The wonder weeks Although they lead to exciting new skills, wonder weeks can be tiresome for parents and children alike. Dutch doctors F...
Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months has many benefits for the infant and mother. Chief among these is protection against gastrointestinal infections which is observed not only in developing but also industrialized countries. Early initiation of breastfeeding, within 1 hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality. The risk of mortality due to diarrhea and other infections can increase in infants who are either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.
Breast-milk is also an important source of energy and nutrients in children aged 6–23 months. It can provide half or more of a child’s energy needs between the ages of 6 and 12 months, and one third of energy needs between 12 and 24 months. Breast-milk is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness, and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished.
Children and adolescents who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. Additionally, they perform better on intelligence tests and have higher school attendance.
Longer durations of breastfeeding also contribute to the health and well-being of mothers: it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and helps space pregnancies–exclusive breastfeeding of babies under 6 months has a hormonal effect which often induces a lack of menstruation.
The Breastfeeding process
Let's start at the very beginning. A mother's milk usually takes 48 to 72 hours to come in, but can take a little longer, so there’s nothing to worry about if this happens. Hang in there, your milk will appear! Let baby come to the breast frequently for antibody-rich colostrums, which is very low in volume but essential for immunity. A baby's tummy at birth is the size of a small marble, so they really don't need very much. Giving supplements of formula because they 'appear hungry’ before a mum’s milk, really does jeopardize a baby being able to breastfeed effectively, so try to hold off unless it's deemed necessary by a health practitioner.
Once your milk is in, the supply-and-demand rule kicks in. Much your baby takes, that's how much your breast will learn to make. It's as simple as that. To know if your baby is getting enough, watch your baby, not the clock. Baby should suck one breast for at least 10-15 minutes because the fat riched milk comes only after 10 minutes. This milk which comes later gives the sensation of full stomach to the baby. Sucking is a tedious work for the baby, so they suck for a while and stops and again continues. There’s no need to worry. If baby stops sucking, give a few breast compressions (squeezing the breast by holding your hand in a C shape and pushing back into the tissue of the breast) which usually remind them to keep going. Then switch sides.
Changing the nappy between feeding on each breast helps a sleepy baby to wake up a bit, and the other side usually offers a fresh burst of milk to keep that active sucking going for longer
The frequency of feeding is what stimulates supply, rather than waiting for your breasts to fill up. It is very important to breast feed the baby at night because it stimulates the brain and further increases milk production. Stringing out a baby to three or four hours when they are hungry after two hours is often counter-productive and too much like hard work for the mum, with all the added patting and pacing that goes along with it.
If you are worried about supply, watch your baby's nappies. After a baby is 10 days old, they should be producing at least four to five heavily wet disposables in 24 hours, with lots of squirts of poo. If this isn’t happening, you’ll need a good management plan.
Remember any formula you give will affect your breast-milk supply and make your baby less hungry for the breast at the next feed, although mixed feeding can be an option. It doesn't have to be all or nothing – any breast-milk is beneficial. A call to your child doctor is a great way to work out how to manage your supply and give you confidence to continue breastfeeding, if that's what you'd like to do.