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Breastfeeding – it’s the most natural thing in the world. Mother and baby wrapped blissfully in a cocoon of love, oblivious to the world. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? Wrong! As many new mothers will agree, breastfeeding, though the most natural and basic of human functions, can prove to be the most frustrating and stressful event to new parents. Cracked nipples, discouraged parents and a screaming, hungry baby are just some of the many reasons why countless new mothers give up trying before they even begin, but with a little perseverance and education, breastfeeding can prove to be a rewarding and successful experience.
Composition of breast milk
Breast milk contains all the nutrients and water your newborn will need. Colostrum or pre-milk, the thin, yellow milk you make in the first few days of breast feeding, holds much needed antibodies and white blood cells as well as nutrients.
The very first meal every newborn should have is this nutrient-rich fluid which acts as her first immunization dose. In fact, a baby should be breastfed as soon as possible after birth and exclusively for her first six months, after which she would alternate between solid food and breast milk.
After a few days, milk production increases and produces mature milk. This can cause engorgement or the hardening and swelling of the breasts discouraging feeding. Engorgement can be alleviated by standing under a warm shower or putting warm compresses on the nipple and areole area. Mature milk is thin and watery but still contains the nutrients that your baby needs and is made up of both foremilk and hind milk.
Foremilk looks watery but is rich in nutrients like protein, vitamins and has a high water content, while hind milk is whiter because it has a higher fat content. When nursing, it is essential that the baby stays long enough on each side to ensure that they receive all the nutrients needed for a healthy immune system as well as maintaining a healthy body weight.
So now you know how valuable breast milk is to your baby but you may still think, how does breastfeeding benefit me? The following are the advantages of breastfeeding:
1. Breast milk is free, convenient and the best milk for your baby. More mothers are comfortable with feeding in public than before thanks to products such as the Nursing Bib which allows you to enjoy the privacy and intimacy of breastfeeding in public.
2. Breastfeeding promotes a strong bond between mother and baby
3. Studies show that breastfeeding prevents adult obesity as well as allergies and other diseases in children that were breast fed
4. Breastfeeding helps a new mother to lose post pregnancy weight faster
5. It lowers the risk of breast cancer and also lowers the mother’s risk of diabetes.
6. Studies show that frequent and consistent breastfeeding seem to suppress ovulation, delaying the need for the use of contraceptives. (This form of birth control is not a guaranteed method and should be discussed with your doctor).
Finally, here are some tips to help you get started:
· Find a quiet room – A quiet room, void of distraction will generally leave you calm and in the best mindset for breast feeding. A baby can pick up on your emotions, so if you approach this time with a positive outlook, your baby will be calmer. If your baby begins crying, don’t try forcing the nipple into her mouth. Wait until she calms down and begins rooting around for the nipple which shows that she is now willing to begin feeding. This will prove better for you as she will now be in a better position to latch on properly. Sometimes to make certain that you have the quiet time you need, you will have to control your visitors both at the hospital and at home.
· Get comfortable – Sit in a comfortable chair, with your arms well supported and legs elevated. A typical breastfeeding session can take as much as forty five minutes and can cause cramping to your limbs so prop yourself on a pillow or two and use a pillow over your lap to help bring your baby closer to your breast level, preventing hunching over to accommodate the baby. After you get the hang of breastfeeding, you can start playing some classical music or reading to help pass the time and keep you relaxed.
· Latching technique - The nipple and entire areole (dark area surrounding the nipple) should be in the baby’s mouth to ensure a proper latching technique. The baby should be positioned so that both your tummies touch, body kept in a straight line and her chin is touching the breast. These points help to guarantee a better experience for the mother, reducing cracked and sore nipples and generally make certain that the mother would want to keep breastfeeding. To help the baby open her mouth wide enough so that the entire areole would fit, try tickling her nose or upper lips with the nipple causing her to open her mouth widely.
· Stay hydrated – Keep a drink of water or juice close at hand while breastfeeding. Ensure that you get the recommended eight to twelve glasses of fluids while lactating to stay hydrated.
· Eat a balanced diet – In addition to drinking a lot of fluids, it is important that you consume 500 more calories than your pre-pregnancy diet. Achieving this shouldn’t be done by consuming empty calories but by continuing the use of your prenatal vitamins as well as eating the well balanced meals you did during pregnancy. Avoid all drugs just as you did during your pregnancy and discuss the use of any medication with your doctor. Breast milk may not have sufficient levels of vitamin D, so be sure to include ample amounts in your diet.
· Get support – It may take a while for you to get a hang of breastfeeding, so don’t be afraid to ask for the help of a lactation specialist or nurse. Take lactation classes and include in your birth plan the need for your baby to be breast fed exclusively and not given any formula. Ahead of time, express your wishes concerning breastfeeding and visiting to your spouse and family as you will need their help to make this a success.