'Breast is best' is not simply a slogan to encourage mothers to breastfeed – it’s also a scientifically proven fact.
Giving your baby breast milk really will be giving him the best possible start in life and breastfeeding has many benefits for you too.
Although breastfeeding is a natural process, a little practice is needed in order to master it successfully.
If you experience minor difficulties at first don’t be tempted to give up – any problems can usually be overcome with the support of your doctor or nurse.
Once mastered, breastfeeding can be a wonderful, satisfying experience and the physical closeness you share will help you to bond with your baby.
Research shows that breast milk contains antibodies that protect babies against infections such as gastroenteritis, respiratory illness, urinary and ear infections.
Breast milk is especially important for the development of the nervous system in premature babies.
It also contains long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which play an important part in a baby’s brain development.
Breastfeeding uses at least an extra 500 calories a day so it can help you get back into shape after the birth. Breastfeeding for at least six months significantly reduces the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, and can also protect you from osteoporosis, ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Your breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs, in the right quantities, for the first six months of his life. The milk is produced on a supply and demand basis – the more your baby demands the more your breasts supply.
After the birth your breasts naturally produce a high protein liquid called colostrum. This first ‘milk’ is rich in the antibodies that protect your baby from infections and help to build a strong immune system. Colostrum is yellow in colour and very concentrated so your baby only needs a small amount – about a teaspoonful – at each feed.
After three or four days, whether you are breastfeeding or not, the colostrum gradually becomes transitional milk – a mixture of colostrum and mature breast milk.
You may notice this change as a feeling of fullness in your breasts, which may make them heavy and uncomfortable – this is often described as ‘the milk coming in’. Any discomfort should only last for 24–48 hours. You can help yourself by feeding your baby frequently and by wearing a well-fitting nursing bra.
Two to three weeks later mature breast milk comes through. This is made up of 90% water, which is needed to keep your baby hydrated and the remaining 10% is made up of the carbohydrates, protein and fat and minerals required for growth and energy. The composition of the breast milk changes as your baby feeds with the fat content increasing as the milk is removed.
Feeding on demand and allowing him to feed as long as he wants on one breast before changing to the other ensures that your baby get the right amount of milk to satisfy his needs.
As your baby grows the nutritional composition of your breast milk will change to meet his needs.
Feeds can take any time from 10 to 40 minutes so make sure you are comfortable and that your baby is ‘latched on’ properly.
Here are some guidelines for successful breastfeeding:
A 10mcg vitamin D supplement is recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Your baby may also need a supplement. Your doctor will be able to advise you.
This is all about creating a close, loving bond between you and your baby by responding to his needs before he starts to cry. When your baby cries he releases stress hormones which will make him feel unhappy and insecure. Being able to recognise the signs that indicate your baby is hungry and then acting on them before he becomes upset will help him to feel safe and secure. Find out more about responsive feeding
Benefits for your baby: Feeding your baby frequently will help to ensure that your baby will:
Benefits for you: Responding to your baby's feeding cues will:
Keeping your baby close to you during the day and night will help you learn to recognise his feeding cues.
These will include:
Your baby will benefit from responsive feeding however you choose to feed him.
Formula milk doesn’t offer the same degree of protection as breast milk, but it does contains all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your baby needs for the first six months. Your baby should be bottle fed in a semi-upright position with the teat almost horizontal and filled with milk.
Always wash your hands before you start and make sure that all the feeding equipment is sterilised. It is very important to follow the instructions on the pack as too much, or too little formula could be harmful to your baby. Always use the scoop provided. Place the correct amount of boiled tap water in the bottle (the water must be used within 30 minutes of being boiled so that its temperature is no less than 70°C ), then add the formula. Cool the bottle in cold water before checking the temperature.
UK-based National Health Service guidelines recommend making up each feed as it’s required and that any formula which is leftover after a feed should be thrown away after one hour. Made-up formula that’s been at room temperature for more than two hours should also be thrown away. If you do have to make up a feed in advance, store it in the fridge for no longer than 24 hours.
There are National Guidelines on Infant & Young Child feeding published by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare India