Breastmilk is the best food for a baby. The discussion concerning the pros
and cons of breast and bottle feeding has gone on for years and will no doubt
go on for much longer. The growing consensus is that breastfeeding is better
for the baby’s health.
Breastmilk contains just the right kinds and proportions of protiens, fats,
and sugars for the baby. More than a hundred substances in breastmilk have
been identified. Infant formulas cannot duplicate many of these substances.
As the child gets older, the composition of the breastmilk changes to suit
the needs of the baby. Breastmilk can even change during a single feeding. At
the beginning of a feeding, the baby gets foremilk, which is high in liquids
and low in calories. This is good for quenching thirst. This is fallowed by
the thicker, richer, hindmilk. The hindmilk is good for nutrition. By
switching breast at the right time, the baby can control the amount of liquid
and calories they get. A bottle-fed baby cannot do this. Breastfed babies
sleep longer, suffer less gas, and spit up less than bottle fed babies.
Colostrom is the first milk that the baby recieves. Colostrom is a thin,
yellow, milky fluid secreted by the breast before and after birth. It
contains many antibodies, vitamins and minerals. The breast continue to
produce colostrom for a few days after the baby is born. It is produced in
very low quantities, but contains everything a newborn baby needs. Clostrom
has several essentail ingrediants. It acts as a laxative to help eliminate
meconium, the baby’s first bowel movements. It contains a substance that
protects the baby against infections by lining the baby’s intestines.
Antibodies are in colostrom. They protect the baby from many diseases and
help to resist infections. Even if the mother plans to bottle-feed, letting
the baby breastfeed for the first three or four days will give the baby a
major health advantage.
Mature milk arrives after two to three days after birth. The baby’s suckling
action stimulates the production of more mature milk. This milk is whiter and
is produced in much greater volume. It is very important for the mother to
maintain a good diet. Surprisingly, breastfeeding moms need more calories
than during pregnancy. Producing this mature milk takes up a lot of energy.
It is also likely that the mother will feel thirstier than usual due to the
baby taking over a pint of milk a day. It is important that the mother drink
plenty of water.
There are many health benefits for babies when they are breastfed. Not only
is breastmilk the food source, but it has several medicinal benefits as well.
Immune factors are passed from the mother’s immune system to the baby’s
immune system through breastmilk. Breastfed babies are less likely to have
allergies and asthma. They are also less likely to have intestinal problems
since they are much less likely to be exposed to harmful germs like
salmonella or coli bacteria. Bottle fed babies gets these from improperly
sterilized bottles or contaminated water. Breastfed babies are much less
likely to have ear infections, food allergies later on in life and to develop
cancer as a child or adult. They are possibly less likely to be obese and suffer
from hypertension and heart disease. Babies that are breastfed are
considerably less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome, commonly
known as SIDS.
The babies are not the only ones to benefit from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding
is good for the mother’s figure. It promotes the loss of weight gained during
pregnancy. While breastfeeding, oxytocin is released to stimulate milk flow.
This also encourages the uterus to return to its prepregnant size. The pelvis
and waistline will also return to normal more quickly. Studies have shown
that breast cancer is lower in those parts of the world where breastfeeding
is the norm. It is also possible that breastfeeding may provide some
protection against disease.
Once a mother has decided to breastfeed she needs to pick a breastfeeding
friendly hospital. Purchase nursing clothes, nursing stools or pillows.
Mother’s need to remember to ask their obstetricians any questions they may
have and learn about lactation consultants in their area.
Getting off to a good start in the hospital is important. The doctors and
nurses should know about the mother’s plan to breastfeed. Nursing as soon as
possible after birth is beneficial for the baby and the mother. Most babies
will be interested in nursing at some time during the first hour after birth.
If this first breastfeeding opportunity is missed, it may be a day or two
before the baby wants to nurse again. By rooming in, or keeping the baby in
the same room with the mother, ensures that the baby is available to nurse at
any time. Avoiding pacifiers during the first month of the baby’s life.
Pacifiers can cause nipple confusion.
Nipple confusion is one of the many hurdles in breastfeeding. Many hospitals
will give the baby glucose water from a bottle to see if the baby has proper
sucking reflex. This is very unnecessary and the mother can do this by
putting the baby at the breast. Nurses sometimes will feed the baby formula
during the night so they can avoid waking the mother. This too will cause
nipple confusion. Drinking from the bottle is very different than suckling
from the breast. To suckle the baby needs to open their mouths wide, pull the
nipple far into the mouth, flange the lips out and use the lower jaw and
tongue to pull back the areola to draw milk from the reservoirs. Bottle
nipples are stiff and they are designed to drip by themselves. A baby does
not need to apply as much suction to keep the nipple of the bottle in place.
It is much easier to get milk from a bottle. Many babies who have been given
bottles will get frustrated at the breast. New mothers often think that they
do not have enough milk. The real reason is that the baby is confused. The
baby expects the breast to work like a bottle. It is best to avoid bottles
and pacifiers for a few weeks until the baby learns to latch on properly.
Dealing with nipple confusion is frustrating for both the mother and baby.
Contacting a lactation consultant may be helpful.
Positioning is another major factor in breastfeeding. The baby must have a
good part of the areola in the mouth, not just the nipple. The milk ducts are
located beneath the areola and the baby needs to apply pressure to the ducts
to get the milk out. If the baby suck just on the nipple, the nipples may
become sore. The baby’s nose should be touching the breast. This will ensure
that the baby has enough of the breast in their mouth. The tongue should be
covering the lower gum. The lower lip should be turned out and pushing
against the lower side of the breast. Inserting a finger into the baby’s
mouth will break the suction, pulling the baby off of the breast will damage
the nipple. Holding the baby during nursing is also a part of positioning.
There are three common holds. The sitting down position is the classic
nursing position and the one used most often. The mother should place a
pillow on her lap to raise the baby up high enough to reach the breast. They
should be tummy to tummy with the baby’s lower arm around the mother’s waist.
The football hold is especially good for mothers who have had cesarean
section delivery. The baby should be placed at the mother’s side with her
forearm supporting the baby’s back and her hand cradling the head.
The lying down position is great for feeding in the middle of the night. The
mother should lie on her side with one arm bent behind her head and resting
on a pillow. The lower breast should be offered to the baby.
To avoid sore nipples, engorged breast and a fussy baby, the mother must make
sure that the baby is latched on correctly. All babies are born with a
rooting reflex. Take advantage of the baby’s rooting reflex. When something
brushes the baby’s cheek or lip they will turn their head towards that side.
The baby will open the mouth very wide like a yawn. The mother should keep
tickling the baby’s lips with the nipple until the baby opens the mouth
really wide. While the mouth is opened wide the mother should pull the baby
toward the breast all the way to the chest. It is important to pull the baby
very close to make sure they get a good mouthful of breast instead of just
the nipple. The mother may prefer to hold the breast in her hand while the
baby is latching on. They should avoid holding the breast between the index
and ring finger. Instead they should try using the thumb on the top of the
breast and the four fingers on the bottom creating a C or U with the hand.
Many breastfeeding mothers suffer from sore nipples. Many things contribute
to sore nipples. Improper latch on may cause nipple to crack and bleed.
Moisture can make sore nipples worse. Using cotton bra pads to absorb leaking
milk and changing them often is a good idea. Another suggestion is to hand
express a couple of drops of breastmilk after a feeding and rub it gently
into the nipple and areola and then air dry the nipples before putting the
bra on again. Soaps, ointments and creams should be avoided. They may dry out
the nipple and cause bleeding cracks. The only cream that is okay to use is
Engorged breasts are common in the early stages of breastfeeding. Breastmilk
is produced on a supply and demand system. In the few days to weeks after
birth this system is not yet established. The breast start making large
amounts of milk, more than the baby can consume. The breast will become
overfull, hard and tender. Skipping feeding for any reason will also cause
engorgement. Nursing the baby as often as they or the mother needs it will
help reduce engorgement. Taking a warm bath or shower will get the milk to
start flowing on its own relieving the pressure. It is very dangerous to
leave the breast engorged. This may lead to plugged ducts or mastitis.
Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the breast. The symptoms are flu like
feeling, fever and tiredness. The breast with mastitis will have a hot,
tender and red area. It may hurt a lot to touch this area. There will be a
lump or several little lumps inside the tender area. Mastitis occurs when
milk stays stagnant in the breast. Bacteria enter through the nipple and
cause an infection. Tight clothing may cause mastitis by blocking the milk
ducts. Applying a warm washcloth, massaging gently, taking a warm bath and
nursing the baby with their lower jaw facing the affected area may treat the
mastitis. Often time’s medical attention is needed. The doctor may prescribe
antibiotics. The best way to avoid mastitis is to nurse often. Make sure the
baby empties the breast completely, if not then pumping should be used.
It is hard to tell if the baby is getting enough milk. An exclusively
breastfed baby should have at least six wet diapers every day. The baby’s
urine should be colorless or very pale yellow. If the urine is bright yellow
the baby is not getting enough o drink. The baby should be properly hydrated.
The front fontanel should be curving out when the baby is crying and slightly
curving in at other times. The mother should notice if her breast feel full
before a feeding and softer after a feeding. The mother should avoid stress
and nicotine. This may cause the breast to slow down milk production.
Feeding the baby on demand will help to maintain the milk supply. When the
breast start to feel full or engorged or when they start leaking the mother
should breastfeed. The baby should be nursing about eight times a day. The
mother should maintain a healthy well balanced diet and get plenty of rest.
Nursing mothers should drink more than the usual amounts of water. Birth
control pills may decrease the production of milk. Since breastmilk is
produced on a supply and demand system, nursing often and pumping in between
feeding will increase the milk supply.
The milk ejection reflex or letdown is how the baby gets the milk out of the
breast. Nipple stimulation causes the muscles around the milk producing cells
to contract. This then pushes the milk into the milk ducts around the areola.
If the ducts are already full or a lot of milk is produced, the milk will
leak or spray out. The brain releases the hormone, oxytocin when the nipples
are stimulated. Other things that can release oxytocin are seeing, hearing
and thinking of the baby. Sexual arousal will also cause letdown. While
nursing the baby the other breast may leak as well. This is called
sympathetic letdown. By pushing on the nipple with the palm of the hand, the
leaking will stop.
Breastfeeding a fussy baby may be very difficult. Most mothers feel that if
their baby is fussy they do not have enough milk. Many people, even doctors,
may suggest supplementing with formula in a bottle. The mothers need to be
careful and not cause the baby to have nipple confusion. Other steps should
be taken to increase milk production. Sometimes, a baby may react to
something that the mother has eaten. The mother should be careful not to eat
gassy foods since they will be passed on to the baby. Fussiness may result if
the mother has too much milk and a hyperactive letdown. Most quite and sleepy
babies are the ones who don’t get enough milk and fail to thrive. Their lack
of alertness will not stimulate the breast to letdown the milk. A fussy baby
is more likely to be well fed.
Demand feeding is usually the best way to feed a baby. This means that a
mother should nurse the baby whenever they want it, for as long as they want
it. This will make sure that the mother doesn’t have problems with
insufficient milk or with lack of growth in the baby. The baby should nurse
at least eight times in a twenty-four hour period. If the baby is too sleepy
to nurse at least eight times a day, then the mother should wake the baby up
to feed it. The mother should not worry about how long the baby nurses for.
When the baby is full they will let go. The other breast should be offered
and the baby should be allowed to nurse until they are finished.
Breastfeeding a young baby, under two months old, is easy in some respects
and difficult in others. This is the best time for the mother and child to
bond and is a learning experience for the mother and baby. During this time
period the baby will begin to trust the mother and learn to depend on them to
be there whenever they need it. In order for breastfeeding to go smoothly the
mother needs to remain calm and patient. Stressed out mothers make stressed
out babies. This is a learning process and mothers need to remember that it
will take time.
By the time the baby reaches two to six months old, the mother and child have
learned the mechanics of breastfeeding. The mother has gained confidence in
her milk supply and the letdown reflex. Because they know all about
positioning and latching on, they do not suffer from sore nipples.
Engorgement no longer is an issue since the breasts have adjusted to the
needs of the baby. Outings have become much more manageable now that the
mother has built up enough confidence and ease to nurse in public. The baby
is now at the stage where they start smiling and may come off of the breast
to smile at the mother or the baby might try smiling with the nipple still in
it’s mouth. Mothers of breastfed babies need to learn how to ignore people
with negative comments on breastfeeding. They need to trust their baby to
show the signs of a healthy appetite.
When the baby is six months to one year old they are ready to try solid
foods. The mother should always offer the breast first before any meal since
breastmilk is still providing most of the nutrition for the baby. Juice may
be given to the baby in a cup, but limit the amount. Giving bottles of juice
may cause tooth decay. Breastfeeding is still an excellent way to comfort the
baby and to help them go to sleep. By this time, the breasts are so
accustomed to making milk that the mother can probably afford to be away from
the baby for half a day without worrying about the milk supply. On the other
hand, breastfeeding is likely to be such a joy at this time that the mother
may not want to be away from the baby at all.
One common question people have is whether they will have enough milk for
multiples. Twins provide twice as much stimulation, so the breasts will make
twice as much milk. With adequate breast stimulation and nutrition it seems
to be no trouble for women to produce more than a gallon of milk per day. That
is easily enough for three or four babies. The main impediment of nursing
multiples is the time and energy it takes not the amount of milk they need to
produce. But bottle-feeding multiples may be even more work.
Breastfeeding while pregnant is still an option. Many people say that nursing
while pregnant may hurt the fetus. There is no need to worry unless the
mother is severely malnourished, A pregnant nursing mother might hear that
nursing during pregnancy might increase the risk of miscarriage. It is true
that nursing causes uterine contractions, but there is no evidence that this
may lead to a miscarriage. The mother may experience some breast and nipple
tenderness during the pregnancy. Some time during the pregnancy, the milk
will decrease and its taste will change. It will eventually change into
colostrom. Many children wean themselves when this happens but some are happy
to continue. The choice to tandem nurse is up to the mother.
Tandem nursing is when a mother is nursing an infant while they are also
nursing a child. Few women choose to tandem nurse. The milk supply is not a
problem. The mother will have plenty. The only that need to be avoided is
letting the older child nurse immediately before the baby. The older child
will also help keep the milk supply up if the baby gets ill or goes through a
nursing strike. Some mothers find that they resent the older child’s nursing.
This is a sign that weaning may be a good idea.
Many people think that returning back to work is incompatible with breastfeeding.
Some women do not even start breastfeeding for this reason, but many mothers
who return to work manage to continue breastfeeding. The longer that the
mother can stay at home with the baby the easier it will be to continue
breastfeeding when they return to work. Getting a hospital grade pump is
important because they are much more efficient than smaller ones. These
breastpumps are expensive. They can be purchased or rented. It will still be
cheaper than bottle-feeding. The mother should nurse the baby last thing
before leaving for work and first thing when returning from work. If it is
possible the mother should visit the baby once or twice during the work shift
to breastfeed. Pumping the breast as many times as possible and saving the
milk for the babysitter is a good idea. This will keep the milk supply up.
Mothers should nurse as often as they can during weekends and holidays.
Mothers should also be prepared to supplement with formula or other foods. It
is unlikely that the mother will be able to produce enough milk to feed the
baby exclusively on breastmilk while working full time. This will work for
most mothers. However, babies will gradually wean themselves when their
mother returns to work.
Breastfeeding in public is controversial, but it can be done. Before a mother
starts breastfeeding in public, they should make sure that they have the
mechanics of breastfeeding right. Making sure that the mother and the baby
are comfortable with positioning and latching on will make it easier.
Breastfeeding the baby before they get too hungry or are screaming will be
easier and quieter. The mother should decide whether she wants to nurse
discreetly or openly. They should do whatever makes them and their baby most
comfortable and happy.
Breastfeeding mothers have legal rights. It would be helpful for mothers who
breastfeed to know them. They might come in handy in a variety of situations.
Women have the right to breastfeed in public.
As seen breastfeeding has many great benefits not only to the baby but to the
mother as well. The many advantages of breastfeeding can promote a healthy
baby and a happy mom. Before mothers choose bottle they should remember that
breast is best.
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Santrock, John W. (2003) 7th Edition Children.
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
"The Breastfeeding Page". Childfun.com
Stoppard, Dr. Miriam (1995). Complete Baby and Child Care.
New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc.
Keough, Carol (1998). Better Homes and Gardens
New Baby Book. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Publishing Group.