The benefits of breast feeding for mom and baby are well established.
"That colostrum which is the first milk that the mom makes in the first few days," explained pediatrician Dr. Ashley Lucas. "It's chock full of antibodies and other immune benefits that we don't even fully understand."
"It also burns a lot of calories, helps mom get back to the pre-pregnancy weight faster and in the very beginning it helps the uterus to contract and help reduce postpartum bleeding," said OB-GYN Dr. Elizabeth Buchert.
Breast feeding is not an easy task, and mothers who embrace the practice often face major physical, mental and even cultural challenges. Those challenges often lead to many moms giving up on breast feeding.
Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breast feed exclusively for the first six months of her child's life.
"Mom is hearing one thing from her mother and one thing from her sister and one thing from her doctor and maybe another thing from her nurse and it can be confusing," said Lucas.
There is a new study to be published in the journal Pediatrics that shows babies who receive a limited amount of formula in the first few days of life in addition to breast feeding, actually end up breast feeding longer. Both Lucas and Burchert believe this study could add to the confusion many mothers face.
Read a press release on the study here.
"It really kind of flies in the face of decades of better quality research on thousands of women that shows the best way to promote breast feeding is have it be exclusive in the first few days," said Lucas.
The study out of San Francisco focused on a small group of 40 women. During the first few days of life, babies who were not gaining weight were given a tiny amount of formula through a syringe after the mothers breast fed. This was done to promote weight gain. Three months later, the study found those babies who received the limited formula were more likely to still be breast feeding.
The authors believe the added formula also eased the worry that most new moms have about producing enough milk for their baby.
However, local experts stress that it's normal for a baby to lose some weight during the first few days, noting that women normally do not produce a lot of milk at first.
"It is ok for your baby to lose weight, or it's ok for your baby to be a little fussy. It's ok for your baby to be a little jaundice. You're not going to make a lot of milk in the first few days, and that's ok," said Lucas.
Buchert encourages all of her patients to breast feed exclusively unless there is a medical issue. She worries the study will be taken out of context.
"I do think it's an interesting thing to look at, how can helping moms get through the anxiety," said Buchert "Although we know from years and years of research that exclusive breast milk is the best and that continuing to put your baby to breast when your baby is hungry is what continues to give you the best supply."
The authors of the study stress their goal is to help mothers breast feed longer.
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