“Breastfed babies are the best fed babies.” This old-time slogan still holds true. Unfortunately, many mothers believe this is too time-consuming, or can’t be bothered.
Mother’s milk is still believed to be the best food for most infants, so put your new baby to the breast as soon as possible after birth.
7 Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby
There are many factors supporting breastfeeding, such as:
- Breast milk is readily available. The formula is right (no adding this and that); the temperature is always correct. No heating, no refrigeration is necessary.
- It is hygienic. There is no problem with storing, or contamination, a hazard in many homes specially in summer months.
- Breast milk contains valuable antibodies which give the baby added protection. Gastric upsets and many other problems are not so likely when baby has this type of food.
- The mere suckling by baby stimulates the womb to contract. This helps it return to its normal size in the weeks following the confinement.
- It is the ideal form of feeding for a baby who may be “allergic.” Indeed, some babies are extremely sensitive to other milk products (cow’s milk allergy can be a major problem.)
- It may take a little extra time to establish, but there is a definite saving in time and money after the system has become established. It eliminates the constant sterilizing problems associated with bottles. Long term, it is far more economical.
- It forms a close bond between mother and baby. Psychologically this can be very important. Baby is not missing out. He is getting the fullest possible share of mother’s love and attention.
10 General Principles of Breastfeeding
(1) On the first day the baby gets just a few drops of colostrum, a yellow fluid secreted before the actual milk is formed. This fluid is beneficial and a protection against infection. During the second day the breasts begin to fill (remember, a good supporting feeding bra is essential) and on the third day the milk flows.
(2) Your breasts may feel hard and tender at first but by the fourth or fifth day discomfort disappears. The more the baby sucks the less tender the breasts become. Like adults, babies’ appetites vary but at first demand feeding is usually successful. Eventually a regular schedule of four or five feeds daily is established.
(3) Some women worry that breastfeeding will ruin their figures. Not true, so long as you wear a properly fitted supporting bra; and breastfeeding stimulates the uterus to return to normal size. Size of breasts makes no difference to the milk production because size is related to fatty tissue rather than to milk-producing glands.
(4) It’s a bit of an old wives’ tale that breastfeeding means fatigue. Looking after a new baby is bound to be tiring, anyway. But you do need a proper diet similar to the one you followed during pregnancy, with plenty of iron (from liver, kidney, spinach), two hearty helpings of fresh vegetables or salad, plus fruit every day and lean meat, fish, eggs, poultry, milk and cheese to provide calcium and extra protein. (If you dislike milk, use it in cooking.)
(5) If you’ve put on weight during pregnancy, cut down sweet foods, potatoes and other high-carbohydrate vegetables (parsnips, turnips, pumpkin, peas). The postnatal exercises you are taught in hospital are also important.
(6) Get as much rest as you can. Make sure the nipples are clean before each feed and relax while you breastfeed.
(7) No elaborate prenatal needs are necessary for breastfeeding. Additional iron is often advised. The mother does not have to drink milk copiously if she does not care for it. Her milk will be manufactured from other components in her system.
(8) Washing the hands with soap and water, and cleansing the nipples is the usual preparation for breastfeeding sessions. Most women prefer to sit up, but some find lying on the right side preferable.
(9) It may take several days for the regular feeding pattern to become established. But shortly, three or four hourly feeding will set in.
(10) Sometimes, of course, conditions make it impracticable to breastfeed! The mother may be absolutely against the idea. There may be maternal problems, such as mental depression (which sometimes follow a confinement). There may be nipple difficulties or breast infections. Baby may have his own problems such as prematurity, or birth difficulties.