Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother and Baby
Breastfeeding, a knowledge which is either very little shared or sometimes even not, especially for first-time mothers it is a roller coaster journey.
It is very instinctive that during the beautiful phase of your pregnancy your thoughts would be mostly surrounded by the process of delivery, welcoming your baby, stuffs to keep ready for the baby, vaccination checklist and whatnot, but somehow we overlook breastfeeding as a very natural process thinking it will come on its way. Wish it could be so simple…!
Breastfeeding journey is a glass full of cocktail of emotions, both physically and mentally.
Practically all mothers can produce breastmilk, provided they get the right guide, ample support from family members, partner, peers, health care and all of them who surrounds her.
How to Start Breastfeeding
The first hour after delivery is known as “Magic Hour”, the duration or bout when your baby will have skin to skin contact, feel your breast, try to suckle and create a beautiful bond between you and him/her.
It is ok if he or she feeds or not, but it is extremely important to let it happen.
Women delivering through C-sec or cesarean will certainly face challenges in the initial course of time but you can definitely prepare and face them confidently.
Few important tips for initial Breastfeeding
- Start breastfeeding within “magical hour”
- If the mother is conscious, get help in positioning the baby comfortably that does not hurt you.
- Use a breast pump if you and baby are away from one another and
- Breastfeed frequently at an interval of 1-2 hours.
Colostrum: The Magic Drop of Breastmilk
After delivery, for the first few days, the mother’s body produces colostrum. Colostrum, also known as “golden drops” contains nutrients in the concentrated volume, immune cells and antibodies that protect newborn babies from several diseases.
Colostrum has a mild laxative effect, which helps newborn to pass their first stool, meconium, that in turn helps to clear excess bilirubin and prevent jaundice.
Importance of breastfeeding
WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, followed by breastfeeding along with solids up to 2 years or above (also called as extended breastfeeding) for its enormous health benefits for the baby as well as the mother.
Breastfeeding Benefits for baby
- Breastfed babies are less prone to frequent infections and diseases due to a stronger immune system
- Breastfed babies have a strong emotional bonding with mother
- Have reduced risk of Asthma, colic and various allergies.
- Breastfed babies have reduced risk of diarrhoea, vomiting, obesity, respiratory disorders, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), childhood leukaemia, Cardiovascular diseases in adulthood
- Breastfeeding provides good probiotic growth in the intestine of the baby that helps to protect their digestive system.
Breastfeeding Benefits to mother
- Breastfeeding helps mothers lose pregnancy weight
- Breastfeeding promotes the bonding between the baby and the mother
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of postpartum depression
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer
- Breastfeeding helps the uterus to contract post-delivery.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and several metabolic syndromes
There is a brawny reason why breastmilk is termed as “Liquid Gold”; in view of the fact that breastmilk is customized as per the baby’s need.
This tailored liquid dynamically responds to baby’s growth, age, his/her illness, differs in day and night, changes in colour, flavours and what not to give its best for their health.
Breastmilk Law of Demand and Supply
Rather than supply and demand, breastfeeding is actually based on demand and supply.
First few weeks are very crucial for establishing a good supply of milk for the long term. More frequent your baby feed, more you produce milk that demonstrates demand and supply law.
It is absolutely fine if your baby feeds a lot (say every hour)or for a longer duration (say for even more than 20-30 minutes). This does not mean that you are not producing enough but actually this, in turn, is helping you to build your supply.
Babies tend to lose weight in the first few weeks. Frequent breastfeeding or feeding every 2 hours helps them to regain their weight. Once their weight regains, one can feed on demand.
The thumb rule of feeding is switching your breasts (right-left-right) every time you feed as long as your baby is hungry.
Stocking or Pumping the breastmilk
Start pumping after 3-4 weeks post-delivery if possible. Pumping before may result in oversupply.
Again aligning to the law of demand and supply, pumping every day at the same time trains your body to produce one extra feeding worth of milk per day.
Your milk supply is the highest when you are feeding your baby for the first time in a day. During this, feed your baby on one side and pump the other breast. This will eventually raise your milk supply in the morning, allowing you to get a whole bottle worth of milk in one pump per day without oversupply issues while continuing to breastfeed.
The pumped milk can be stored in milk bags which can be labelled with a date and can be frozen.
If you are pumping in office, you can use thermal insulator bags packed with ice and are safe enough while commuting too.
Hakaa - a silicone pump is also available that can be attached to the breast from which you are not feeding. This amazing gadget helps you to collect the drops of breastmilk that comes from your let down which would otherwise end up wasted in your breast pads.
The frozen milk can be stored for good 6-12 months as per Academy of Breastfeeding medicines.
To use frozen milk, let the milk bags thaw in the fridge overnight. Before feeding it, place the bags in warm water to let it come into room temperature; once achieved you can feed the baby with either bottle or with a spoon.
Factors affecting milk supply
Conditions that may lead to undersupply
- Certain medication
- Infrequent feeding
- Improper diet
- Incorrect latching by baby
- Waiting too long to start breastfeeding
Conditions that may lead to oversupply
- Routine/frequent pumping sessions
- Unwanted use of galactagogues
Oversupply of breast milk can be painful to both baby and mother and may need medical attention.
Diet of Lactating mothers
Breastfeeding mothers require high calories of about 500-600 calories per day to establish a good supply. It is absolutely ok, not to lose or gain a little bit in the first three months post-delivery.
A lactating mother need not have to eat anything special but a balanced diet. Anything and everything in moderation are fine for a lactating mother.
Having said that, a balanced diet should include cereal-based starchy foods, some dairy products, proteins and loads of fruits and vegetables (three servings of each). Drink ample water.
The Key Mantra for good lactation is “Eat and drink to your satisfaction”.
Food that increases the milk supply of breastfeeding mothers is termed as “Galactagogues”. Adding few galactagogues in your diet such as garlic, fennel seeds, chickpeas, ginger, papaya, oatmeal, garden cress seeds definitely helps you in elevating milk supply.
Many mothers take ayurvedic preparations such as lactate granules or Shatavari pills which works incredibly in peaking up milk supply.
Happy breastfeeding can only come from a happy mother. Enjoy it and live it.
It will definitely be a ride of stress and happiness, exertion and relaxation and all, that you would probably dream of, but it’s worth experiencing it.
I bet someday you will miss these days, with tears and smile on your face…!
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