Promoting the Benefits of Breastfeeding

July 29, 2015 Brigham and Women's Hospital

Breastfeeding provides benefits to babies and their mothers.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, a good time to talk about the significant short- and long-term benefits that breastfeeding provides to babies and their mothers. This includes lower risk of ear infections, pneumonia, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome for babies and lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancers for mothers.

In 1991, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund launched the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative to establish practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. Brigham and Women’s Hospital is participating in this global effort. Below is an overview of the baby-friendly practices that we follow and promote at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Women and Newborns to help initiate and extend the duration of breastfeeding.

Skin-to-skin care

Mothers and babies have a natural instinct to be close immediately after birth. In the first hours of life, skin-to-skin care brings the baby from the safe environment of the womb to the comfort of the mother’s chest. The first hours of life are an important and exciting time for a new family.

During this special time, a baby is alert and eager to bond with parents. Skin-to-skin care involves placing a baby’s bare body against the mother’s bare chest. If the mother is not available, the baby also can benefit from skin-to-skin contact with the father, partner, or other caregiver. Our nurses will help patients learn the proper skin-to-skin technique.

When to start/how often to use skin-to-skin care:

  • As soon as possible after birth
  • When the baby is sleepy – to help wake the baby for feeding
  • When the baby is cold – to help warm the baby
  • When the baby is fussy – to help quiet the baby
  • Anytime – for the comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment of baby and parents

Baby benefits:

  • Helps keep temperature, heart rate, and breathing normal
  • Helps keep blood sugar and oxygen levels normal
  • Lessens crying, which saves energy
  • Improves ability to fight infection
  • Promotes better and more frequent feedings
  • Lessens weight loss
  • Reduces stress hormone level

Mother benefits:

  • Increases the amount of colostrum (early milk)
  • Lessens engorgement
  • Helps mother respond to baby’s feeding cues easily
  • Promotes relaxation, sleep, and healing
  • Increases confidence in caring for the baby


Rooming-in enables a mother and her baby to remain together for 24 hours a day after delivery. We do our best to keep babies where they’re meant to be, which is with their families.

By keeping a baby and mother together in a room:

  • The mother will notice signs of hunger sooner.
  • Breastfed babies eat better when they feed on demand.
  • Rooming-in establishes early bonding and increases maternal confidence.
  • The baby will cry less and relax quicker.
  • The baby will lose less weight.
  • The baby will have less jaundice.
  • The parents’ and baby’s stress levels are lowered, and the baby’s sleep is improved.
  • The mother will learn nighttime parenting skills, which will help her to be better prepared for home.

During the rooming-in period, our nurses will provide a mother and her family with education to help them:

  • Feed their baby
  • Learn about the baby’s care
  • Comfort the baby
  • Learn normal newborn behaviors
  • Respond to the baby’s needs
  • Find time to rest

The more time that a parent spends with their baby, the better they will get to know each other. And the more the parent knows about their baby, the better they can meet their baby’s needs.

Pacifier recommendations

While BWH does not routinely provide pacifiers for breastfeeding newborns, parents that choose to use a pacifier for their baby may ask for one.

Pacifier recommendations from The American College of Pediatricians:

  • For breastfed infants, delay pacifier introduction until breastfeeding has been
    firmly established, usually by three to four weeks of age.
  • Pacifiers should not be hung around an infant’s neck or hand.
  • Objects that might present a suffocation or choking risk, such as stuffed toys, should not be attached to pacifiers.
  • The pacifier should be used when placing the infant down for sleep and not reinserted once the infant falls asleep. If the infant refuses the pacifier, he or she should not be forced to take it.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently received the IBCLC Care Award, which is given to facilities that staff professionals who hold the prestigious International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® certification and that provide a lactation program that is available five to seven days a week for breastfeeding families.
- Chris P.
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