Is breast truly the best?
Women have been breastfeeding for as long as they have been having babies. For thousands of years, breastfeeding (also referred to as lactation, nursing, and suckling) was the only way for a mother to feed her baby, and it was essential for a child’s survival. Breastmilk has developed over millions of years to be exactly well-matched to your baby’s needs. Although baby formula manufacturers try to replicate breastmilk as closely as they can, the formula won’t ever be precisely the same as breastmilk. Scientists are still discovering new, significant components in breast milk and why they’re important.
You’ve heard it habitually: Breast is the best. But many moms-to-be express worries over breastfeeding, from concerns about their abilities, to time restraints, and everything in between. However, experienced moms who have broken-down breastfeeding barriers and challenges will tell you this—it’s worth it and more!
Breast milk: Complete nourishment designed by nature
Breast milk has the precise amount of fat, sugar, water, protein, and minerals needed for a baby’s growth and development. Your baby doesn’t need any water or foods other than breastmilk in these early months.
How does breastfeeding benefit my baby?
Both colostrum and mature breastmilk contain components like antibodies, good bacteria, and other agents that help reduce your baby’s risk of infections and multiple disorders. Breast milk can help reduce the risk of many health problems associated with preterm babies. The good fats in breastmilk are important for baby brain development. Breastfeeding is vital for the baby’s eyesight, speech, jaw, and mouth development. The longer your baby breastfeeds, the greater the health benefits.
How does breastfeeding benefit me?
Breastfeeding activates the release of the hormone oxytocin that causes the womb to contract. This helps the womb return to its normal size more rapidly and lessens the amount of bleeding you have after giving birth. Breastfeeding may make it easier to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and type-2 diabetes.
How soon should I start breastfeeding after childbirth?
Early initiation of breastfeeding is extremely important for establishing successful lactation as well as for providing ‘Colostrum’ (mother’s first milk) to the baby. Ideally, the baby should receive the first breastfeeding as soon as possible and rather within one hour of birth. The newborn baby is very active during the first half an hour and if the baby is kept with the mother and an effort is made to breastfeed, the infant learns to suck very fast. Holding your baby directly against your bare skin right after birth initiates reflexes that help the baby to attach or “latch on” to your breast.
What are the different types and stages of breastfeeding?
All women, children, and families are different. Not everyone breastfeeds in the same way. Therefore, there are different breastfeeding norms. Some women breastfeed fully, some breastfeed partially, and some breastfeed marginally.
Exclusive breastfeeding is putting a child to the breast for each and every feeding for the first four to six months without giving a bottle or any other form of supplementation (such as formula, water, or baby food). Exclusive breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life. It makes them smarter with higher intelligence and helps in optimal development. It is extremely important to prevent infections like diarrhea and acute respiratory infections in early infancy. Adding even a single feed of the powder milk, any other food, or even water depresses lactation, as the child will suck less and hence less breast milk, will be produced, and increases the chances of infections like diarrhea. Recent WHO studies estimate that the death rate in babies can go down four times if they are exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
Combining breastfeeding and formula feeding
Some women want to breastfeed, but they aren’t able to breastfeed exclusively. They may also choose not to. In these cases, a child can breastfeed part of the time or most of the time, but will also get formula. The combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding is called partial breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding along with complementary foods
After six months of age, breast milk alone is not enough to make an infant grow well, other foods are also needed. The nutritional needs of the infant increase significantly at this age. The purpose of complementary feeding is to accompany the breast milk and make certain that the young child continues to have enough energy, protein, and other nutrients to grow normally. Roasted flour of any cereal can be mixed with boiled water, sugar, and a little fat to make the first complementary food for the baby and could be started on the day the child becomes six months old. Adding sugar or jaggery and ghee or oil is important as it increases the energy value of the food.
Breastfeeding can be about more than just nutrition. If you cannot make enough breast milk, or if your child is older and gets most of their nutrition from solid foods, nursing at the breast is still beneficial and valuable.
BREASTFEEDING: TILL WHEN?
IS THERE A ‘RIGHT TIME OR AGE’ TO STOP?
The decision about how long to breastfeed your child is a very personal one. Sometimes you might know exactly how long you want to breastfeed and feel clear about when to stop — and that’s awesome. But often the decision doesn’t feel that simple or obvious. While there’s no one right decision here, however long you breastfeed is beneficial to both you and your baby.
What do the major health organization experts recommend?
Academy of American Paediatrics (APA) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
-Recommend breastfeeding for at least 1 year, with about 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, followed by breastfeeding combined with the introduction of solid foods. After that, the guidance varies in terms of how long to continue breastfeeding.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
-Recommend breastfeeding for a longer duration, citing the benefits of breastfeeding for 2 or more years.
Take your time to wean your baby
Weaning is the process of stopping feeding your baby with breast milk. Weaning is going to be different, depending on your baby’s age and other conditions you may be facing. Start with whichever breastfeed of the day your baby seems least interested in. Cut out another breastfeed every few days or even each week, depending on your breast comfort and your baby’s willingness to cooperate. Slowly reducing the number of breastfeeds protects your baby during the weaning period and will also help you avoid problems such as mastitis.
Remember to give your baby plenty of cuddles during the weaning process so that you and your baby still have plenty of close time together.
Weaning before 6 months
If your baby is under 6 months, you’ll be substituting breastfeeding sessions with formula. Slowly increase the number of bottles you feed your baby as you slowly decrease their time at the breast. Do this gradually, if possible, so you can see how well your baby digests the formula.
Weaning after 6 months
After 6 months, you may be able to substitute a few nursing sessions with solid foods. You’ll have to substitute some formula as you decrease your breastfeeding sessions.
Weaning after 1 year
If your baby is eating a large variety of foods and has started drinking water and milk, you may be able to decrease your baby’s breastfeeding without having to substitute the formula.
Weaning abruptly isn’t usually recommended, as it increases your chances of engorgement and may increase your chance of breast infections. It also may be emotionally harsher on your baby, and on you.
In case of extended breastfeeding: if you are in no hurry to stop?
Some parents and babies enjoy breastfeeding so much they don’t want to stop. It is not unusual for children up to 4 years of age to continue to be breastfed. People around you may feel uncomfortable about extended breastfeeding. You can inform them about the continued health benefits, security, and comfort of your child.
What if the baby does not want to be weaned?
You may be ready to end breastfeeding, but your child may battle all your attempts to do so. Your approach will depend on your child’s age. If your child can talk and understand well, talk with them about your breastfeeding. Explain that you are going to stop and introduce other ways that you can enjoy being close together. You could seek professional advice about weaning or difficulties associated with weaning.