In our Listen to Your Mother (or Father) series, we ask moms and dads working at Highmark to share the wisdom that can only come through the experience known as parenthood. Children (of any age) have a great deal to teach the rest of us; this month’s lesson offers tips for busy moms who want to breastfeed.

Deepthi Harkar's children, Nitya and Dhruv

My daughter Nitya holds her little brother, Dhruv.

Breastfeeding provides health benefits for both mothers and babies, so much so that the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. That’s why it’s important to stick with it even when the time comes to return to work.

Breastfeeding is important to me because I always wanted to give the best to my kids. It became even more important to breastfeed my kids after I returned to work full time, because it’s a way I can connect with them even when I’m not around them for part of the day. Plus, more and more research shows innumerable benefits of breastfeeding for babies both in terms of their physical and intellectual development.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother and Baby

Many new mothers enjoy the physical and emotional connection while breastfeeding, but the benefits don’t stop with feelings of love and attachment. Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of some health problems, including breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

For your new baby, breast milk has all of the nutrients he or she needs, plus antibodies, enzymes and other substances that boost the immune system. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for at least four months are less likely to be hospitalized with a wide variety of illnesses.

Knowing all of the benefits doesn’t mean breastfeeding comes easily for all new mothers. From cracking to leaks and latching issues, The Bump website has solutions you can try for the 10 most common breastfeeding complications.

Breastfeeding: A Practical Choice

Mothers who breastfeed recover from childbirth more quickly and easily compared to their counterparts. Breastfeeding also makes it easier to lose weight because you are using extra calories to feed your infant. Exclusively breastfeeding and using a breast pump to take milk home for my son helped me lose most of my postpartum weight. And it’s not just me; lately many celebrities have also credited their postpartum slimming to breastfeeding.

Human milk is also much less expensive than formula. During nursing you will need, at most, an extra 400 to 500 calories in your daily diet to produce sufficient milk for your baby. Formula can cost between $4 and $10 per day, depending upon the brand, type (powdered versus liquid), and amount consumed.

At night, putting your baby to your breast is much simpler and faster than getting up to prepare or warm a bottle of formula. It’s also easier to pick up your baby and go out without carrying a bag full of feeding equipment. Breastfeeding is also environmentally friendly, since there are no bottles to wash or formula cans to throw away.

Last but not least, breastfeeding is the one parenting behavior that only a mother can do for her baby, creating a unique and powerful physical and emotional connection. I feel that connection every day when I see my kids after work and hug them. It wipes out my stress and I feel the calmness that I experience when I nurse. That feeling makes the extra effort to pump at work worthwhile.

Breastfeeding Tips from a Fellow Mother

There is no need to be on a special diet or avoid certain foods while you breastfeed your baby. You can continue to enjoy your usual family meals. Here are some tips:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated. Try to drink a glass of water every time you breastfeed.
  2. If you follow special diets like a vegetarian or vegan diet, talk to your health care provider about vitamin supplements.
  3. An active lifestyle helps you stay healthy, feel better, and have more energy.
  4. Having a new baby and learning how to breastfeed can be very stressful, so try to listen to your body and unwind yourself regularly. My favorite is yoga! Many Highmark employees can find yoga classes at our onsite fitness centers. If you don’t happen to work for Highmark, search here to find a class near you.
  5. Join a breastfeeding support group to talk with other mothers about breastfeeding while working. I joined a group in the hospital where my daughter was born. Mothers talked about difficulties they faced during the early days and shared their experiences. It’s so helpful to learn from someone who’s in the same boat as you are. I found it much more rewarding than looking for advice online.

Invest the time in yourself and your baby — for your health and for the bond that will last a lifetime.