Breastfeeding benefits to the baby
To compensate for the immature immune system of your newborn, your breastmilk contains antibodies to help him fight off infection. Numerous studies have shown that a history of breastfeeding was associated with decrease risk of acute otitis media, non-specific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infection, atopic dermatitis, childhood leukemia, and necrotizing enterocolitis. The delivery of immune support from breastmilk is available to the child the entire time he is breastfed and studies have shown that it lasts beyond the age of weaning.
The act of breastfeeding is a time to bond with your child. With his still blurry eyesight, it gives him reassurance and comfort that his primary caregiver is around. Psychologists believe that this early reassurance leads to more confident and independent children.
Breastmilk “liquid gold” is always in the right temperature, contains no preservatives, harmful chemicals and contaminants. Your newborn will never burn his mouth because it’s too warm nor develop allergies or poisoning that would be harmful to his growth physically and mentally.
Clinicians recently noted better mental development among breastfed babies with IQs of 5.2-10 points higher than bottle fed babies.
Breastfeeding benefits to the mother
Oxytocin is released when baby is placed on mother’s chest, this hormone is important in contracting the uterus to lessen postpartum bleeding. The act of nurturing your baby lessens the episode of postpartum blues and depression due also to the oxytocin release. If breastfeeding exclusively for six months, it can be used as a form of natural family planning.
Studies have shown that it is protective against premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer, and postmenopausal endometrial cancer. There are recent studies that showed an association between duration of breastfeeding and reduction of maternal risk of metabolic disease particularly diabetes. Lactation plays an important role in “resetting” maternal metabolism after pregnancy allowing the postpartum woman to lose weight naturally. Nursing requires at least 500 calories a day and if she eats wisely, she will lose weight without breaking a sweat. Stronger bones in later life are also noted.
Breastfeeding benefits the environment and economy
If one breastfeeds, no need to sterilize bottles, boil water or buy bottled water and expensive formula milk with cans that need to be disposed. When going out, mothers don’t have to carry heavy bags and ice packs. One reduces his carbon footprint with less trash and water used to clean equipments. Breastmilk is free and changes in composition for the age and needs of the child. No need to shift milk formula as the child ages or develops allergies. Families save money and help the environment.
Risks and Hazards of NOT Breastfeeding
Breastfed babies were noted to have less acute infection. Occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was noted to be higher, as well as asthma (in young children), obesity and development of type II diabetes, later in life. Some error on the preparation and hygiene elements can contaminate milk formula. On the maternal side, higher risk of developing Type II diabetes if a diabetic mother is unable to lose pregnancy weight.
(How to prepare?) Proper Diet during Pregnancy and Lactation
There is not much difference on the diet during pregnancy and lactation. However, nutritional and caloric needs do vary from stage to stage due to the growth of the fetus inside and the adjustments the mother needs to do. Eating well and avoiding certain foods can help keep both moms and babies remain healthy during the pregnancy and breastfeeding stages. Foods rich in iron and folic acid, both of which are important for early fetal development are recommended. Adequate levels of zinc and calcium and 71 grams of protein daily are required. Eating foods that are packed with multiple nutrients can help women who are concerned about adequate vitamin intake. Some suggested super foods that include spinach, fortified whole grain beads and cereals, beans, oranges, almonds, low fat dairy products and lean meats. Remember that most of the fundamental diet principles remain the same, like everything in moderation, less fat and salt, and no alcohol.
(How to start?) Skin to skin and Rooming-in Practice
Skin to skin contact with the baby initiated as soon after delivery, ideally within half hour, can facilitate a good latch and frequent feeding. It also helps regulate baby’s temperature and heartbeat. Rooming-in with the baby is the best way for mom to get to know and respond to her new baby’s feeding cues. Feeding cues are: wriggling or restless movement, mouth movements and sucking, hand to mouth or face, and rooting if lips or cheek is touched. When roomed in together, baby is noted to be happier and calmer, and a calm baby means a relaxed mother who will produce more milk.
Good attachment during breastfeeding
Breastfeeding should be pain free. If baby is latched on properly then sore nipples is unlikely to happen. Make sure your baby is ready, with wide-open mouth when he approaches the nipple with chin down, covering the entire areola. The entire body of the baby comes in straight then the baby should latch. Once latched on, you want to see their nose pressed right up against the breast, and you want to see a straight line from their nose right down to their chin. Deep sucking should be observed followed by swallowing. That's how you know that you have a good latch, that it's a deep latch.
Positioning during Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can be awkward the first time. So don’t be afraid to experiment positions until you find a comfortable one that allows you to support your baby and encourage good attachment. Here are some common positions.(See left figure)
Expression of Milk: Use of Breast Pump and Manual Hand Expression
For various reasons, such as pediatric and maternal health or mother needs to return to work or school, mother and baby will be separated. To ensure continuous milk production, you may need to express milk either by a pump or manual. Cup feed breast milk to avoid nipple confusion. However, if caregiver is not comfortable with this and need to resort to bottles, we suggest to best wait until breastfeeding is well established around 3 to 4 weeks before introducing the bottle.
Is baby getting enough?
Observing the number of times your baby feeds, wet diapers and stools passage will determine if your baby is getting enough breast milk. Since it would be difficult for you to measure the exact amount of breast milk the baby gets every day, observing his urine and stool output will tell you if baby is well hydrated and thus receiving enough. Know that it is normal for baby to initially lose weight after birth. It will level off around 3-4 days when mother’s milk increases in volume. I suggest you follow-up with your pediatrician within 2-3 days after discharge if this is your first time to breastfeed exclusively.
- ACOG – Breastfeeding: Maternal and Infant Aspects (www.acog.org)
- Lactation Education Consultants Course Blueprint, Handouts and Lectures
- Suzanne Colson. Biological Nurturing ~ Laid-Back Breastfeeding
- US Department of Health and Human Services: Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding 2000
- WHO and UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Revised Updated and Expanded for Integrated Care 2009