Breastfeeding 101: What You Need to Know
Congratulations on your bundle of joy, mommy! Now, you’ve probably heard about how breastfeeding is beneficial for both you and your baby. Making the decision to breastfeed is perhaps one of the more important decisions you will make in rearing your child. Here is a handy guide explaining everything you need to know about the practice.
Health Benefits to Breastfeeding
Medical experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocate that newborns be exclusively breastfed for at least six months to a year, even saying that breastfeeding should only be stopped once mom and baby are ready.
This is because breast milk is the ideal source of nourishment for infants. It contains the perfect medley of vitamins, fat, protein, and antibodies needed to help develop and strengthen the immune system, since breastfeeding allows mothers to transfer their own antibodies to their children. Essentially, by choosing to breastfeed, you are protecting your child against diseases.
Furthermore, according to pediatricians, the yellow, watery pre-milk substance known as the colostrum is produced during the first few days of breastfeeding. This contains high amounts of protective nutrients, which further enhances your baby’s digestive system.
Aside from boosting your child’s immune system, countless studies have established that you are also protecting your infant from developing allergies. Additionally, formula-fed infants face greater risk of acquiring severe respiratory infections compared to breastfed babies. It also reduces the likelihood of ear infections, lessening the chances of your infant going through multiple courses of antibiotics.
To top it off, the health benefits of breastfeeding are not limited to just infants. It has been established that breastfeeding helps shed pregnancy weight. Up to 500 calories can be burned a day while nursing. The process also produces an influx of oxytocin, a hormone that causes the uterus to quickly revert back to its normal size. Lastly, studies have shown that women who breastfeed have reduced risk for postpartum depression, breast and ovarian cancer, and developing osteoporosis later in life.
Nursing is a natural instinct in both mothers and babies. However, sometimes it takes a few tries before you feel comfortable enough to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months.
To breastfeed effectively, your baby needs to ‘latch on.’ Latching is the process through which the baby properly attaches to the nipple to suck milk. A good latch spares you from sore nipples and keeps the breast from becoming engorged, which reduces the chances of infection.
To get a proper latch, position your nipple so that it touches the center of your infant’s lips. Doing so triggers your baby’s rooting reflex, which causes him to open his mouth and make sucking motions. This indicates that it is the right time for him to feed. Finally, let your nipple into your infant’s mouth and try to include as much of the areola as he can accommodate. To do so, try cupping your hand under the breast and gently tuck your areola into his mouth using your thumb. Reposition the infant’s head so he doesn’t have to turn his neck to suckle. Once you hear a low-pitched swallowing over a sucking noise, this means your baby has latched on and is feeding properly.
The process that starts your milk flowing is commonly referred to as the “let down.” When starting out, it can take a few minutes for the milk to flow, but as you feed your baby, the milk flows out quicker. This usually happens after the first day or so.
During the first week of breastfeeding, it’s common to feel cramps or contractions in your uterus due to the release of oxytocin. While it helps push your milk from the ducts to the nipples, it can also cause uterine contractions. Not to worry; this only means that your uterus is shrinking to its pre-pregnancy size and the cramping should get better after a week.
For a quicker let down, make sure that the baby is well positioned on your breast. Also, try to relax. If you are too tense, then try different methods to calm down like listening to soothing music. Finally, do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use recreational drugs.
It is important to start feeding your baby shortly after birth to keep his blood sugar level stable and help him feel comfortable with latching as you proceed with regular feeding, up to 10 to 12 times a day.
Similarly, watch what you eat. Babies can suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort from your diet. If your baby seems uncomfortable after feeding, consider what you’ve eaten that day and refrain from indulging in the meantime. Finally, find out if your medication is safe to take while breastfeeding. Antibiotics, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are often safe. When in doubt, consult your pediatrician.
For more information and EQ support, feel free to ask our experts here.