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Everything you need to know about breastfeeding

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What is Breastfeeding? 

Women were born with breasts, and the primary function of these breasts is to feed their young. The world wide average age of weaning is around four years old but in western culture, it has long been considered the norm to breastfeed for 6 months to a year. Fortunately there is now beginning to be a change of heart with even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding for “at least 12 months and for as long thereafter as mutually desired”. Yet there is still a problem of seemingly well meaning friends and relations who try to dissuade a mother from carrying on breastfeeding her baby after just a few months. And they put forward all sorts of invalid reasons for doing so.

In addition, breasts have become sexualized so that they have so many other connotations that people tend to forget that breasts were made to feed our young. Sadly, this has affected the habit of extended breastfeeding in western culture.

If you are breastfeeding or about to start breastfeeding, then do your own research before you make up your mind and try not to be influenced by those who try to put you off the idea.

Table of Contents:

Building Blocks for breastfeeding Your Baby

There are so many advantages for your baby. And you don’t need to say beforehand “I am going to breastfeed for such and such a time”. Take it step by step so that if you breastfeed your baby for:

A few days and he will receive valuable colostrums, providing antibodies and the help to get his digestive system up and running.

Four to six weeks and he will have come through the most critical period of infancy with less likelihood of sickness or hospitalization.

Three months and his digestive system will have matured so that he is more able to tolerate those foreign additives in formula feeds, as well as helping to avoid allergies and providing protection against ear infections for a whole year.

Six months and he will be unlikely to suffer an allergic reaction to other feeds or foods, as well as ensuring better health in that first year, reducing the risk of ear infections and childhood cancers. You benefit too by reducing the risk to you of breast cancer. Mothers and babies usually enjoy breastfeeding so why stop an enjoyable and very beneficial relationship?

Nine months and your baby will have progressed through the most important brain and body development of his life. He should be more alert and active than formula fed babies. Your breast milk contains protein, fat and all the important nutritional and appropriate elements that babies need, including those that help the immune system to mature and the brain, gut and other organs to develop and mature. Even if you are back at work and having to express milk for your baby, while he is in day care, he will have far fewer and less severe infections than those children in day care who are not breastfeeding.

One year and he can handle most of the foods available along with the rest of the family. He will have gained health benefits to last him his whole life with a stronger immune system and less likelihood of needing orthodontia or speech therapy. Breast milk allows your baby to fight off infections. When your baby fights off these infections, he becomes immune but in a totally natural way. If your baby is at all fussy about what he eats, then you will know that breastfeeding provides him with a nutritional boost.

18 months and he will have the benefit of a whole new set of antibodies providing protection against illness when this can be common in other babies. The toddler who breastfeeds is generally more independent and more secure in this very independence because he has received comfort and security from the breast until he is ready to make the step himself to stop. This decision may be at this age or at Two years or more.

Two years and beyond and he will continue to benefit from antibodies and other protective substances. He will tend to be more secure and less likely to suck his thumb or need a blanket or comfort toy. There is a special relationship between toddler and mother which is a life affirming act of love. It goes beyond the pleasure of providing food.

Appropriate Behavior by Your Young Child When They are Breastfeeding

When your baby is younger, you may well have had to teach him not to bite when he was breast feeding.

As he grows into a toddler, then it is also a good idea to help him learn appropriate behavior and develop some self-control by teaching him for example that he only gets milk at home and then only by asking nicely. By now it should be limited to just a couple of times per day unless he is ill or injured or very upset about something. It is also advisable to lay the ground rules that only mom undoes her clothing, to avoid your toddler trying to pull off your clothes and causing you embarrassment.

So as long as you both enjoy breastfeeding, don’t be in too much of a hurry to give it up. You will find that breastfeeding eases frustration and smoothes over many of the rough moments that make up a toddler’s life. It is just the very best way for you both to de-stress in this modern, stressful world.

Breastfeeding Away From Home

Even though breastfeeding your baby is one of the most natural functions possible, when it comes to breastfeeding in public there is constant debate and everyone has their own opinion about this subject. If you were a mother in Africa or Asia, no one would give a second thought to the fact that you were breastfeeding your baby in public. The problem arises in the Western world where even though mothers are actively encouraged to breastfeed their babies as long as possible, they are often made to feel uncomfortable when they have to do so away from their homes.

Some Interesting Facts

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed (with no added water, juice or other foods) for the first six months of life. It supports breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as long as mother and child are willing. The good news is that in the US, breastfeeding has reached its highest level in 20 years as approximately 77% of new mothers breast feed, at least briefly.

Several high profile news stories, where nursing mothers have been asked to refrain from breastfeeding in public by over zealous officials, may also have contributed to a changing culture that is now beginning to accommodate nursing mothers. In recent times, many protests have been mounted by breastfeeding moms. “Our society still does not recognize the functional use of breasts,” says Karen Peters, executive director of the Breastfeeding Task Force of Greater Los Angeles. “It only recognizes the sexual aspect”. In a 2003 survey, 43% of those questioned said they were comfortable with moms nursing in public, 30% were not while the rest were undecided. Five years later, it is hoped that the 30% figure “against” has decreased even further.

Tips for Breastfeeding Your Baby in Public

But while the debate rages on, you still have a hungry baby that needs to be fed wherever you happen to be and that may take some planning on your part if you are to feel comfortable about breastfeeding in public. If you are going to be out for a few hours, consider how and where you will be able to nurse. And in terms of breastfeeding length - breastfeed your baby right before you leave home to give yourself as long as possible before he gets hungry again.

  • Wear easy access clothing. You can even purchase specialized nursing garments with slits and openings hidden in a shirt or dress. You could try wearing an old T-shirt underneath your normal clothing in which you have previously cut openings. This means that when you unbutton or pull up your normal clothing, your body remains covered below. Use breast pads if you are likely to have milk leakage.
  • You may be able to temporarily distract your baby from the urge to nurse by slipping your little finger into his mouth to suck on while you find a quite place to use for nursing.
  • Find a comfortable corner if you are in a store or mall. A good place to use is a fitting room but of course ask first. If you are outside and you have a stroller with you, then lock the wheels and use it as a footrest. This will make you more comfortable and will help to block you from public view.
  • Try to breastfeed your baby even before he gets very hungry as crying babies attract attention to both mother and baby. It also means that he will nurse more calmly without pulling at your clothes. Have a small soft toy with you that your baby can use to occupy his hands while he nurses. There is even a special nursing necklace available which is a string of large, colorful and non toxic beads that your baby can play with while breastfeeding.
  • Drape a light shirt or jacket over your shoulders rather than using a blanket to cover yourself. Apart from making you both hot, a blanket just draws attention to you.
  • Another way is to nurse your baby in a sling. If you turn your baby’s body towards you and bring up the padded rail to cover both of you, then it could not be easier to feed your baby.
  • Public restrooms are not always the best option particularly if they are small. If you find one that has a separate seating area, then it is fine. Large department stores often have a ladies’ room with a sitting area. Some restaurants have booths rather than tables which makes it much easier for a nursing mom and her baby. Staff are usually very helpful in accommodating such requests.
  • Nursing in front of others can be intimidating and even embarrassing to a new mom but with a little confidence, some planning ahead, the right place and appropriate clothing, it soon becomes an easy exercise.

A Nursing Mom’s Rights

Please remember that if you are ever given a hard time by anyone about nursing in public, stand up for your rights. Legislation that helps breast feeding mothers is spreading rapidly and in many states it is now the law that women can nurse their babies anywhere they want to. Your baby comes first and if he is hungry, you need to keep him calm, quiet, happy and fed. If you suffer from engorgement, then Healing Natural Oils offers an all natural breast engorgement treatment.

Breastfeeding is the best gift that a mother can give her baby. Don’t let anyone try to take that gift away from your baby.

Breast Engorgement

Medical studies over many decades together with the experience of both mothers and babies over the years have come to the conclusion that breast milk is best for babies, being perfectly suited to both nourish babies and protect them from illness. Although the primary benefit of breast milk to babies is nutritional, strong and early bonding of mother and baby is another benefit. No baby is allergic to his mother’s milk although he may sometimes have a reaction to something a mother has eaten. Such a reaction can easily be resolved by a change in the mother’s diet. In addition, breast milk is always sterile and never contaminated by polluted water or dirty bottles. Breast fed babies are also protected from many illnesses. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula and although bottle fed babies tend to be fatter than breast fed babies, this not mean they are healthier.

There are advantages too for the mother herself as breastfeeding helps in her postpartum recovery and lessens the risk of breast cancer. The uterus is helped to contract back to its normal size more quickly and breast feeding delays the return of monthly periods.

The more your baby breast feeds, the more milk your body will produce. Newborn babies will often feed about every two hours and not always for reasons of hunger.

In spite of the many advantages and benefits to both the mother and baby, there can be a few inconveniences caused to the mother. One of these may be experiencing engorged breasts due to clogged milk ducts which in turn can lead to mastitis and a painful infection of the breast.

In some women, a few days after their baby is born the milk supply comes on so quickly that the breasts become swollen, hard and even sore. There is an increased supply of blood and other fluids in the breast as well as milk. The breasts and nipples may be so swollen that the baby finds it difficult to latch on and suckle. The discomfort can also make it difficult for the mother to relax and enjoy feeding her baby.

The three most common causes of such engorged breasts are:

  • Breasts that are too full of milk.

  • Feeding in the wrong position.

  • Improper sucking by the baby.

Try not to limited the amount of time spent feeding your baby as this can keep the milk ducts from emptying completely and in turn lead to swelling and pain.

Once a mother stops breast feeding completely, the breasts slowly stop making milk. But during the process of winding down, the breasts may become engorged and overfill with milk.

Cracked Nipples

If you are suffering from cracked nipples when breast feeding your baby, then you need to find out the cause and treat the condition. Your baby is unlikely to be affected by a cracked or injured nipple. Even if there is blood in the nipple, this does not affect them and breastfeeding can continue. The important thing is to correct the problem and allow the nipple to heal. Here are some ways of preventing problems together with remedies for relieving problems:

  • Never use soap or anything drying (such as methylated spirits) on your nipples. Avoid scrubbing with rough towels or brushes and gently pat breasts and nipples after showering or bathing.
  • The breast areas can be exposed to the air for short periods.
  • Avoid using plastic backed nursing pads, suction breast pumps or nipple shields.
  • Feed your baby often and don’t be put off feeds.
  • Before feeding your baby – make yourself comfortable and relaxed. This is a good time for those ante-natal exercises. Massage your breasts gently and apply warmth such as a shower or a warm wash cloth. You can express a little milk to soften the areola so as to get the milk flowing and to lubricate the nipple. If you need pain relief for the nipple, apply a small ice pack (some crushed ice in a small plastic bag covered in a soft cloth).
  • During feeds – feed your baby from the less sore side first. Make sure your baby is properly positioned and attached to the breast. If the sucking hurts, then your baby is in the wrong position. Correction positioning is paramount in allowing a damaged nipple to H-and to enable pain free, effective breastfeeding. The correct positioning is very important and you should try different feeding positions as follows:
  • Cradle position where the baby’s head is in the crook of your arm. Support your baby’s back and bottom with your arm and hand. Your baby will be lying sideways facing you. Your breast should be right in front of your baby’s face.
  • Football position where you tuck your baby under your arm like a football with his head resting on your hand. Support your baby’s body with your forearm.
  • Lying down position where you lie on your side with your baby facing you. Pillows can be used to prop up your head and shoulders.
  • If it is too painful to feed, then express by hand to keep the milk flowing and to keep up your milk supply while your nipples are healing. Feed the expressed milk to your baby. Start feeding again gradually, with just short feeds spaced out during the day.
  • After feeds – check your nipples for any signs of stress. A cracked nipple may well benefit from applying a natural moisturizer as long as it has no additives. Let the nipple dry before covering again and ensure the nipples stay dry by changing nursing pads frequently. If you find disposable pads are chaffing the breasts, then change to washable ones. Use breast nipple protectors to stop your clothes rubbing against your nipples.

With time and care, your cracked nipples will H-so that breast feeding is once again a pleasurable experience for both you and your baby.

How to Increase Breast Milk Production

Only 2 to 5% of mothers who are trying to breastfeed their babies actually suffer from primary insufficient milk production and they will often need help from their doctor or midwife. The rest of those mothers who are struggling will usually increase breast milk production by ensuring the correct positioning and attachment by their babies and by following the helpful and supportive hints and suggestions given below. There are 3 important Bs to remember in breast feeding – the breast, the baby and the brain. Your breast will need the stimulation from your baby and to ensure that happens, your brain is going to help in the process:

  • Make sure your baby is properly positioned.
  • Breastfeed your baby at least every 2 hours during the day in the first few weeks. Wake him up if necessary. If he sleeps for more than a 5 hour session at night, think about waking him up for an extra feed if you need to increase breast milk production.
  • There is always milk in your breasts – you do not need to wait for them to fill up before feeding your baby and the shorter the gap between feeds, the higher the fat in that milk.
  • Nurse longer and allow your baby to finish one breast completely before offering the second. The foremilk at the start of a feed from a breast is more watery to quench the thirst while the hind milk, towards the end of the feed from a breast, contains the high fat milk which gives him the nourishment and calories.
  • There are two techniques called switch nursing and double nursing. Switch nursing is where you let the baby feed on the first side until he starts to tire, switch to the second until the same happens, and finish by a period of both the first and second breasts again. Double-nursing is where after you have finished feeding your baby, you hold or carry him upright and awake for 10 to 20 minutes to be winded so there is more room, then feed him again from both breasts in turn before letting him sleep.
  • Don’t use any pacifiers or bottles – your baby should only be using the breast both for food and for comfort.
  • Is there a problem with your lifestyle – perhaps you are trying to do too much both inside and outside the home so that some of that energy could be diverted to caring better both for yourself and your baby?
  • Do you need some household help so that you have more time to sit and nurse and relax your baby?
  • Try herbs such as herbal tea to increase your milk supply as these are recommended by some mothers as well as lactation consultants.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat regular, nutritious meals.
  • Try getting professional help from an organization such as La Leche League Group who will help you ensure that your baby’s position and “latch-on and suck” techniques are all correct so that you can be certain your baby is breast feeding effectively. This can help prevent sore and cracked nipples