS; breastfeeding moms show lower rates of postpartum depression. These three steps can help breastfeeding success!When I had my first child 14 years ago, I remembered what breastfeeding friends had told me: Put your baby on your breast the minute he is born. Even if there’s nothing coming out, keep doing it until there is.

I was lucky to have that advice, and to be able to successfully breastfeed my son until he was a year old, and my daughters until they were nine and six months, respectively.

Which is why I was so disappointed in Fran Drescher, who courted controversy in 2011 during a radio interview in which she said that breastfeeding “poisons” infants and recommended that nursing mothers get their breast milk tested for toxins.

Recommending a ban on breastfeeding is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Drescher’s stance was that most breast milk now contains flame retardants, which are known carcinogens. And on that point, I agree with her: Americans now record flame retardant blood levels as much as 100 times higher than Europeans, and the chemicals—which are transmitted through dust to our lungs, blood and even breast milk—are linked to cancer, as well as neurological, developmental and fertility problems.

But recommending a ban on breastfeeding is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater—pun intended. Breastfed infants have lower rates of diabetes, childhood leukemia, skin rashes and SIDS.

As for moms, the benefits of breastfeeding are tremendous: Lower rates of ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes and postpartum depression. A 2013 study found that breastfeeding your baby for at least six months can cut your changes of dying from cancer and other diseases by 17 percent and from heart disease by eight percent.

Yes, we all now have chemicals in our bodies. In fact, babies are now born with more than 200 industrial chemicals in their blood. But there are things you can do to lower the amount in your breast milk. Eat and use organic products, stay away from pesticides and eat lower on the food chain, among others.

Sadly, most of us still don’t breastfeed long enough. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue through the first year, only 25% of women do so (although 75% of us initiate breastfeeding).

Pregnant? The non-profit breastfeeding awareness group Best for Babes is an excellent resource, and suggests taking these steps now to ensure you’ll be able to breastfeed in the future:

1. Take a breastfeeding class: For a referral, find a lactation consultant in your area through the directory at the International Lactation Consultant Association.
2. Read a breastfeeding book: I liked The Nursing Mother’s Companion.
3. Watch another mother nurse—preferably in person, but a DVD will work in a pinch: Try Simply Breastfeeding.

I would also add that to up your chances for successfully breastfeeding, get a good breast pump. I had this Medela, but there are hand-held pumps that work great, too. Even if you don’t plan to pump to fill a bottle, it’s helpful to relieve the pressure that builds up when you first start breastfeeding and your baby’s demand can’t keep up with your supply.

It’s that simple. And so, so important.


  • Priscilla

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  • Victoria Nelson

    Exactly, breastfeeding is a boon for new born child. It is a process in which a mother nurture the baby by her milk which is a unique nutrition source that can’t be replaced by any other food product. It is a easily digestive, nutrient rich and healthy food component which prevent baby from any sort of disease and allergies. Apart from child’s point of view breast milk also helps women to reduce pregnancy weight and reduces the possibility of breast cancer too.

  • Kryistal

    My LO is 16 months and still BFing like a champ! Couldn’t have done it without all the support from family, friends and even my boss at work. May I recommend ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ from the Le Leche League? It’s the most extensive and helpful book for pregnant and nursing mothers that I have found.

  • Kate Harrison

    Such a great video! Mom’s worried about flame retardants should buy organic mattresses and snug fitting flame retardant-free clothing for their babies, not skip breast feeding!

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