Ever since the birth, the baby and the mother begin a lifelong bond. This bond gets started by the act of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding as a process is highly beneficial to both the baby and its mother and is recommended to be started within a few hours from the baby’s birth. Breast Milk is the best ‘first’ food for the baby, as it protect the newborn from illness whilst also providing ideal nourishment for the mental and physical growth of the baby. In fact breastfeeding comes with so many positives that both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend that newborn babies be breastfed for at least the first four months of their lives! Generally the recommended period for breastfeeding is two years or beyond.
Importance of breastfeeding
Breast Milk contains macrophages that help kill bacteria, viruses and fungi which can bring illnesses such as the ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis, diabetes mellitus, German measles and staphylococcal infections to the baby. Apart from providing this high degree of protection against illnesses, breast milk also provides complete nutrition for the baby as it contains the exact amount of fatty acids, water, lactose (sugar) and amino acids which are required for the mental, physical and emotional growth of the baby.
Moreover the act of breastfeeding itself is equally beneficial to the mother too, as it not only helps her to bond with the baby but also helps in reducing the size of the uterus (back to its normal size) and decreasing the postpartum bleeding. In fact breastfeeding mothers have a better rate of bone re-mineralization after pregnancy and also a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
So now that we know about the importance of breastfeeding, here are a few simple tips for young mothers on how to successfully breastfeed their newborns:-
Tips for Breastfeeding
Starting Early – The key to successfully nourishing and protecting the baby from illnesses is to start breastfeeding within an hour from delivery.
Avoid any kind of Supplements – As breast milk contains all the necessary nourishment required for the growth of the baby along with the macrophages which protect the baby from falling prey to the various illnesses, it is recommended that mothers should avoid feeding the baby with any sort of supplement to breast milk, at least for the first four months. Since breast milk is enough to satisfy the baby’s hunger and thirst, there is no need to feed the baby any extra fluids at least for the first 4-6 months. Moreover any supplement used to feed is going to interfere with his/her appetite, thereby disrupting its feeding schedule in the process too.
Pay attention to Position whilst breastfeeding – Position plays an important role when feeding the baby. To avoid a case of sore nipples and also to ensure proper milk flow, the baby should be encouraged to open its mouth wide and take the nipple far back in its mouth when suckling.
Enough Rest – It is undeniable the stress that comes with having a baby. However one must not forget that the stress experienced by the mother can affect her milk producing ability, as well! This is why it is important that the mother rest well to avoid fatigue, eat a balanced diet and drink up to 8-12 cups of fluids every day so that she can produce enough milk for the baby.
Nipple Care – In the beginning till the mother gets used to the suction action it is suggested that nipples be kept dry by gently blowing with a hair dryer after feeding (Only if the mother feels the need). A very common condition amongst breastfeeding mothers is cracked nipples. For cracked nipples, coating them with breast milk itself or natural moisturizers (Aloe Vera) is of great help. Artificial moisturizers are not recommended as the baby comes into direct contact with the nipple and ingestion of these moisturizers can trigger an adverse reaction in the baby.
Watch out for Infection – Mothers who are breastfeeding should keep an eye out for infections in their breasts. Common indicators of infection are fever, the presence of rather painful lumps in the breast region and redness on the breast. Immediate medical attention is recommended on the first sign of infection.
While a well-balanced diet is very important for production of breast milk, there are some other important guidelines that have to be adhered to, especially when it comes to food items that should not be eaten by breastfeeding mothers.
Foods to be Avoided by Breastfeeding Mothers
Alcohol – It is to be avoided as it easily enters the breast milk and can result in the lowering of the baby’s intake of milk from the breast, as babies metabolize alcohol differently (it suppresses their feeding urge). A study found that the alcoholic concentration of breast milk peaks within one hour of alcohol consumption by the mother. Moreover alcohol is also known to inhibit or reduce a woman’s milk producing capacities. Taking a drink once in a while doesn’t cause any harm.
Caffeine – Caffeine, found mainly in the coffee consumed by a breastfeeding mother serves as a stimulant to the baby (who ingests it via breast milk from the mother) resulting in wakefulness and irritability in the baby. Caffeine is also known to interfere in the iron content found in breast milk; hence a breastfeeding mother who consumes caffeine regularly will notice a drop in the baby’s iron levels. Taking a cup or two per day (300 ml) doesn’t create any significant negative health effects.
Spicy Food – Consumption of spicy food can cause irritability in the baby as it tends to change the flavor of the breast milk. Also, a sudden change in the flavor of breast milk can lead to a baby fussing over meal times!
So now that we know about the do’s and don’ts of breastfeeding, here’s hoping that breastfeeding mothers all over the world have success in breastfeeding their lil’ bundles of joy!
1. HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health, 2000. (accessed on 13th March, 2011)
- 2. Leslie Beck, R.D. “The Ultimate Nutrition Guide for Women: How to Stay Healthy with Diet, Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs” (accessed on 13th March, 2011)