Breastfeeding is the most beautiful thing on Earth. The act naturally establishes a relationship between the mother and child and its purest form of love. While this primary method of nurturing is followed by almost all mothers, most new mothers worry about the process, “Am I doing it right?” “Am I providing the right nutrients?” These are a few questions that always play in the backdrop.
We understand that, and thus through this article, we will try to clarify all your concerns about “how to breastfeed?” and all the other relevant questions as far as breastfeeding is concerned.
So, let’s first begin with a few tips:
Let Your Baby Decide The Frequency and Extent of Nursing
Since your baby knows their requirements better than you at this moment, let them be content with what they want. Do not try to force-feed the child. New mothers have this tendency to set predetermined time for feeding the child, and then deny them food since not much time passes between two hunger pangs. This practice needs to change. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to wake up a sleeping baby for a meal.
Your baby can only be comfortable while you are nursing them if you are relaxed. Babies have a very strong connection with their mothers. If somehow they feel that you are not comfortable while breastfeeding, then they will not latch properly.
Get Comfortable For Feeding Times
If you are a new mother, you know that you will be spending a lot of time holding your baby in your arms while breastfeeding. Thus you must get in a comfortable position which can support you for a long period. The primary idea is to stay fixed. If you move too much then your baby might get distracted and disturbed.
Help The Baby Find The Spot
Through the process of breastfeeding, your baby will find a position that works out for them. It is your job to pay attention and learn this spot quickly so that next time you can place them in the same position. However, do not force your baby in a particular direction, they may be happy with a slightly different style. Let them be comfortable.
This is a reflex that occurs as soon as you start nursing your newborn baby. The let-down reflex is also known as the milk ejection reflex is a natural reaction that takes place in the body as soon as the baby starts sucking on the breasts.
When the breastfeeding process is proceeding, the brain releases two hormones, prolactin, and oxytocin. The former one is responsible for the increased production of milk and the latter triggers the let-down of your breasts.
- If you are experiencing the Let-down reflex, these are a few common signs:
- You can feel pins, and needles, or a warm sensation in your breasts.
- Breast milk can spray out of your breast even when your baby is not feeding.
- You can see milk leaking or drip from the baby’s mouth
- You feel cramps in your uterus, especially during the early weeks after childbirth.
While a few of these signs can be uncomfortable, they can be dealt with by having a warm shower or wrapping your breasts with a warm, moist towel. A massage can also be helpful.
Breastfeeding vs Bottle-feeding
Though new technologies have made breastfeeding for babies easy, thanks to the breast pumps, and baby formula. But controversies often arise when it comes to choosing between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. In the current age, it is natural to find both working parents in a house.
Under such circumstances, staying home to nurse the child for more than 6 months may not be possible. In such cases, many young mothers take up Bottle-feeding when they have to get back to work after their maternity leave.
Breast milk is indeed the best first food for a child. Health organizations like the Academy of Pediatrics American Medical Association and such insist mothers give breast milk to infants. But if under certain circumstances, it is not possible then bottle feeding is an option that can be considered.
Manufactured in a sterile environment, commercial formulas are made to duplicate the nutrient content of the mother’s milk. Plus they have a few added nutrients which breastfed babies have to be given as supplements. Sometimes due to certain medical conditions, mothers fail to breastfeed the child. In such cases, bottle formula feeding is an ideal option.
Formula feeding can be taken up by either parent. Though an infant socializes with the mother first, formula feeding is a means which gives the fathers a scope to connect with the child as well.
You have surely heard the saying “You are what you eat”. This statement holds very true as far as breastfeeding is concerned. Since your milk is your baby’s first diet, you want to ensure that it has all the essential nutrients that your baby requires at that tender age. Though a mother’s milk is naturally rich in nutrients, a proper diet on your part can produce better results.
A few things to incorporate into your diet can be:
Fruits and Vegetables
Generally, fruits provide B1, B2, B6, and C which are essential for your health and are also imperative for healthy milk production. Include a lot of oranges, bananas, grapes, and apples in your diet. These fruits cure the body of the free radicals that causes long term damage.
Along with fruits, consume a lot of green leafy vegetables during your breastfeeding days. Vegetables are a good source of potassium, folate and Vitamin A which promotes healthy cell function and division.
Lean protein provides the 9 essential amino acids which the body fails to create on its own. These are mostly available in eggs, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.
Include Whole Grain In Your Diet
Since you are producing breast milk you have to have a sufficient amount of calories and carbohydrates in your body. While the bodily requirement can be met by fruits and vegetables to some extent, it is not enough. That’s why including whole wheat and oatmeal in your diet is essential. Though your primary focus can be on fruits and vegetables, a little bit of pita and pasta can be consumed.
Healthy fats are found in nuts like almonds and walnuts. You can also consume avocado which is rich in vitamin E, omega-3, omega-6, and antioxidants. Though you need to include these healthy fats in your diet, try not to go overboard with them. Always remember that too much of everything can be utterly detrimental.
Include Calcium In Your Diet
Breastfeeding exhausts the calcium reserve in your body. Thus it is essential to keep the level of calcium up, by consuming calcium-rich foodstuffs. Calcium is essential as it supports the skeletal structure and teeth setting. It also has a role to play in muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nervous functions. It is advisable to consume up to 1000-1500 milligrams calcium every day when you are breastfeeding your child.
Iron In Your Diet
During pregnancy and breastfeeding stage, the amount of iron in the blood becomes less due to the rise in the level of red blood cells in the body. This is a very natural thing to happen during this time and there is nothing to worry about. To keep the situation in control, all you need to do is increase your dietary iron consumption.
A sufficient amount of iron in your system is essential as it helps in transporting and storing oxygen in your body. It further contributes to the production of energy, cell respiration and enhances the number of white blood cells in the blood. 9 milligram of iron intake is recommended for a breastfeeding woman.
This is what WHO has to say about Breastfeeding
Fact 1: BreastFeeding for the first Six months is Crucial
WHO recommends that:
- mother initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth
- infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health, and thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while continuing to be breastfed
- breastfeeding should continue to up to two years or beyond.
Fact 2: Breastfeeding protects Infants from childhood illnesses
Breastmilk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. It gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide. Breastmilk is readily available and affordable, which helps to ensure that infants get adequate nutrition.
Fact 3: Breastfeeding also benefits mothers
Exclusive Breastfeeding is associative with a natural(though not fail-safe) method of birth control(98% protection in the first six months after birth). It reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression.
Fact 4: Breastfeeding has long-term benefits for children
Beyond the immediate benefits for children, breastfeeding contributes to a lifetime of good health. Adolescents and adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. They are less likely to have type 2 diabetes and perform better in intelligence tests.
Fact 5: Infant formula does not contain the antibodies found in breastmilk
The long-term benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and children cannot be replicated with infant formula. When infant formula is not properly prepared, there are risks arising from the use of unsafe water and unsterilized equipment or the potential presence of bacteria in powdered formula. Malnutrition can result from over-diluting formula to “stretch” supplies. While frequent feeding maintains breast milk supply if formula is used but becomes unavailable, a return to breastfeeding may not be an option due to diminished breast milk production.
Fact 6: Transmission of HIV through breastfeeding can be reduced with drugs
An HIV-infected mother can pass the infection to her infant during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. However, antiretroviral(ARV) drugs given either to the mother or HIV-exposed infant reduces the risk of transmission. Together, breastfeeding and ARVs have the potential to significantly improve infants’ chances of surviving while remaining HIV uninfected. WHO recommends that when HIV infected mothers breastfeed, they should receive ARVs and follow WHO guidance for infant feeding.
Fact 7: Marketing of breast-milk substitutes are highly monitored
An international code to regulate the marketing of breast-milk substitutes was adopted in 1981. It calls for:
- all formula labels and information to state the benefits of breastfeeding and the health risks of substitutes
- no promotion of breast-milk substitutes
- no free samples of substitutes to be given to pregnant women, mother or their families
- no distribution of free or subsidized substitutes to health workers or facilities.
Fact 8: Support for mothers is essential
Breastfeeding has to be learned and women encounter difficulties at the beginning. Many routine practices, such as separation of mother and baby, use of newborn nurseries, and supplementation with infant formula, actually make it harder for mothers and babies to breastfeed. Health facilities that support breastfeeding by avoiding these practices and making trained breastfeeding counselors available to new mothers encourage higher rates of the practice. To provide this support and improve care for mothers and newborns, most countries have implemented the WHO-UNICEF Baby-friendly Hospital initiative, which sets standards for quality care.
Fact 9: Mothers should continue breastfeeding at work
Many mothers who return to work abandon breastfeeding partially or completely because they do not have sufficient time or a place to breastfeed, express and store their milk. Mothers need a safe, clean and private place in or near their workplace to continue breastfeeding. Enabling conditions at work, such as paid maternity leave, part-time work arrangements, on-site creches, facilities for storing and expressing breastmilk, and breastfeeding breaks, can help.
Fact 10: Solid foods should be phased in at six months
To meet the growing needs of babies at six months of age, mashed solid food should be introduced as a complement to continued breastfeeding. Foods for babies can be specially prepared or modified from family meals. WHO notes that:
- breastfeeding should not be decreased when starting on solids;
- food should be given with a spoon or cup, not in a bottle;
- food should be clean and safe; and
- ample time is needed for young children to learn to eat solid foods.
Breastfeeding and Weight loss
Not only does breastfeeding provide the child with essential nutrients and protection against disease, but it also helps mothers lose weight gained during pregnancy.
The process of breastfeeding involves the use of the fat cells in the body and the calories from the diet. These two combine to fuel the total milk production. However, do not be under the impression that proper food intake can stop the process of weight loss. Weight loss will continue to occur even if you are consuming 300 to 500 calories a day.
Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom
While the baby gets a lot of nutrients required in the early days of life from breastfeeding, what benefits does the mother get? Let’s look into that:
- It has been noted that mothers who breastfeed, recover more quickly from the impact of childbirth than mothers who fail to breastfeed. The hormone oxytocin helps the uterus to return to its original shape and reduces the chances of postpartum bleeding.
- Studies also show that women who breastfeed have lower chances of getting breast and ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding also reduces the risks of counteracting type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, etc.
- Oxytocin, a hormone that is released during breastfeeding also helps develop a strong sense of attachment between the baby and the mother.
New mothers are often confused about when does milk come in? Well, the process begins sometime during the mid-point of the pregnancy period. Gradually, it increases in quantity and evolves from colostrum to mature milk within 2 and 5 days.
While there are loads of nursing books that you can make use of, if you are a new mother, confused about how long to breastfeed then you can check out lactation videos on the internet. These videos are very descriptive and cover a lot about breastfeeding toddlers and breastfeeding newborns.
How To Wean Baby Off Breastfeeding
Before getting into the process of weaning, it’s important to know what weaning is. Weaning is the process when the baby is shifted from breastfeeding to the intake of solid food. However, weaning comes with a lot of emotional changes. While the new mother can be excited about the baby starting a new phase in life, eating solid food, she might also feel a bit of sadness since the connect of breastfeeding is lost.
But, how long should you breastfeed? This is one very crucial question. The answer is 6 months. Ideally, as the child turns 6 months they are shifted from breastfeeding to solid food. As they grow, their nutrient requirement also changes and solid food is the only source that can meet this growing need.
But how do you know that your baby is ready for weaning, here are a few tell-tale signs:
- Baby seems hungry than usual.
- It can keep food in the mouth without throwing it away.
- It can sit up without support and has fair control over the neck muscles.
- Is interested in the food others are having.
- Is ready to have food which comes their way.
So, if you see these signs in your child, know that he/she is ready to be weaned.
Here is what is done:
- The weaning process should be kept gradual for your baby. Spread it out over several weeks and don’t try to feed him/her everything in one day. Abrupt weaning can lead to unwanted circumstances.
- Begin by introducing one food. When that is going well, try substituting another.
- Continue the substituting process but the pace at which it proceeds will depend on your baby. However, the slower the process the better.
- Again, do not overfeed the bay. Follow the cues they give you.
- Make it a point to hold and cuddle the baby while they are feeding. This extra dosage of closeness will help you and your baby during the weaning process.
How To Stop Breastfeeding
After a certain time, breastfeeding has to stop for many reasons. It can be the end of your maternity period, you might be planning for another pregnancy or there can be health reasons. But no matter what the cause, make sure you and your baby are happy before you call quits on breastfeeding.
Ideally, it is advisable to give your baby nothing but breast milk for the first six months. Weaning can take place after that. It has been noted that some children continue to breastfeed well after their weaning stage. Prolonged breastfeeding has a lot of health benefits when the infant grows up to be a toddler.
But once you make up your mind to stop breastfeeding, let the change come in gradually. Let your body get used to producing a lesser quantity of milk and let your child get the hang of bottles and beaker formula.
With all the pointer stated above, you will find the entire lactating phase a little easier. Of course, you may face some other issues, but do not panic. Relax and seek help. Happy parenting!