Dr Tendai Zuze —
BREAST milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It contains a nearly perfect mix of protein, vitamins and fat which your baby need to grow.
It comes in a form that is more easily digestible than most infant formulas. Breast milk also contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viral and bacterial infections.
In the long term, breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies and babies who are exclusively breast fed for the first six months have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhoea.
Generally, babies who are breastfed also have fewer hospitalisations and far less trips to the doctor than those fed on formula. In later childhood, some studies have shown that breastfed babies are more intelligent, as shown by higher IQ scores.
During breastfeeding, the close physical contact and skin to skin touching help your baby bond with you and feel secure.
Breastfed babies are also more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight. Adults who were breastfed as babies are thought to have a lower risk of diabetes, obesity and certain cancers.
There are benefits for the mother as well.
Because breastfeeding burns extra calories, it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It also releases the hormone oxytocin which helps your uterus contract and reduces bleeding after delivery.
Some theories suggest breast feeding reduces the mother’s chance of breast and ovarian cancer as well as osteoporosis.
There are also social and economic benefits. You don’t have to buy formula or feeding bottles when you are breastfeeding which saves you money.
There is also no need to clean and sterilise bottles which gives you more time to relax and bond with your family and new born baby.
The first few days after birth, your breasts make an ideal “first milk” called colostrum. Colostrum is thick, yellowish, and scant, but there’s plenty to meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Colostrum helps a new-born’s digestive tract develop and prepares it to digest breast milk.
Most babies lose a small amount of weight in the first 3 to 5 days after birth. This is unrelated to breastfeeding.
As your baby needs more milk and nurses more, your breasts respond by making more milk. Experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. If you supplement with formula, your breasts might make less milk.
Even if you breastfeed less than the recommended six months, it’s better to breastfeed for a short time than no time at all. You can add solid food at 6 months but also continue to breastfeed if you want to keep producing milk.
Below are the ABCs of breastfeeding:
Awareness. Watch for your baby’s signs of hunger, and breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry. This is called “on demand” feeding. The first few weeks, you may be nursing eight to 12 times every 24 hours. Hungry infants move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth movements, or move toward your breast.
Don’t wait for your baby to cry. That’s a sign he’s too hungry.
Be patient. Breastfeed as long as your baby wants to nurse each time. Don’t hurry your infant through feedings. Infants typically breastfeed for 10 to 20 minutes on each breast.
Comfort. This is key. Relax while breastfeeding, and your milk is more likely to “let down” and flow. Get yourself comfortable with pillows as needed to support your arms, head, and neck, and a footrest to support your feet and legs before you begin to breastfeed.
For more information on breastfeeding, please visit your doctor.