What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Benefits for the child include:
Breast milk offers the best composition of minerals and nutrients necessary for the child’s growth
Protection (especially in the first couple of months) against infections of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract, immunity against infections, allergies, and anemia
Increased chance of survival of premature newborns
Decreased rate of juvenile diabetes and prevention of obesity
Some studies report the decrease in sudden infant deaths among breastfeeding children
Bonding and positive psychosocial effects
Benefits for the mother include:
Lower risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer
Protection against osteoporosis
Bonding with child and less post-partum depression
Long term reduced risk for heart diseases, diabetes type 2 and metabolic syndrome
Natural postpartum infertility and weight loss
Every young mother has a million questions and worries regarding breastfeeding some examples include ‘am I breastfeed correctly?’, ‘is the baby getting enough food?’, or ‘what if I don’t produce milk at all or if I do produce milk what if it isn’t enough?’. These are all questions that are perfectly normal and justified.
Firstly do no worry! Think about it this way the human race would not exist if it was not for breastfeeding (formula milk did not always exist!) because it is just as natural to every mammal as eating. Firstly simply INFORM yourself beforehand in order to gain confidence regarding breastfeeding methods and techniques from your healthcare provider, maternity nurse or midwife.
Tip 1: Seek professional help and information straight away!
Lactation may begin even before birth where a substance called colostrum is excreted. Do not worry if this does not happen to you it does not mean that you will not lactate after birth. Just remember that breastfeeding depends on the simple principle of supply and demand! The more the baby demands the more you will supply it and the best way to start is right away!
Tip 2: Breastfeed within 30 minutes after birth since this will increase your chances of successful breastfeeding.
Start breastfeeding by getting comfortable. Sit down preferably on a bed with pillows behind your back or a breastfeeding pillow that goes around your body and place a pillow on your legs. By always supporting your baby’s head and neck with one hand turn your baby to the side and hold your breast with the other hand. When the baby opens its mouth gently push its head towards your breast so that it suckles most of the dark area around the nipple (the areola). If the baby is not opening the mouth gently caress the lips and mouth with your finger until it opens. Before removing the baby from the breast always place one finger inside the baby’s mouth in order to prevent any trauma to the nipple and gently stop the baby’s sucking. Be careful not to cover both the mouth and nose with the breast!
Tip 3: There are no standard hours for breastfeeding especially during the first 6 weeks of life!
When the baby shows signs of hunger that is approximately every 1 to 3 hours (8-12 times a day) it should be breastfed. Try to alternate breasts between each feeding. Each feeding should last about 20-45 minutes according to suckling movements of the baby.
Tip 4: Avoid using a bottle or pacifier!
Tip 5: Check that your baby is gaining weight and producing enough wet diapers.
Control your baby’s weight every 10 days in order to make sure that its gaining weight. Check that it produces as many wet diapers as the number of times you feed it that is for example if you feed it 8 times a day it should produce 8 wet diapers. An inward facing fontanel (soft triangles at the front and back of the newborn’s skull) means dehydration and you should inform your doctor immediately!
Tip 6: Take care of your breasts and nipples!
Wash your breasts before each feeding only with water and dry with a clean towel. Take special care of the areola (dark area around nipple) and nipples. Allow your breasts to ‘breathe’ after breastfeeding and dry naturally. If you do not have the time to allow them to dry naturally pat dry and use breast pads that you change frequently. Wear cotton comfortable bras and clothes. Avoid soaps that may dry the breasts out. Use moisturizers especially suited for the nipples if they are dried out.
Tip 7: Going back to work is no excuse for stopping breastfeeding.
By using a breast pump you can store milk in the refrigerator at 4o C for 24 hours and in the freezer for 3 months!
Tip 8: Be careful of your diet! Do not smoke or drink alcohol!
EVERYTHING you consume including medications, drugs, coffee, cigarette smoke etc. pass through the milk to your baby. It is therefore crucial that you take caution of what you consume during the period that you are breastfeeding. If you must take medication ALWAYS consult your healthcare provider if it is safe for you to breastfeed.
Tip 9: Breastfeeding should not be painful!
If you feel that breastfeeding is painful there might be a problem with the way you position the baby or it might have a tongue tie so consult your doctor! If your breasts are inflamed, you have a fever, or you feel pain (with or without breastfeeding) consult your healthcare provider.
Tip 10: Be patient!
It takes time to get to know your baby and its eating habits as also the strengths and limitations of your own body. Do not pressure yourself! Breastfeeding is something natural and healthy despite the fact that it is becoming a ‘forgotten’ art. If you have doubts or feel uncomfortable always consult an expert! Good Luck!
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