Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 6 May 2021
Table of contents
- What is Breastfeeding?
- Signs Your Baby is Hungry
- Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby
- Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Moms
- Making Sufficient Milk to Breastfeed
- Best Positions for Breastfeeding
- How To Get Your Baby to Latch?
- Tips for Breastfeeding
- ABCs of Breastfeeding
- Medical Considerations with Breastfeeding
- Challenges of Breastfeeding
- Warning Signs
- Where Can I Get Help with Breastfeeding?
What is Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding refers to the process of feeding your baby breast milk straight from your breast. It's also known as nursing. The choice to breastfeed a baby is a personal matter. It's also one that'll evoke suggestions from friends and family.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) all highly advocate solely breastfeeding for 6 months, with no supplementing with formula, juice, or water. Breastfeeding can be continued until the introduction of other foods during the baby's first year of birth.
If your baby likes short, regular meals or longer feedings can determine how much you can breastfeed. As your baby grows, this will change. Newborns also want to be fed every 2 to 3 hours. By two months, most babies are fed every 3-4 hours, and by six months, most babies are fed every 4-5 hours.
It is up to you and your baby to decide whether or not to breastfeed.
Signs Your Baby is Hungry
Crying is one of the most common ways for your baby to communicate that they are hungry. Other signs that your baby is hungry include:
- They're licking their lips or sticking their tongue out.
- Rooting – when your baby moves their jaw, mouth, or head to search for your breast.
- Taking their hand and putting it in their mouth
- Opening their mouths
- Sucking on things
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby
Breast milk is the best source of nutrients for infants. It has a perfect balance of vitamins, protein, and fat, giving your baby all he or she needs to grow. And it's all in a form that's easier to consume than baby formula. Antibodies of breast milk help the baby in fighting viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding reduces the baby's chances of developing asthma or allergies. Furthermore, babies who are completely breastfed for the first six months, without the use of any milk, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and diarrhea. In addition, they have reduced hospitalizations and medical visits.
Breastfeeding has been related in some research to higher IQ scores in later childhood. Furthermore, physical contact, skin-to-skin interaction, and eye contact both aid your baby's bonding and sense of security. Breastfed babies are more likely to gain the appropriate amount of weight as they develop instead of being overweight children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding will help avoid SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It's been suggested that it can help prevent diabetes, obesity, and some cancers, although further study is required.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother
Breastfeeding burns more calories, and it will help you shed weight quicker following your childbirth. It activates the hormone oxytocin, which aids in the return of the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size and can help to prevent postpartum uterine bleeding. Breastfeeding often reduces the chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer. It can even help you avoid osteoporosis.
It saves you time and money so you don't have to purchase baby milk formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles. It also allows you to spend more time with your baby while bonding.
Making Sufficient Milk to Breastfeed
Your breasts allow perfect “first milk" for the first few days after birth. It's known as colostrum. Colostrum is thick and yellowish, and there isn't much of it, but there's enough to satisfy your baby's nutritional requirements. Colostrum aids in the development and preparation of a newborn's digestive tract for the digestion of breast milk.
Colostrum is the first form of breast milk, and it varies with time to provide your infant with the nutrients he or she needs when they grow. Transitional milk is the name for the second phase. You make this as the colostrum is eventually replaced by mature milk, the third phase of breast milk.
A few days after giving birth, you'll start producing transitional milk. You'll be producing mature milk 10 to 15 days after giving birth, which will provide your baby with all the nutrients they need.
In the first 3 to 5 days after birth, most babies lose a slight amount of weight. This has little to do with breastfeeding.
Your breasts react by producing more milk when your baby needs more milk and nurses. Breastfeeding only, with no supplemented milk, food, or water, for 6 months is recommended by experts. Your breasts may produce less milk if you substitute it with formula.
Even if you just breastfeed for a few months instead of the recommended 6, it's better to still breastfeed than not at all. You should start giving solid food at 6 months, but if you want to keep producing milk, you can choose to breastfeed.
To recap, the 3 types of breast milk you produce are:
- Phase 1: colostrum
- Phase 2: transitional milk
- Phase 3: mature milk
All of which will aid in your baby getting the exact nutrients they require at each phase of development.
Is your baby getting enough milk?
Often breastfeeding mothers ask if their babies are getting enough milk to be healthy. If your baby is getting enough breastmilk, they may be able to do the following:
- In the first few days after delivery, babies should not lose more than 7% of their birth weight
- Between feedings, they seem satisfied for around 1-3 hours.
- By the time they are 7-10 days old, they should have wet at least 6 diapers a day with very pale or clear urine.
What's the Best Position for Breastfeeding?
The ideal situation for you and your baby is that in which you and your baby are both comfortable and relaxed, and you are not straining to maintain the position or continue breastfeeding. The following are some traditional breastfeeding positions:
- Cradle position. With their whole body facing you, rest the side of your baby's head in the crook of your elbow. Place your baby's belly to your body to ensure that they are fully supported. Your “free" arm will curl around your baby's head and neck, or stretch through their legs to protect their lower back.
- Football position. Keep your baby like a football by lining his back up with your forearm and supporting his head and neck in your palm. This method is most effective with newborns and small babies. It's also a good position to be in while you're healing from a caesarean birth and need to shield your belly from your baby's weight or pressure.
- Side-lying position. This position is ideal for in-bed night feedings. If you're healing from an episiotomy, or incision to widen the vaginal opening during birth, side-lying is still a good option. To make yourself more relaxed, place pillows under your head. Then, when snuggling next to your baby, raise your breast and nipple into your baby's mouth with your free hand. If your baby is properly “latched on," use your free hand to support the head and neck so you don't have to twist or struggle to continue breastfeeding.
- Cross-cradle hold. Sit in a cozy chair with armrests and sit upright. Hold your baby in the crook of your opposite arm, facing the breast you'll be using to nurse them. With your hand, support their head. Bring your baby across your body so that your tummies meet. Cup your breasts in a U-shape with your other hand. Don't lean forward; bring your baby's mouth to your breast and cradle them close.
- Laid-back position. This position, also known as biological parenting, is exactly what it sounds like. It's designed to help you and your baby's innate breastfeeding instincts. On a sofa or bed, lean back but not flat. Make sure your head and shoulders are well supported. Hold your baby in such a way that your whole fronts are in contact. As long as your baby's cheek remains near your breast, you can put them in whatever place they want. If your baby is having trouble latching on, support them.
How to Get Your Baby to 'Latch on' During Breastfeeding
Face your baby so that he or she is happy and does not have to twist their neck to feed. Cup your breast with one hand and softly brush your baby's lower lip. Your baby's natural reaction would be to open his or her mouth wide. Bring your baby's mouth tighter to your nipple with your hand holding your baby's neck, aiming to centre your nipple in the mouth above the tongue.
When your baby's lips are pursed outward over your breast, you know your baby is properly “latched on." Both of your nipple and much of the areola (the deeper skin surrounding your nipple) should be in your infant's mouth. Breastfeeding should not be painful, even though you experience a little tingling or tugging. If your baby isn't properly latched on and breastfeeding in a steady, relaxed rhythm, softly nudge your pinky between your baby's gums to break the suction, then remove your nipple and start again. Sore nipples should be avoided with good “latching on."
Tips for New Breastfeeding Moms
There are a few things that will help you get ready for breastfeeding:
- Prenatal care should be received on a daily basis to protect you from premature birth.
- Tell your doctor if you want to breastfeed, and inquire about the care that the hospital where you would give birth has to help you breastfeed after the birth.
- Consider enrolling in a breastfeeding class.
- Request that your doctor associate you with a lactation consultant who will show you the fundamentals of breastfeeding and assist you if you run into problems.
- Consult your doctor whether you have certain health problems or are on any medications that might clash with breastfeeding.
- Tell your doctor and hospital health care if you want to start breastfeeding as soon as possible after your baby is born.
- Talk to friends who breastfeed or join a breastfeeding support group.
- Stock up on the breastfeeding supplies you'll like, such as nursing bras and other items.
ABCs of Breastfeeding
The ABCs of Breastfeeding is a set of guidelines that can help you and your baby get more familiar with the process:
A. Awareness. Have an eye out for your baby's hunger cues and breastfeed if he or she is hungry. This is referred to as “on-demand" feeding. You may need to nurse eight to twelve times every 24 hours in the first few weeks. Hungry babies raise their hands toward their mouths, making sucking sounds or mouth movements, or move their bodies toward your breast. Don't wait for your baby to scream until you intervene. That's a sign they're starving.
B. Be patient. Breastfeed your baby for as long as he or she wants to nurse each day. Feedings need not be rushed with your baby. Breastfeeding is normally done for 10 to 20 minutes on either breast.
C. Comfort. This is crucial. Relax when breastfeeding, and the milk can “let go" and flow more easily. Before you start breastfeeding, make yourself cozy with pillows to support your arms, head, and neck, as well as a footrest to support your feet and legs.
Are There Medical Considerations With Breastfeeding?
In a few situations, breastfeeding can harm a baby. The below are some of the reasons why you can not breastfeed:
- You've been diagnosed with HIV. The HIV virus can be passed from mother to child via breast milk.
- You have active tuberculosis (TB) that has not been treated.
- You're undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
- You're abusing a controlled substance (drugs) like cocaine or marijuana.
- Your baby has a condition called Galactosemia, an unusual disorder in which the normal sugar galactose contained in breast milk is intolerable.
- You're taking prescription medications for migraine headaches, Parkinson's disease, or arthritis, for example.
If you're on any prescription drugs, talk to a doctor before trying to breastfeed. Based on a specific prescription, your doctor will assist you in making your choice.
You should be able to breastfeed even though you have a cough or the flu. Breast milk would not infect the baby and can also have antioxidants to aid in the battle against disease.
Additionally, the AAP recommends that exclusively breastfed babies and infants who are partly breastfed and receiving more than half of their regular feedings as human milk, be supplemented with oral iron beginning at 4 months of age. This can be done before iron-fortified items, such as cereals, are added into the diet. At the age of one, the AAP advises that all children get their iron levels checked.
Consult your paediatrician for iron and vitamin D supplements. Your doctor will advise you on the right dosages for both you and your baby, as well as when to begin and how long to take the supplements.
What Are Some Common Challenges With Breastfeeding?
- Sore nipples: During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, you can expect some soreness. Make sure your baby latches on properly, and with each meal, use one finger to break the suction in your baby's mouth. This would aid in the prevention of sore nipples. If your breasts are already swollen, make sure you're nursing them long enough to drain the milk ducts. Your breasts can become engorged, swollen, and painful if you don't. Sore nipples may be temporarily relieved by keeping ice or a bag of frozen peas against them. It also helps to keep the nipples dry and let them “air dry" between feedings. At first, the baby can suck more vigorously. So start with the nipple that isn't as sore.
- Dry, cracked nipples: Soaps, perfumed creams, and lotions containing alcohol should be avoided since they will leave nipples much more dried and cracked. After a feeding, you should add pure lanolin to your nipples, just be sure to wash it off gently before breastfeeding again. Changing your bra pads on a regular basis can keep your nipples dry. Also, only cotton bra pads can be used.
- Worries about producing enough milk: A baby that wets six to eight diapers per day is more definitely having enough milk, according to a common rule of thumb. It's better not to use formula to replace your breast milk, and you can never offer your baby pure water. To keep supplying milk, your body needs the frequent, consistent demand of your baby's breastfeeding. Some women falsely believe that if their breasts are small, they won't be able to breastfeed. Small-breasted women, on the other hand, can produce milk almost as well as large-breasted women. It also helps to eat healthy, have lots of rest, and stay hydrated.
- Pumping and storing milk: Breast milk can be extracted by hand or by using a breast pump. Your baby may need a few days or weeks to adjust to breast milk in a bottle. When you're heading back to work, start practicing as soon as possible. If breast milk is kept in the refrigerator, it can be consumed within two days. Breast milk can be frozen for up to 6 months. Frozen breast milk should not be heated or thawed in the microwave. All of its immune-boosting properties will be lost, and fatty parts of the breast milk may become extremely hot. Breast milk can be thawed in the refrigerator or in a tub of warm water.
- Inverted nipples: If you press the areola, the dark skin surrounding the nipple, an inverted nipple should not poke out. A lactation consultant, who specialises in breastfeeding education, will provide you with advice about how to successfully breastfeed if you have inverted nipples.
- Breast engorgement: Breast fullness is healthy and natural . It occurs when the breasts fill up with milk and remain moist and pliable. Breast engorgement, on the other hand, indicates that the blood vessels in the breast have been clogged. This causes the breasts to become stiff, sore, and swollen as a result of the trapped blood. To ease mild symptoms, alternate hot and cold treatments, such as ice packs and hot baths. It can also be beneficial to release the milk by hand or with the aid of a breast pump.
- Blocked ducts: A blocked milk duct can be identified by a single sore spot on your breast that is red and hot. Warm compresses and gentle rubbing around the affected region will also alleviate the discomfort. Nursing on a more regular basis will also aid.
- Breast infection (mastitis): Bacteria enter the breast from a cracked nipple during breastfeeding, which may trigger this. Contact your doctor if you have a sore spot on your breast, as well as flu-like symptoms, a fever, and fatigue. Antibiotics are typically used to clear up a breast infection, although you will most certainly manage to breastfeed while taking antibiotics. Since the digestive juices of your baby would kill any bacteria in your milk, it is safe for your baby to be breastfed while you are having an infection. Place a soft, wet washcloth over the infected breast for around 15 minutes before breastfeeding your infant.
- Stress. Your let-down reflex will be hindered if you are anxious or stressed. This is your body's normal milk release through the milk ducts. Hormones produced as your baby feeds cause that to happen. Hearing your baby cry or worrying about your baby may even be enough to set it off. Before and during breastfeeding, try to be as comfortable and peaceful as possible. This can make the milk let down and flow more naturally. This, in turn, will help in the relaxation and calmness of your baby.
- Premature babies won't be able to breastfeed right away. Breast milk may be released and fed into a bottle or feeding tube in certain situations.
Breastfeeding is a positive and healthy process. However, see your doctor if:
- Your breasts turn an unusual shade of red, swell, harden, or cause pain.
- Your nipples have an irregular discharge or are bleeding.
- You're worried that your baby isn't having enough milk or isn't gaining weight.
Where Can I Get Help With Breastfeeding?
Images of mothers breastfeeding their children make it seem easy, but certain women need assistance and coaching. It may come from a nurse, a doctor, a family member, or a friend, and it assists mothers in overcoming potential roadblocks.
If you have any questions, reach out to friends, family, and your doctor. Those issues have most certainly been asked by the women in your life.
Referenced on 14.4.2021
- News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Baker, R. Pediatrics, November 2010.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: “Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk."
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Breastfeeding Your Baby."
- CDC: “Proper Handling and Storage of Human Milk."
- National Women's Health Information Center: “Benefits of Breastfeeding."
- National Women's Health Information Center: “Questions and Answers About Breastfeeding."
- National Women's Health Information Center: “How Lifestyle Affects Breast Milk."
- La Leche League International: “How Do I Position My Baby to Breastfeed?"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “Breastfeeding: Hints To Help You Get Off to a Good Start."
- National Library of Medicine: “Overcoming Breastfeeding Problems."
- KidsHealth.org: “Feeding Your Newborn."
- American College of Nurse-Midwives, GotMom.org: “Breastfeeding with Confidence."
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: “Breastfeeding and Breast Milk.”
- USDA: WIC Breastfeeding Support: US Department of Agriculture: “The Phases of Breast Milk.”
- Healthychildren.org (American Academy of Pediatrics): “How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat?” “How to Tell if Your Breastfed Baby is Getting Enough Milk.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Breastfeeding Positions.”
- La Leche League USA: “Lie Back and Relax! A Look at Laid-Back Breastfeeding.”