Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful images nature could have ever created. It is the simplest and the most natural thing that a mother can gift to her baby. You can read a book about playing a flute but you won’t really learn how to play it unless you actually do it. Breastfeeding is like that. It is a combination of motivation, knowledge of essential skills and practice. Many Medical experts, including the Indian academy of Pediatrics (IAP) and Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India(FOGSI), strongly recommend To start breastfeeding as soon as possible, i.e. within an hour of delivery and also breastfeeding exclusively 9no formula, juice or water) for 6 months. Also to continue breastfeeding at least till 1 year with other foods which should be started at 6 months of age, such as vegetables, grains, fruits, proteins.
BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING FOR YOUR BABY:
- Breastfeeding provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat- everything your baby needs to grow. It has the hormones, cholesterol, Vitamin D, enzymes which cannot be provided by formula milk or cow’s milk. The best thing the breast milk is tailored according to the nutrient needs of the baby and its nutrient supply is not constant as formula milk.
- It is easily digestible because of various enzymes like lipase unlike infant formula. It has proteins like whey and casein which are easier to digest.
- Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off the viruses and bacteria.
- Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies like atopic dermatitis
- Babies who are breastfed exclusively for 6 months without any formula have fewer ear infections( otitis media), respiratory illnesses, and bouts of GI infections such as diarrhea. It also helps in quick recovery in infants with established RTIs and pneumonia
- Breastfeeding has been linked to Higher IQ scores in later childhood
- The physical closeness, skin to skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure.
- Breastfed babies are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow and prevents obesity and overweight related issues.
- It also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
- It reduces the risk of obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes in adulthood.
BREASTFEEDING BENEFITS FOR THE MOTHER:
- Breast feeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster.
- It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre- pregnancy size and reduce uterine bleeding after birth.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
- It lowers your risk of osteoporosis
- It maintains the blood pressure, lowers the sugar levels in patients with diabetes , reduce sthe cholesterol levels and chances of having Heart diseases in future.
- Since you don’t have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples and warm bottles, it saves your time and money.
- It gives you regular time to relax quietly with your newborn as you bond.
IS THERE ENOUGH BREASTMILK TO FEED: The first few days after birth, your breasts make an ideal “ first milk”, called “COLOSTRUM”. It is thick, yellowish, scant, but there is plenty to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Colostrums helps the newborns digestive tract develop and prepare itself to digest breast milk. Most babies lose a small amount of weight in the first 3 to 5 days after birth. This is unrelated to breastfeeding if the weight loss is less than 10% of the birth weight. As your baby needs more milk and nurses more, your breasts respond by making more milk.
If you supplement with formula your breasts might make less milk. The milk supply is dependent on the baby’s demands. Even if you breastfeed less than the recommended 6 months, its better to breastfeed for a short time than no time at all. You can add solid food at 6 months but also continue to breastfeed if you want to keep producing milk.
WHAT ARE THE ABC’S OF BREASTFEEDING?
- A = AWARENESS. Watch for signs of hunger in your baby and feed ON DEMAND. The first few weeks 8-12 feeds may be necessary in 24 hours. Hungry infants move their hands towards their mouth, make sucking noises or mouth movements, and move towards breast. Don’t wait for your baby to cry.
- B = Be Patient– Breastfeed as long as your baby wants to nurse. Infants typically breastfeed for 10- 20 mins on each breast.
- C = Comfort. This is the key. Relax while breastfeeding. Get yourself comfortable with pillows to support arms, neck, back, footrest to support your feet and legs
Best position for breastfeeding- The best position is the one where you & your baby are both comfortable and relaxed, and you don’t have to strain to hold the position or keep nursing. Here are some common positions for breastfeeding:
- Cradle position– rest the side of your baby’s head in the crook of your elbow with his whole body facing you. Position your baby’s belly against your body so he feels fully supported. Your other free arm can wrap around to support your baby’s head and neck—or reach through your baby’s less to support the lower back.
- Football position– line your baby’s back along your forearm to hold your baby like football, supporting his head & neck in palm. This works best with new born and small babies. It’s also a good position if you’re recovering from caesarean birth and need to protect your belly from the pressure or weight of your baby.
- Side lying position– this position is great for night feeding in bed. Side lying also works well if you’re recovering from an episiotomy during delivery. Use pillows to under your head to get comfortable. Then snuggle close your baby & use your free hand to lift your breast and nipple into your baby’s mouth. Once your baby is correctly “latched on”, support your baby’s head & neck with your free hand so there’s no twisting or straining to keep nursing.
How to get baby ‘latch on’ during breast feeding?
Position your baby facing you, so your baby is comfortable & doesn’t have to twist his neck. With one hand, cup your breast and gently stroke your baby’s lower lip with your nipple. Your baby’s instinctive reflex will be to open there mouth wide. With your hand supporting your baby’s neck bring your baby’s mouth closer to your nipple, trying to centre your nipple in baby’s mouth.
You’ll know your baby is “latched on” correctly when both lips are pursed outward around your nipple. You infant should have all your nipple & most of the areola, in his mouth. while you may feel a slight tingling or tugging, breastfeeding should not be painful. If your baby isn’t latched on correctly and nursing with a smooth, comfortable rhythm, gently nudge your pinky b/w your baby’s gum to break suction, remove your nipple and try again. Good “latching on” helps prevent sore nipples.
Challenges with breastfeeding:
- Sore nipples: you can expect some soreness in the 1st week of breastfeeding. Make sure you baby latches on correctly, and use one finger to break the suction of your baby’s mouth after each feeding. That will help prevent sore nipples. If you still get sore, be sure you nurse with each breast fully enough to empty the milk ducts. If you don’t, your breast become engorged, swollen and painful. Holding ice against sore nipples can temporarily ease discomfort. Keeping your nipples dry and letting them “air dry” b/w feedings helps too.
- Dry & cracked nipples: avoid soaps, perfumed creams and lotions with alcohol in them, which can make nipples even more dry & cracked. You can gently apply pure lanolin to your nipples after a feeding, but be sure you gently wash the lanolin off before breastfeeding again. Changing your bra pads often will help your nipples stay dry. And you should use only cotton bra pads.
- Worries about producing enough milk: a general rule of thumb is that a baby wetting 6-8 diapers a day is most likely getting enough milk. Avoid supplementing your breast milk with formula, and never give your infant plain water. Your body needs the frequent, regular demand of your baby’s nursing to keep producing milk. But some think that they can’t breastfeed if they have small breasts. But small breasted women can make milk just as well as large breasted women. Good nutrition, plenty of rest and well hydration all helps too.
- Pumping & storing milk: you can get breast milk by hand or pump it with breast pump. Breast milk can be safely used within 2 days if it’s stored in refrigerator. You can freeze breast milk upto6 months. Don’t warm up or thaw frozen milk in microwave. That will destroy some of its immune boosting qualities & can cause fatty portions of the breast milk to become super hot. Thaw breast milk in refrigerator or in a bowl of warm water.
- Inverted nipples: an inverted nipple doesn’t poke forward when you pinch the areola. A lactation consultant, a specialist in breast feeding, can give simple tips that have allowed women with inverted nipples to breastfeed successfully.
- Breast engorgement: breast fullness is natural and healthy. It happens as your breasts become full of milk, staying soft and pliable. But breast engorgement means vessels of your breast have become congested. This traps fluid in your breasts and make them feel hard, painful and swollen. Alternate heat and cold, for instance using ice packs and hot shows to relieve mild symptoms. Don’t stop feeding.
- Blocked ducts: a single sore support on your breast which may be red and hot, can signal a plugged milk duct. This can often be relieved by warm compress and gentle massage over the area to release blockage. More frequent nursing can also help.
- Breast infection (mastitis): this occasionally results when bacteria enters the breast, often through a cracked nipple after breastfeeding. If you have a sore area on your breast along with flu like symptoms, fever & fatigue, call your doctor. Antibiotics are usually needed to clear up a breast infection, but you can most likely continue to breast feed while you have the infection & take antibiotics. To relive breast tenderness, apply moist heat to the sore area 4 times a day for 15- 20 min each time.
- Stress: being overly anxious or stressed can interfere with your let-down reflex. That’s your body natural release of milk into the milk ducts. Its triggered by hormones released when you baby nurses. It can also be triggered just by hearing you baby cry or thinking about your baby. Stay as relaxed and calm as possible before and during nursing, it can help your milk let down and flow more easily. That, in turn, can help calm & relax your infant.
DR. HEENA DHINGRA