Thursday, February 9, 2012

All you need to know about Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the most intimate and natural human interactions. It is the procedure of feeding an infant or young child with milk from a woman's breasts. Breast milk is a complete and best food for a baby as it has the accurate quantity of protein, fat, water and sugar that is needed for development and growth of the baby. It reduces the risk of stomach, ear, urine and chest infections, obesity, diabetes, eczema and asthma. It also reduces the risk of suffering from brittle bones, ovarian and breast cancer in the mother. It helps the mother bonding with the baby and could also increase the IQ of the baby.

All you need to know about Breastfeeding
During the nine months of pregnancy, the breasts prepare themselves for lactation. The hormones oestrogen, progesterone and prolactin help stimulating development of milk ducts, milk glands and triggering the milk production respectively. The oestrogen and progesterone levels reduce after delivery. In response to nipple stimulus the baby suckles, the prolactin hormone, which produces milk, and the hormone oxytocin, which promotes milk ejection, is released by the pituitary gland in the brain. Hence for milk production and discharge, suckling is necessary. Milk output is a matter of supply and demand. The more the needs of the baby, the more is the milk production. All this may sound easy but actually it is not that easy. To help themselves survive, babies have primal reflexes.

Women are born with the natural intuition, but not the real ability to breastfeed and a baby is born with a natural rooting intuition but not with automatic knowledge of properly receiving the nourishment from the breast. Mistakes are made but both of them make some alterations along the way. When the mother lightly touches the cheek or lips of the baby with her nipple, the baby intuitively turns to the nipple with mouth open. This whole process is known as the ‘rooting reflex’. The baby is now ready to suck.

The position of the baby and the mother in relation to each other is very important to get the perfect latch. The mouth of the baby should be wide open and the mother should give her whole breast in the baby’s mouth. To prevent nipple soreness and cracks, a good latch is very essential.

During feeding, the milk which is drawn first is called the foremilk. It contains less fat and is more watery, it satisfies the thirst of the baby. The milk following the foremilk is called the hindmilk. It has a high fat and calorie content. It satisfies the hunger of the baby and helps in the growth and development. A short time breastfeeding at one breast gives only the foremilk to the baby hence making the baby hungry soon, demanding frequent feeds. It may often make the baby cry. Hence, feed the baby sufficiently at one breast before switching to the other one.

There are some signs, which will let the mother know that the milk supply is sufficient or not. After feeding, the baby may seem relaxed and the breast of the mother may feel soft and supple. Or maybe the baby starts gaining weight and is sufficiently hydrated. Also after the first few days, the baby may be wetting the diapers six to eight times daily.

Breastfeeding must be started within half an hour of birth. For 6 months of age, breastfeeding must be done as much as possible. It must be done with additional feeds for the next 6 months. If desired, it can also be continued for one more year.

Generally all babies should be breastfeed by their mothers, however in some rare cases the baby may suffer from galactosemia (a rare genetic disorder in which the newborn cannot digest galactose and lactose. While in some cases the milk of the mother may be considered unsuitable for the baby like if the mother is suffering from HIV infection, active tuberculosis, HTLV -1 infection or if she is going through anticancer chemotherapy or radioactive iodine treatment. Or the mother is taking lithium, cocaine, heroin, LSD). For such a condition, many other options are available like expressed breast milk from the mother, breast milk from another healthy woman, a human-milk bank, or a breast milk substitute fed with a cup.

A breastfeeding mother produces about 750 ml of milk everyday, which contains 300 mg of calcium. About 500 calories per day are lost in breast milk and the mother needs to add that to her daily intake. The milk is produced from the nutrients present in the blood of the mother hence; she requires a nutritious balanced diet. The requirement of protein increases highly as milk contains high amount of protein. A high amount of water intake is also required as a lot of water is used in the milk production. Pregnancy and delivery deplete the iron level in the blood so the mother needs a high content of iron. Plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain, cereals, along with dairy products are suggested to be included in her diet. The new mother must eat in small portions regularly to prevent decrease in sugar level.

The new mother must get educated about breastfeeding while the pregnancy period itself to avoid any type of trouble after delivery. Support from the husband and the family is also very important to boost the confidence of the mother and help her deal with the physical and mental challenges of maternity in a positive manner. The tips listed here may help the new mother to breastfeed the kid:
  • Keep a flexible schedule
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps
  • While breastfeeding make yourself comfortable, whatever position you choose
  • Do not restrict the frequency or duration of breastfeeds
  • Take enough rest and get help for household chores
  • Try to learn the pickup feeding ‘reminders’ from the baby
  • Giving adequate time, feed from one breast at a time. Give the other breast, when the baby unlatches on its own
  • Look for help from a doctor on facing any difficulty
  • Sometimes certain difficulties during the lactation period may lead to failure to feed
  • Lack of confidence and negative thoughts due to certain myths and improper education
  • Mental as well as physical stress, which can repress pituitary hormones
  • A baby feeding using bottle may get used to it and refuse the breastfeed
  • Swollen breasts, sore or inverted nipples
  • A premature or weak baby unable to suck efficiently
  • Ailing mother not producing enough milk
  • Adding other (cow or buffalo milk) feeds decrease the demand and accordingly the supply of mother’s milk
Certain myths related to the motherhood are still there, which restrict the mother to breastfeed the infant. These myths must be ignored by the mother. Some common myths include:

Myth: Smaller breasts won’t get enough milk.
Fact: The size has nothing to do with the quantity of milk.

Myth: If there are only a few drops of milk coming out on squeezing, it means that the mother is not producing enough milk.
Fact: Milk pours well after a while of suckling. Therefore, it is a wrong way to check if the mother is producing an adequate amount of milk.

Myth: Milk production is inadequate in the first few days.
Fact: Baby’s stomach capacity is small and thus his/her needs are low in the first few days.

Myth: The baby should not be allowed breastfeeding with nipples bleeding.
Fact: If the baby swallows the blood, it will not harm the baby as it passes through vomit or stool.

Myth: Every time the mother breastfeeds, she should wash her breasts.
Fact: Repeated washing eliminates the protective oils over the nipples, resulting in dry and sore nipples.

Myth: Colostrum is harmful for the baby.
Fact: Colostrum has protective antibodies and is high in proteins.

Myth: The baby should have a fixed schedule for feeding or else he/she will not gain weight.
Fact: Every baby has different feeding schedules as per the needs. Be relaxed and flexible, unless there are warning signs.

Video of All About Breastfeeding from youtube:


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