Breastfeeding is key to pursuing adequate health outcomes in infants. It is the most natural nutrition source and form of bonding between mother and child. Nursing a child has become a highly debated and discussed subject as lifestyle choices and knowledge sources evolve. As research concludes, breastmilk ensures better brain development, improved vision, enhanced dental alignment, stronger hearts, reduced respiratory infections, improved digestive capacity, greater immunity and overall growth.
Many myths surround infant feeding and the adverse effects it has on mothers. However, it is important to note the long-term advantages of lactation for new mothers. Maternal benefits include lower postpartum depression, decreased risk of osteoporosis; breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer, faster postnatal weight loss, and deeper relaxation as feeding releases oxytocin and triggers endorphins in the body.
- Breast size has no correlation to breastmilk supply
- Eating certain foods only will not increase or decrease milk supply
- Lactation has begun by the second trimester in a pregnant mother
- Ideal infant weaning age is post 2 years (WHO guidelines)
- Infants should be breastfed for six months exclusively
- It is possible to feed twins exclusively
- Milk supply is based on infant demand through nursing
- Breastmilk is species specific
- Breastmilk is therapeutic for infant and mother
Position and latch
It is instinctual for babies to latch onto the mother’s breast and suck. However, as childbirth is not a completely natural process anymore, lactation has also become challenging for new mothers. Therefore, it is imperative that a mother establishes a good latch in order to succeed at breastfeeding. A typical feeding position would include baby to the breast, tummy to tummy, bringing nose to the mother’s nipple and chin tucked into the areola. Tease the baby’s mouth with the nipple and as soon as the baby opens wide press the entire nipple with areola region inside the infant’s mouth. The mother will feel a pinch when baby latches on.
- Cradle hold first three days
- Cross cradle hold
- Football hold
- Sidelying hold
- On demand for the first week after birth
- Scheduling based on exact times not a great idea
- Watch for feeding cues every 2-3 hours and let the baby set an easy routine
- Babies may feed more frequently at times due to growing needs, dehydration due to climate
- Break suction if baby is only swallowin
- Offer bother breasts during first month to optimize milk production
Kangaroo mother care (KMC) is highly recommended for pre-term baby and C-section delivery moms so that the infant can feel secure in the recreation of the womb like environment through temperature, touch, heartbeat, and the maternal warmth.
Using a breast pump is a convenient option for moms who need to get back to work, have excess milk supply, or are unable to latch. It is not a direct substitute to breastfeeding as the same level of information exchange cannot be recreated through a pump as with the sucking of an infant at breast. Mothers must be cautious to feed expressed breast milk through a spoon in the first few weeks to avoid nipple confusion. Expressed milk can be stored in the refrigerator and should be fed at room temperature.
Culturally specific diets are recommended amongst various communities in India during the first six weeks post delivery. These diets are for post birth recovery and to promote good lactation. A good lactation diet contains natural and good fats, lean proteins in small digestible forms, vegetables and nut, lots of fluids through fruits and water. Most traditional Indian diets contain these. However, since they have been adapted to urban areas they have lost their authentic ingredients, and households have adopted incorrect proportions, also unnatural fats and sweeteners. I would recommend following a regional diet incorporating all seasonal foods, no sweeteners, reduced cereals, and balanced fats. Cow’s milk was a good natural vegetarian nutrition source; however due to cross-breeding and hormonal injections and other milk adulterations it is, not deemed safe for maternal consumption anymore.
Mothers take care of their health, become stronger through the practice of nursing and save costs on healthcare for the child and themselves including artificial feeding costs. Breastfeeding is an efficient and cost-effective option overall.