What is breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is the natural process of nursing that involves feeding a baby with breast milk. Breastfeeding is the best way to feed babies because breast milk is:
- Easily digestible
- Loaded with optimal nutrients essential for normal growth & development
- Protects babies against infectious and chronic diseases
When should the baby be breastfed after birth?
Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommends initiation of Breastfeeding as early as possible after birth for all newborns [usually within 1st hr]. Babies should be exclusively breast fed for the first 6 months. No other food like formula milk, honey or even water should be given during this period. The only exception to this is the medicine prescribed by a doctor like Oral Rehydration Solution.
WHO & UNICEF recommend continuing breastfeeding for 2 years or beyond, along with introducing nutritional complementary foods after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding.
Breast Milk: An Ideal Nutrition for newborn
The composition of breast milk changes during 1st month as per changing nutritional needs of the baby. The various phases of breast milk are detailed below (Table 1)Table 1: Stages of Breast milk
Colostrum (pre-milk) and transitional milk improves immunity and promote gut maturation so that the digestive system works well.
How often should a newborn be fed?
New-born babies are the often hungry as breast milk is digested fast. They should be fed on-demand (whenever baby is hungry), however, it is important that new-borns should never go without feeding for more than about 4 hours (including overnight) (Table 2).Table 2: Feeding requirements of new-born
You should burp your baby after every feed to avoid spit-ups. Usually, a newborn may feed for a longer duration (20 minutes or longer) on one or both breasts; this will reduce to 5-10 minutes as babies get older.
Benefits of breastfeeding for baby
- Breastmilk is a power pack ideal nutrition needed for good health and normal development.
Breastmilk contains antibodies especially Immunoglobin A (IgA) secreted in colostrum.
- IgA forms a protective coating inside the nose, mouth, and digestive system thereby preventing tissue damage.
- Antibodies help fight off infections (viral, bacterial).
- Exclusively breastfed infants are at reduced risk of developing allergic diseases (skin allergies, asthma), bowel diseases (Crohn's disease, Ulcerative colitis), Obesity, or Diabetes at a later age. They are less susceptible to catch colds, ear infections, acute respiratory or gut infections.
- Promotes brain development and improves cognition: The child who has been breastfed is likely to have better IQ and learning capabilities.
Benefits of breastfeeding for mother
- Help lose weight: Breastfeeding burns calories and helps to shed extra kilos gained during pregnancy.
- Promotes uterine contractions thereby reducing the blood loss after birth and helps to bring the uterus back to pre-pregnancy size.
- Increased emotional bonding with the child while nursing.
- Reduce the risk of Postpartum Depression [that develops in few mothers after childbirth].
- Reduce the risk of cancer (breast or ovarian), or protects the mother from developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart diseases, or diabetes.
Breastfeeding should be continued for as long as possible except for a few medical conditions, where breastfeeding is avoided such as
- Mother is HIV positive, has active tuberculosis, receiving chemotherapy for cancer or on medications (for migraine, Parkinson's disease), or is a drug abuser(cocaine/ marijuana.).
- The child has a disorder where sugar is not tolerated by the body (galactosemia).
Warning signs that need medical attentionBreastfeeding is a natural nursing process associated with endless benefits, but if you develop abnormal discharge or bleeding from nipples, or your breast becomes extremely hard, red, sore, or swollen, call your doctor immediately.
If your baby is not feeding properly, or not gaining weight, talk to an expert @DocOnline for guidance.