Breast milk is naturally produced to meet the needs of human babies. It has all the necessary nutrients, in just the right amounts, and is easy to digest. Beyond the nutritional benefits, breastfeeding is equally beneficial for mothers as well as babies.
Benefits for babies :
Breast milk contains antibodies that can fight infection. Those antibodies are present in high amounts in colostrum, the first milk that comes out of the breasts after birth. However, there are antibodies in breastmilk the entire time a mother continues to nurse. Through these antibodies, the mother can pass on some protection from an infectious illness she had in the past, and those she gets while breastfeeding. Breast milk can help babies build their immune system and fight infections.
Breast milk is made up of other proteins, fats, sugars, and even white blood cells that work to fight infection in many different ways. They are very helpful in combating gastrointestinal infections since breast milk goes right to the stomach and intestine when the baby eats. This also sets the stage for a protective and balanced immune system that helps recognize and fight infections and other diseases even after breastfeeding ends.
Benefits for mothers:
Breastfeeding can help you lose pregnancy weight faster by burning extra calories. It releases the oxytocin hormone, which helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also decreases the chances of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lessen the risk of osteoporosis. It gives mothers and babies time to bond.
Medical Considerations With Breastfeeding
In a few situations, breastfeeding could cause baby harm. Mother’s should not breastfeed if:
- HIV positive. HIV virus can be passed to the infant through breast milk.
- Suffering from active, untreated tuberculosis.
- Receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
- Drug addict.
- The baby cannot bear the natural sugar, called galactose, in breast milk.
Things to keep in mind
- Breastfeed as long as the baby wants. Don’t hurry the child through feedings. Infants generally breastfeed for 10 to 20 minutes on each breast.
- Watch for the baby’s signs of hunger, and breastfeed whenever the baby is hungry. In the first few weeks, the mother may be nursing eight to 12 times every 24 hours. Hungry babies move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth actions, or move toward mother’s breasts.
- Relax while breastfeeding. It makes the milk more likely to “let down” and flow. Get yourself in a comfortable position with pillows as required to support your arms, head, and neck, and a footrest to support your feet and legs before you begin to breastfeed.
Best Position for Breastfeeding
The best position for the mother is the one where the mother and baby are both comfortable and relaxed. Where mothers don’t have to strive to hold the position or keep nursing. Here are some common positions for breastfeeding your baby:
- Football position: Align the baby’s back along the mother’s forearm supporting the baby’s head and neck in the palm. This works great with newborns and small babies. It’s also a good position if the mother is recovering from a cesarean birth and need to guard belly against the pressure or weight of the baby.
- Side-lying position: Use pillows under the mother’s head to get comfortable. Then snuggle close to the baby and use the free hand to elevate breast and nipple into the baby’s mouth. While the baby is accurately latched, support the baby’s head and neck with freehand.
- Cradle position: Rest the side of the baby’s head in the curve of the mother’s elbow. The baby’s whole body should face the mother. Position the baby’s belly against the mother’s body so he/she feels fully supported. Mothers other, “free” arm can wrap around to support baby’s head and neck
Latching baby during breastfeeding
Place the baby in a certain way so that he/she is facing you. This will make the baby comfortable. Point your nipple to the baby’s mouth. Your baby’s natural reflex will be to lift up the head and open the mouth wide.
You’ll know your baby is “latched on” accurately when both lips tighten outward around your nipple. Your infant should have all of your nipple and most of the areola in his mouth. Breastfeeding should not be painful. If the baby isn’t latched on precisely and nursing with a steady, relaxed rhythm, gently push your pinky finger between the baby’s gums to separate the suction, remove your nipple, and try again.
Common Problems With Breastfeeding
- Sore nipples: Some soreness can happen in the first weeks of breastfeeding. Make sure the baby latches on correctly, and use one finger to break the suction of the baby’s mouth after each feeding. That will help prevent sore nipples. If you are still getting sore, be assured that you have nursed with each breast fully enough to empty the milk ducts. If you don’t, your breasts can become engorged, swollen, and painful. Holding ice on sore nipples can temporarily ease the pain. Keep nipples dry and let them “air dry” between feedings help. Babies suck more actively at the start. So begin feedings with the less-sore nipple.
- Worries about producing enough milk: A baby who’s dampening six to eight diapers a day is most likely getting enough milk. Avoid increasing your breast milk with chemical formula, and never give the infant plain water. Your body needs regular demand for your baby’s nursing to keep producing milk. Some mothers have a misconception that they can’t breastfeed if they have small breasts. But small-breasted women can make milk equal to large-breasted women. A good diet, a lot of rest, and staying adequately hydrated will help.
- Dry, cracked nipples: Avoid soaps, perfumed creams, or lotions with alcohol in them, which can make nipples even drier and cracked. Gently apply pure lanolin to nipples after a feeding, but be certain to wash off the lanolin before breastfeeding again. Changing bra pads regularly will help nipples stay dry. Use only cotton bra pads.
- Pumping and storing milk: Mothers can get breast milk by hand or draw it out with a breast pump. It may take a few days or weeks for the baby to get used to breast milk in a bottle. So begin practicing early. Breast milk can be harmlessly used within 2 days if it’s stocked in a refrigerator. Mothers can refrigerate breast milk for up to 6 months. Don’t warm up or melt frozen breast milk in a microwave. That will destroy some of its immune-boosting properties, and it can make fatty portions of the breast milk to become super hot. Defrost breast milk in a bowl of warm water.
- Breast engorgement: Breast fullness is normal and healthy. It occurs when breasts become full of milk, staying smooth and flexible. But breast engorgement means the blood vessels in the breast have become blocked. This traps fluid in breasts and makes them feel hard, tender, and puffed. Alternate heat and cold, using ice packs and hot showers can help in relieving mild symptoms. It can also help to release milk by hand or by using a breast pump.
- Inverted nipples: An inverted nipple doesn’t push forward when you press the areola. A nursing doctor can give simple tips that have helped women with inverted nipples to breastfeed successfully.
- Blocked ducts: A single painful spot on breast, which may be red and hot, can be a sign of a closed milk duct. This can often be cured by warm compresses and gentle massage over the area to clear the blockage. Frequent nursing can also help.
- Stress: Remaining overly anxious or stressed can intervene with the mother’s body’s natural release of milk into the milk ducts. It can be triggered just by hearing a baby’s cry or thinking about the baby. Stay as untroubled and calm as possible before and during nursing. It can help your milk let down and flow more efficiently. That, in turn, can help calm and ease your infant.
- Mastitis: When bacteria enter the breast, usually through a cracked nipple after breastfeeding, Mastitis can happen. If the mother has a bruised area on her breast along with flu-like symptoms, fever, and fatigue, consult a doctor. Usually, antibiotics can clear a breast infection. Mothers can most likely continue to breastfeed while taking antibiotics for the infection. To ease breast tenderness, apply moist heat to the sore area four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time.
- Premature babies: They may not be able to breastfeed right away. In some cases, mothers can release breast milk and feed it through a bottle or feeding tube.
Warning signs of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a normal, healthy process. But consult a doctor if:
- Mother’s breasts become very red, swollen, firm, or sore.
- mother have an abnormal discharge or bleeding from nipples.
- Baby isn’t gaining weight.