The “What, How, Why” of Breastfeeding

In the field of dietetics, we often refer to breast milk as “liquid gold” because of the precious and astounding benefits it contains. Feeding your baby this precious milk is one of nature’s best gifts! Discovering the extensive benefits it provides feels like a full-time job. But, as my articles usually do: I will try to summarise it for you! Let’s wander in the magical, wholesome world of exclusive breastfeeding and what waits at the end of the rainbow for both mom and baby.

WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

In the world of nutrition, we advocate for exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of your child’s life. So that would be a NO to formula, water, tea, food or anything other than breast milk to provide nutrition for your child (unless medically contra-indicated of course!)

The key to successful breastfeeding is to feed at the right time - with the correct latch of the baby to the breast.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING…

During antenatal doctor’s visits and consultations with health care practitioners - you may hear the term FEEDING ON DEMAND. That refers to breastfeeding led by cues from your baby. In a way, they will order their meal from you as they need it! They will display “hunger cues” to make you aware they need feeding.

General “hunger cues” your baby may display, include:
  • Baby pulling his/her hand to mouth
  • Sucking on fingers/hands
  • Increased movement while waking from a nap
  • Increased eye movement while sleeping
  • Making “smacking” sound with mouth and lips
  • Opening mouth or moving mouth

breastfeeding

BUT, HOW?
You need to make sure you are correctly latching and positioning your baby. The number one rule of positioning is to ensure that you and your baby are comfortable; relaxed and calm.

The latch on the breast is essential in ensuring your baby gets enough from each feeding session.

A successful latch includes the following checkpoints:
  • The mouth should be wide open
  • Chin touching breast
  • Bottom lip curled outwards
  • Cheeks appear full – not sucked in
  • More areola above mouth seen than below
  • No clicking sounds


The positioning of the baby can influence latching success and comfort:
  • Support and bring “Baby to Breast”. Bending forward to take breast to the baby may cause back strain and discomfort - resulting in less successful feeds.
  • Your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip should be in a straight line to avoid the neck being stretched. Support your baby’s whole body.
  • ‘Tummy to Mummy’’: Both your stomachs should be facing towards each other.
  • Your baby will open their mouth widely to seek breast. Brush the nipple against her/his cheek to stimulate ‘rooting’.
  • You may want to support the weight of your breast with a cupped hand from below; you should be aware not to guide the nipple with your fingers.

(DRUMROLL): AND THE BENEFITS GO TO...

You can now successfully see when to feed and how to feed. Now, you may wonder: Why should I do this? Most obviously, it is because of the benefits it provides for your little one. But, read on, there are lots of benefits for the mom as well!

The positive effects it has for the baby includes:
  • The breast milk contains the perfect balance of proteins; fat; carbs and minerals to suit YOUR baby’s needs. No two mother’s breast milk will be the same. As the needs of the baby develop/change, the composition of the milk adjusts. It can thus also provide all the right amounts of the right nutrients to support healthy growth and brain development. MAGIC!
  • It is a LOT softer on the tummy than regular breastmilk substitutes: That means your baby can digest it more effectively leading to fewer digestive problems like constipation, reflux or cramps.
  • Breastfed babies tend to be healthier in the long term: They have lowered risks to develop diabetes or obesity later in life. It is mostly related to the fact that breastfed babies can identify when they are full - so there are lower risks involved to become obese.
  • Breastmilk is full of life-saving antibodies to boost and successfully develop the immune system.
  • And many more!!!

There are beautiful benefits for mom, too!
  • You may recover quicker from pregnancy and labour: shrinks the uterus back to normal size & reduces bleeding after childbirth.
  • It lowers your risk of getting diabetes, ovarian cancer and some forms of breast cancer later in your life: Mostly to do with hormonal fluctuations.
  • Extra bonding with baby.
  • Saves time & is more hygienic: Breast milk is always at the right temperature (even at 3:00 am feeds!) and requires no bottles to wash and sterilize etc.
  • Breastfeeding is financially a great option as well.
  • And, same as for the baby, the list continues!

What a wonderful connection to forge with your little one. Cherish this time and focus on your love for your pink foot.

And there you have it - that was the nutshell version of breastfeeding!

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