There is no doubt that breastfeeding is the best way to feed human babies. Breast milk contains all the nutrients required for babies to grow, has immune properties which help ward off infection and is cheaper and more convenient than bottle feeding. Mothers benefit as well because breastfeeding offers them protective health benefits, specifically against ovarian cancer and pre-menopausal breast cancer. For mothers who have developed gestational diabetes, breastfeeding reduces the risk of them developing Type 2 diabetes after their baby is born.
Other Benefits of Breastfeeding
- It helps to build the emotional connection between a mother and a baby.
- Breast milk is always the right temperature and does not require any preparation.
- Helps mothers return more quickly to their pre pregnancy weight.
- Helps the uterus to return to its pre pregnant size more quickly and to shorten the length of bleeding time.
- Breast milk helps to reduce the likelihood of babies developing allergies and food intolerances.
For some women breastfeeding is an easy process which just seems to come naturally. But for others, it can present more of a challenge. Like any new skill, it can take time to build confidence and feel comfortable. Babies, too, can take a while to get the hang of breastfeeding and to coordinate their sucking and swallowing responses to feed effectively.
- Breastfeeding is so natural that it should come easily to every new mother and her baby. If it doesn’t there has to be something wrong with either or both of them.
- “Good” mothers breastfeed and “bad” mothers don’t.
- Mothers who breastfeed are more authentic and real than those who bottle feed.
- Babies who are not breastfed will never be as smart or intelligent as those who do breastfeed.
- Breastfeeding is always comfortable and doesn’t cause any pain.
- Breastfed babies don’t overfeed and stop when they are full.
- Only women with big breasts can produce milk.
- Women who work cannot breastfeed their babies.
- Human breast milk looks like cow’s milk and if it looks watery it isn’t “strong” enough. (Human milk can have a blue or greenish tinge and look thin and watery as the fat rises to the top of the container when it is stored for any length of time.)
- Mothers who are breastfeeding cannot fall pregnant.
- It can take weeks for a new mother and her baby to synchronize together so that feeding is enjoyable.
- Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable and sometimes, even painful. Nipples can become tender and sore and breasts can ache when it is time for feeding, especially in the early weeks.
- Breastfeeding mothers can be unsure about how much milk their baby is getting during feeds. It can take time to become confident in knowing that their baby has had enough milk and is satisfied.
- Expressing does not give a real indication of how much milk is being produced.
- Any amount of breast milk is beneficial. Lots of mothers combine breastfeeds with bottle feeds of formula milk. If this is working out well for them, there is no reason to stop.
- The more a baby feeds the more milk a mother produces. Regular feeding with a strong and efficient sucking action helps to support the supply and demand principles of successful breastfeeding.
- Not all mothers can or want to breastfeed. How a mother feeds her baby is entirely up to her and her partner. No one else can make the decision for a mother regarding how she feeds her baby.
- Feeding is just one aspect of a baby’s care. Although it is a very important part it should not eclipse all of the other, equally important aspects of care a mother provides.
How to tell if Your Baby is Getting Enough Breastmilk
- They will be wetting 6 or more nappies each day. Their wee will be a straw or clear colour and not be concentrated. Dark yellow or orange wee, with a strong smell can be a sign of insufficient fluid intake.
- If your baby is having soft, yellow, mustard coloured poos. Breastfed babies tend to poo alot, often when they are feeding. This is because their sucking starts off an in-built reflex called the gastro-colic reflex.
- If they are bright, alert, look healthy and well and spend some time awake between their feeds. Look to see that their mouth is moist, their eyes clear and they are feeding actively.
- If your baby has regained their birth weight by around 2 weeks after birth and they are gaining 150-200 grams/week, these are signs of adequate milk intake. Breastfed babies tend to gain alot of weight in the first few months of life and then their weight plateaus for a few weeks. An average guide for growth is from birth to 3 months 150-200 grams/week; from 3-6 months a gain of 100-150 grams/week and from 6-12 months a gain of 70-90 grams/week.
- If your baby’s head circumference and length are increasing. Look to see where they sit on their percentile (growth) charts and that they are following along the same line since their birth or are climbing upwards on the graph. A decrease or drop of 1-2 percentiles is an indication that they are not growing and need medical assessment.
- Your baby will look well covered and you will be able to feel their muscles and fat under their skin. They will quickly grow out of their 000 and 00 clothing and you will notice that their clothes don’t fit like they used to.
General Breastfeeding Information
- Early breastfeeding, as soon after birth as possible, helps to establish a mother’s breast milk supply. It can take 3 or more days for a mother’s milk to “come in” and up to six weeks for her supply to adjust to her baby’s individual needs.
- The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. After this age, solid foods can complement breastfeeding until the child is two years or older. Essentially, breastfeeding can continue for as long as a mother and her baby are happy.
- A baby’s iron stores tend to run low by around 6 months of age and breast milk alone does not supply enough of this important mineral. This is why iron fortified rice cereal is one of the first solid foods recommended.
- Some babies take a while to establish effective sucking after they are born. It can be helpful to not introduce a dummy in the first 6 weeks or until feeding is established.
- Breastfeeding mothers are protected by Human Rights legislation in NZ that prevents them from being discriminated against. Many workplaces have systems in place to allow for lactation breaks. If you need to return to work, don’t see this as a reason to stop breastfeeding. Check with your manager to see what breaks you are entitled to.
- Help and support with breastfeeding is available throughout communities. Check with your local Plunket nurse, lactation consultant, GP, Paediatrician or the NZ breastfeeding authority for individual support.