Doctors worldwide recommend breastfeeding, and feeding your baby only breastmilk for the first six months of his or her life. Breastmilk contains all the nutrients your baby needs during this period, as it’s the perfect concoction of fats, proteins, and vitamins. Breast milk also contains antibodies which can strengthen your child’s immune system, help to lower your baby’s risk for allergies and asthma. Furthermore, it supports the development of your baby’s gastrointestinal tract and brain.
Health Benefits of Breastfeeding for Your Baby
Here’s what breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months can do for your baby:
- Lowers your baby’s risk for asthma and allergies
- Reduces your baby’s risk for respiratory tract infections and diarrhea.
- Helps your baby protect against infection and disease while their immune system is still developing
- Helps with your baby’s jaw and brain development
- May lower your baby’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
You can begin breastfeeding immediately after your baby is born.
As you start breastfeeding, at first, a highly-rich in nutrients mixture of breastmilk known as colostrum will be what your breasts produce for your baby. Thicker than regular breastmilk, colostrum is will give your infant a good start at life. It helps newborns with developing their digestive tract so that they can digest breastmilk properly. Gradually, mature, regular breastmilk will replace colostrum in the following days.
How to Breastfeed Properly
Holding your baby correctly, in the right position is the first key to successful breastfeeding. This will ensure that your baby is able to feed comfortably. You as the mother should be in a comfortable relaxed position while holding your baby to feed, so that you don’t experience any cramping or become tired.
Here are some helpful tips on how to breastfeed:
- Sit with your back and feet properly supported
- Hold your baby as close as possible; your baby should be level with your breast
- Make sure your baby’s body is entirely supported — supporting their head, neck, back, and bottom
- Your baby should open their mouth wide and latch on tightly
- Your baby’s mouth should be covering most of the areola
- Make sure your baby’s chin and nose are snug against your breast
Follow these tips every time you breastfeed to ensure feeding time goes smoothly for both you and your baby.
Breastfeeding from One Side or Both
Whether moms breastfeed from one side or both during breastfeeding is a matter of preference. Doctors recommend initially nursing your baby from both sides during the first few weeks after your baby is born, as this helps stimulate the production of breastmilk when you’re just beginning to build up a supply. Breastfeeding from both sides may help with preventing common problems such as mastitis and engorged breasts. However, as the weeks go by and you and your baby are well into a nursing routine, you two can decide which is most suitable — alternating or feeding only with one during a session.
How Do You Know If Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
There are signs you can look for to be certain that your baby is getting sufficiently amounts of milk, which include:
- Your baby breastfeeds at least 7-8 times per day
- You can hear your baby swallow at intervals
- Your baby is calm and relaxed after feeding
- Your breast is firmer prior to feeding and softer afterwards
- After 3-4 days of age, your baby’s urine is a clear yellow color, and they have bowel movement 5-6 times per day
- Your baby has a healthy overall complexion
Common Problems with Breastfeeding and What to Do About It
Unfortunately, nursing mothers can encounter common problems such as sore or cracked nipples, engorged breasts, clogged milk ducts, and mastitis (breast infection).
Here are a few tips on how to deal with these issues if they occur:
Sore and cracked nipples usually occur because your baby is latching on incorrectly. A shallow latch around the areola can cause your baby to suckle only the nipple, which can cause it to become sore and cracked. You can fix this problem by making sure to hold your baby correctly — by the techniques we recommended earlier. When breastfeeding, start on the breast that hurts less. If the pain is too intense, you may also use a breast pump for 1-2 days and then try again.
Engorged breasts occur when you produce a large amount of breastmilk and are unable to release it, causing a buildup. With engorged breasts, your breasts become warmer to the touch, heavy, and hard; milk does not flow properly and the breasts are too tender to be touched.
Clogged milk ducts can occur when your breasts aren’t emptied often enough, causing the ducts to become plugged with a hard lump in the breast. This can lead to infection, pain, swelling, soreness, redness, and a burning sensation, as well as fever and muscle pain.
For engorged breasts or clogged milk ducts, you can apply a heat pack to your breast to alleviate the pain for 5-10 minutes at a time. Pain medication can also be taken, but you should first consult your doctor. But most importantly, try to empty the excess milk from your breasts by breastfeeding, if you feel that you are able to do so; a breast pump could be used too. Gently messaging the breasts can help as well.
Mastitis occurs from milk remaining is the breast for prolonged periods of time and causing the breasts to become inflamed. It can be painful at some parts, have hard lumps, redness, and even lead to fever and fatigue. Alleviating pain and symptoms is the same for mastitis, clogged milk ducts, and engorged breasts. However, if pain symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
When it’s time to wean off breastfeeding, it’s actually a decision between you and your baby. There is no set standard on when a mother should stop breastfeeding her child. It’s up to you.
Burning Calories, and Even Reducing Cancer Risk
Would you believe that breastfeeding burns calories? Well, in fact, it does. To produce just one ounce of breast milk, the body burns up to 20 calories in the process. So if your baby drinks roughly 25 ounces of breastmilk per day, that’s 500 calories burned right there. So, breastfeeding can help you burn off all the extra calories you put on during your pregnancy.
Additionally, preliminary research results indicate that breastfeeding significantly reduces your risk of breast cancer, though research is ongoing; some even claim that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater protection there is against breast cancer. Furthermore, breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
The Loving Bond
Something mothers find highly rewarding are the emotional benefits that come along with breastfeeding, benefits which cannot be overstated. In addition to promoting growth and development, breastfeeding strengthens bonding between you and your baby. The health benefits are numerous, but something that is just as beneficial to both you and your child is the bonding you experience.
Breastfeeding Help from Bumrungrad
The Breastfeeding Clinic at Bumrungrad International is ready to assist new mothers with breastfeeding their newborn. Services available at the clinic include:
- Lactation consultation
- Advice and assistance on breast and nipple problems during pregnancy
- Advice and assistance on breastfeeding
- Advice, assistance, and training on how to properly breastfeed
- Advice and assistance on breast and nipple problems, such as breast engorgement and nipple pain
- Advice for mothers who are experiencing inadequate breastmilk supply
- Advice and assistance for mothers with newborns who are not feeding and/or having trouble with breastfeeding
- Breast massage services
- Breastfeeding advice and consultation via telephone
By Dr Pavintara Harinsoot, Pediatrician, Children’s Center, Bumrungrad International Hospital.
Editor’s Note: This article has been reprinted here with permission of Bumrungrad International Hospital.