How to breastfeed your baby and it's importance

Breastfeeding the baby

Breastfeeding is Mother Nature’s way to feed your baby. But that does not mean that you will naturally know how to do it. Most mothers need advice and support. This is most true during the first month when everything is new. Love and support from your partner and your family can help you. Friends who have enjoyed breastfeeding their babies can also help.

Your baby gets milk by sucking on the breast, not the nipple. The baby uses its lips, gums, tongue, cheeks, jaw muscles, and hard and soft palates to feed. It is good exercise! It can help make the baby’s gums, jaws, and teeth healthy and strong.

When you are breastfeeding, you should be sitting in a comfortable way and you should be in a position that allows your baby to “latch on” to your breast. Doing this will keep things going well for you both. Good position and proper latching can also prevent problems later on.

When you breastfeed, you need to relax. There should be no tension in your shoulders or back. Make sure that your arms and back have support so you will not strain your muscles. You may want to use pillows and a footstool for more comfort. If you are sore from childbirth, you may need help to put the pillows in the right place.

Once you are in a good position, you can offer your baby your breast. Babies often nurse better when they have skin contact with their mothers. Many babies find the nipple easily, latch on to the breast, and seem to know what to do. Others need some help. Here are some ways to help your baby latch on:

  • Have your baby at the level of your nipple before you begin. Use pillows or a rolled blanket to get your baby at the right level.

  • Support your breast with your free hand by making your hand look like the letter “C”. This means that your thumb is on top of your breast, and your fingers are under it, far behind the darker skin around your nipples (areola).

  • Help your baby’s mouth to open wide. To do this, lightly touch your baby’s lips with your nipple. Move the nipple from the baby’s upper lip, to lower lip, and back again.

  • When your baby’s mouth is open as wide as a yawn, pull the baby close to you. Your nipple should be centered upward in your baby’s mouth. Baby’s chin should touch the breast first.

  • Make sure that the baby’s mouth is wide open and the baby’s lips are curled out and that his chin touches your breast.

  • Allow your baby to suck at the first breast for as long as he or she wants. Then you can offer the second breast if she is still hungry. Babies will often leave the breast on their own when they are full or need to burp.

If your baby takes only the nipple, gently break the suction and start again. Break the suction by placing your clean finger into the corner of baby’s mouth and pressing against your breast. If you allow your baby to suck without getting a good latch, two things may happen. One, your nipples may get sore. Two, your baby may not get enough milk.

Breastfeeding is a special time for you and your baby. Relax and enjoy it. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your public health nutritionist, public health nurse or doctor.

Tips to help you breastfeed

  • Do not do too much during the first few weeks. Focus on relaxing and getting used to breastfeeding. If you can, ask friends or relatives to help with cleaning the house or cooking, so you can spend these first weeks taking care of yourself and your baby.

  • At first, breastfeed whenever the baby wants to feed. This is called “nursing on demand”. The more your baby nurses (or drinks breast milk), the more milk your body will produce. Feeding the baby small amounts often is the best way to establish a good milk supply.

  • During these first weeks, your milk supply will change all the time to meet your baby’s needs. At first, you may need to nurse every 2 or 3 hours. The time between feedings will increase until your baby wants to nurse every 3 or 4 hours. Most babies grow a lot when they are 10 days old and at 3 and 6 weeks and again when they are 3 months and 6 months. When this happens, your baby will need to nurse more often.

  • Do not give your baby a bottle of milk. If your baby has milk from a bottle, she will drink less breast milk. If your baby is not drinking your milk, your body will not make milk. It is better to wait until you have nursed for at least 6 weeks and have a good supply of milk before you give your baby any bottled milk.

  • If you find that you need to give your baby breast milk other than at the breast before the first 6 weeks, talk with your doctor, public health nurse or a public health nutritionist about the best way to do this.

Benefits of breastfeeding

Immediately after birth, the repeated suckling of the baby releases oxytocin from the mother's pituitary gland. This hormone not only signals the breasts to release milk to the baby (this is known as the milk ejection reflex, or "let-down") but simultaneously produces contractions in the uterus. The resulting contractions prevent excessive bleeding and help the uterus return to its normal size.

As long as a mother breastfeeds without substituting formula or foods for feedings at the breast, the return of her menstrual periods is delayed. Unlike bottle-feeding mothers, who typically get their periods back within six to eight weeks, breastfeeding mothers can often stay without their periods for several months. This condition has the important benefit of conserving iron in the mother's body and often provides natural spacing of pregnancies.

Breastfeeding is good for new mothers as well as for their babies. There are no bottles to sterilize and no formula to buy, measure and mix. It may be easier for a nursing mother to lose the pounds of pregnancy as well since Nursing uses up extra calories. Lactation also stimulates the uterus to contract back to its original size.

A nursing mother is forced to get needed rest. She must sit down and relax every few hours to nurse. Nursing at night is easy as well. If she's lying down, a mother can doze while she nurses.

Nursing is also nature's contraceptive--although not a very reliable one. Frequent nursing suppresses ovulation, making it less likely for a nursing mother to menstruate, ovulate, or get pregnant. There are no guarantees, however. Mothers who don't want more children right away should use contraception even while nursing. Hormone injections and implants are safe during nursing, as are all barrier methods of birth control. The labeling on birth control pills says if possible another form of contraception should be used until the baby is weaned.

Breastfeeding is economical also. Even though a nursing mother works up a big appetite and consumes extra calories, the extra food for her is less expensive than buying formula for the baby. Nursing saves money while providing the best food possible for the baby.

Long-Term Benefits of Breastfeeding

  • It is now becoming clear that breastfeeding provides mothers with more than just short-term benefits in the early period after birth.

  • A number of studies have shown other potential health advantages that mothers can enjoy through breastfeeding. These include improved health, reduced risk of various cancers, and psychological benefits.

  • Another important element used in producing milk is calcium. Current studies show that after weaning their children, breastfeeding mothers' bone density returns to pre-pregnancy or even higher levels. In the long-term, lactation may actually result in stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis (thin bones). In fact, recent studies have confirmed that women who did not breastfeed have a higher risk of hip fractures after menopause.

  • non-breastfeeding mothers have been shown in numerous studies to have a higher risk of reproductive cancers. Ovarian and uterine cancers have been found to be more common in women who did not breastfeed.

Conclusion: Breastfeeding reduces risk factors for three of the most serious diseases for women- female cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis without any significant health risks.

Psychological Issues for Breastfeeding Mothers

  • There is much more to breastfeeding than the provision of optimal nutrition and protection from disease through mother's milk. Breastfeeding provides a unique interaction between mother and child, an automatic, skin-to-skin closeness and nurturing that bottle-feeding mothers have to work to replicate.

  • Prolactin, the milk-making hormone, appears to produce a special calmness in mothers and helps them cope with stress better.


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