The New Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding
Nature has provided every Mom the ability to nourish her child with breast milk - the best source of nutrients for an infant. Containing the right blend of all the nutrients that a baby needs, breast milk not only gives your newborn baby a good healthy start but also provides him a lifelong protection from various diseases like diabetes, asthma, cancer and more.
Honestly speaking, breast milk is the best nutrition a mother can ever provide to her infant. That's because every mother's milk is “custom-made” for her own baby to fulfill all of his/her nutritional needs. This must-read guide will clear all of your doubts related to breastfeeding and also give you some valuable tips for successful breastfeeding.Let’s start!
Why is Breastfeeding So Important for You and Your Baby?
Unlike formula feeding, breastfeeding has numerous benefits for both mothers and their infants.Let's take a look at how breastfeeding could prove beneficial to you and your newborn baby:
For Your Baby
- Provides Superior Nutrition: Since breast milk contains a perfectly balanced amount of all the essential nutrients, it helps your baby grow and develop faster. Most importantly, as your baby grows, your breast milk will also change to fulfill your baby’s nutrition needs.
- Boosts the Immune System: According to scientists, breastfeeding mothers produce a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), which plays a vital role in strengthening the immune system of your baby. This substance not only helps your baby fight against various infections, but also protects him from developing allergic reactions.
- Prevention of Chronic Diseases: Infants who are breastfed are at lower risk of developing chronic diseases, such as Type I and Type II diabetes, cancer, arthritis, asthma, stroke and more, which are the major cause of disability. In other words, breastfeeding provides infants long-term protection from progressive diseases.
- Boosts Intelligence: Several scientific studies have proven that there is a strong connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development. According to these studies, children who are breastfed not only have higher scores on IQ and vocabulary tests, but also perform better academically.
- Protection against Childhood Obesity: As breast milk contains a very small amount of insulin, it keeps your baby from both childhood and teenage obesity by minimizing the creation of unnecessary fat. Apart from this, breastfed babies have plenty of Leptin in their system, a hormone that controls fat and hunger.
- Lower Risk of SIDS: Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which causes the sudden and unexpected death of a child within 12 months. According to researchers, babies who receive breast milk at one month of age are 50 percent less likely to die within one year.
- Reduced Cancer Risk: Breastfeeding women have a lower risk of developing various types of cancer, including breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. In fact, the longer you breastfeed, the lesser you are at the risk of breast cancer. Besides, the lower level of estrogen during lactation prevents breast and ovarian cancer.
- Strengthen the Maternal Bond: Breastfeeding triggers the release of several hormones that promote stronger emotional bonding between a nursing mother and a baby. Holding the child to your breast gives you the ability to understand your infant’s emotional state and helps you fulfill his needs accordingly.
- Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis: Mothers who breast-feed have four times lesser risk of developing osteoporosis than mothers who don’t. However, a woman might experience a BMD (bone mineral density) loss during lactation but even; breastfeeding plays a vital role in reducing the risk of osteoporosis later on.
- Lower Risk of Postnatal Depression: Breastfeeding releases a hormone, called Oxytocin, which lowers your blood pressure and helps you relax as much as possible. Making you feel very loving and nurturing towards your baby, this hormone reduces the likelihood of postpartum depression (PPD).
- Promotes Postpartum Weight Loss: The body of a nursing woman burns extra calories to produce milk, which helps her lose weight gained during pregnancy. Breastfeeding mothers return to their pre-pregnancy figure earlier than non-breastfeeding ones. In fact, the weight you gain during pregnancy works as a source of energy for lactation.
Myths and Facts about Breastfeeding
Despite a lot of helpful information about breastfeeding is available on the web, most of the women still rely on advice from their friends and family. For this reason, they are not able to know what's true and right about breastfeeding and consequently could not decide whether to breastfeed their baby. To help those, here are some of the most stubborn myths with their surprising truths:
Myth: Breastfeeding hurts. Fact: You might have been told that breastfeeding hurts but this is not really true. However, you may feel discomfort in the early days. This is usual because at that time, you don’t know how to latch your baby on properly.
Myth: Breastfeeding makes a mom's breasts sag. Fact: If your friends lament that breastfeeding causes their breasts to sag, take heed. There is no evidence that feeding affects a woman’s breasts.
Myth: Moms with small breasts don’t produce enough milk. Fact: Nonsense! The size of a woman's breasts doesn't affect how much milk she will produce for her baby.
Myth: Formula feeding is basically the same as breastfeeding. Fact: No, it can never be. Most of the formula milk is made of cow's milk, which may contain many types of bacteria. Consequently, it doesn’t guarantee to protect your baby from diseases, allergies and infections.
Myth: Breastfed babies do not sleep well. Fact: Not true. In fact, breast milk is so sweet and intoxicating that many babies fall asleep during lactation.
Myth: You can't get pregnant while breastfeeding. Fact: Apparently, there is no connection between pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, you are least likely to get pregnant within the first 6 months of breastfeeding.
Myth: You can’t breastfeed in public. Fact: This is certainly not true. Breastfeeding is a normal, natural process and therefore, most of the people don't mind when you breastfeed. If someone minds, you can ask him to leave.
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding your baby may seem overwhelming to you at first but if you follow some practices, it can be a successful and rewarding experience for both you and your baby. Here are some proven tips to make your breastfeeding experience as easy and seamless as possible:
Start Breastfeeding Immediately After Birth: If possible, try to start breastfeeding your baby within an hour of delivery. That's because every baby is born with a sucking reflex, which is most powerful at the time of birth. For this reason, the first forty-eight hours after birth are considered as the best hours to start breastfeeding.
Also Read: Surviving the First Month of Breastfeeding
- Find the Most Comfortable Position: To make sure both you and your baby will feel comfortable during lactation, you have to find the right breastfeeding position. The basic breastfeeding positions are cradle hold, clutch (or football) hold, cross-cradle (or crossover) hold and side-lying hold. Choose the best one that works for you!
- Get the Right Latch: Getting a good latch is as important as learning how to hold and support your baby properly. Failure to latch on may lead to ineffective feeding and can also prove very painful for you. So try to get your newborn baby properly latched on to your breast so that he/she could get the maximum amount of breast milk.
- Don’t Impose Any Restrictions on Length or Frequency of Feeds: Remember that breastfeeding is based on the principle of demand and supply. Every infant has a unique pattern that you have to recognize to fulfill his/her needs. If your baby is getting the milk properly, don’t impose any restrictions on breastfeeding. Instead, breastfeed your baby whenever he/she wants.
- Always Burp Your Baby after a Feed: Never forget to burp your baby after each feed. Burping release the air that babies tend to swallow during lactation. It is imperative because too much amount of swallowed air can cause them painful gas bubbles and consequently spit out your entire precious milk over you.
- Switch Breasts if Necessary: If your baby suddenly stops sucking your breast, then you should understand your breast is empty and you need to switch to the other side. Offer your second breast to your baby until he/she gets full. Also, try burping your baby while switching to the full breast.
- Avoid Changing Habits: Keep in mind, whatever you eat or do has a direct impact on your breast milk. So stick to one eating pattern and avoid eating or doing something that you don’t want to deliver to your newborn baby. Otherwise, your baby will either get sick or start refuse to breastfeed.
- Have a Healthy Balanced Diet: Last but certainly not least, take good care of yourself. Eat a balanced diet, drink lots of pure healthy water and get plenty of rest during breastfeeding. Also, don't even think about dieting because you have the rest of your life for it. Instead, try to eat frequently to keep your baby and yourself charged up. As a general rule, you should eat and drink from 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day in the lactation period.
Some Special Conditions When You Must Not BreastfeedIn certain situations, breastfeeding can harm you baby. You must not breastfeed if:
- You are HIV positive.
- You’re receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
- You're using illegal drugs such as marijuana or cocaine.
- You have active, untreated TB (Tuberculosis).
- You’re taking prescription medications for diseases like arthritis and migraine.
- Your baby has Galactosemia - a rare genetic metabolic disorder that makes your baby unable to metabolize Galactose, a natural sugar found in breast milk.
If you experience any of the above conditions, please consult with your doctor or a breastfeeding expert before you start breastfeeding.