Breastfeeding for Beginners
Breast is still the best
Breastfeeding has been clinically proven to be the most comprehensive and safe diet for your baby. The benefits are many, and recommendations from experts are overwhelmingly in favour of it. It is also a natural, warm and caring way of bonding with your baby. Besides the positive effects it has on both you and your baby’s health, there are many other benefits too.
The general advice is to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of your baby’s life and thereafter as long as mutually desired.
A Defence Against Infections
Breastmilk is uniquely superior as it consists of all the nutrients your baby needs. It is easy to digest; hence breastfed infants experience fewer feeding problems during the weeks after birth.
Breastmilk contains antibodies from you. It therefore protects your baby against infections. The antibodies also stimulate the development of your baby’s own defence system.
If you are unable to breastfeed, it is important to ensure that you choose an age-appropriate infant formula for your baby. Consult your doctor for the best option.
Tips on Breastfeeding
• Start breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth. Your baby’s suckling reflexes are strongest immediately after birth. This is also the perfect opportunity for bonding.
• Stimulate your baby’s natural urge to suck by tapping his cheek. Your baby will turn his head in your direction and open his mouth. Then introduce your nipple into the mouth making sure that at least part of the areola is grasped as well. The areola is the brown-pigmented skin surrounding your nipple. Once your baby ‘latches on’, move him closer so that his mouth covers a large part of your areola.
• Empty your breast during feeds as milk production is most effective in this manner. The opportunity to feed often will stimulate more milk production as well as prevent breast engorgement.
• Feed your baby from both breasts at one sitting or alternately at successive feedings.
• Avoid feeding from a bottle or using a pacifier in the first few weeks, as that will discourage the learning process of breastfeeding for the baby.
• Rest as much as you can. Stress and interrupted sleep can lead to fatigue. This can result in a decrease in milk supply.
• Avoid smoking and alcohol, as nicotine and alcohol can pass into your breast milk and may affect your baby. Also, be aware that some medication can
be passed to your baby in the breast milk. Although most medications are safe, your doctor should be aware that you are breastfeeding if you require any medication.
• Treat any breast engorgement by applying hot compresses or take warm showers before feeding and applying cold compresses between feedings to reduce your discomfort.
• Treat sore or cracked nipples as they can lead to breast infections such as mastitis (an inflammation caused by bacterial infection) or breast abscess. Sore nipples should be “air-dried”. Avoid feeding from the affected breast. See your doctor if you develop red blotches on your breast or have a fever.
A new study, published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Genome Biology, suggests that human milk promotes the beneficial crosstalk between the immune system and microbe population in the gut, and maintains intestinal stability.