Breastfeeding is without a doubt the best food for a newborn baby.
However, not all women are able to breastfeed. For instance, some women who have had breast operations can have difficulty breastfeeding. Fortunately, there are quite a number of aids for breastfeeding available on the market. Talk to your doctor, midwife or health visitor about it.
There are also women who, for a variety of reasons, do not wish to breastfeed. Talking the matter over with a midwife or future health visitor may help to quell fears or objections, or provide possible alternatives.
Mothers have the right to choose whatever they think is best for them and their baby. However, they are strongly encouraged to seek as much information as possible, so they will come to a decision based on the facts.

Breastfeeding: The Advantages

Nursing can be a wonderful experience for both mother and baby. It provides ideal nourishment and a special bonding experience that many nursing mothers cherish. Below are some of the many benefits of breastfeeding.
Infection-fighting. Antibodies passed from a nursing mother to her baby can help lower the occurrence of many conditions, including:

* ear infections
* diarrhea
* respiratory infections
* meningitis

Other factors help to protect a breastfed baby from infection by contributing to the infant’s immune system by increasing the barriers to infection and decreasing the growth of organisms like bacteria and viruses.
Breastfeeding is particularly beneficial for premature babies and may also protect children against:

* allergies
* asthma
* diabetes
* obesity
* sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

As a group, formula-fed infants have more infections and more hospitalizations than do breastfed babies.
Nutrition and ease of digestion. Often called the “perfect food” for a human baby’s digestive system, breast milk’s components – lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat – are easily digested by a newborn’s immature system.
As a group, formula-fed infants have more difficulty with digestion than do breastfed infants. Breast milk tends to be more easily digested so that breastfed babies have fewer incidences of diarrhea or constipation.
Breast milk also naturally contains all the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates formula companies to ensure that they provide all the known necessary nutrients in their formulas. Commercial formulas do a pretty good job of trying to duplicate the ingredients in breast milk – and are coming closer – but haven’t matched their exact combination and composition. Why? Because some of breast milk’s more complex substances are too difficult to manufacture and some have not yet been identified.
Free. Breast milk doesn’t cost a cent. And because of the immunities and antibodies passed onto them through their mothers’ breast milk, breastfed infants are sick less often than infants who receive formula. For example, researchers have determined that infants who are exclusively breastfed for 4 or more months have 40% fewer episodes of ear infections. That means they make fewer trips to the doctor’s office, which equates to fewer co-pays and less money doled out for prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
Likewise, women who breastfeed are less likely to have to take time off from work to care for their sick babies. In a cost study published in the April 1999 issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers determined that infants who were never breastfed would incur additional medical costs of $331 to $475 per year.
Different tastes. A nursing mother will need 500 extra calories per day to produce breast milk, which means that she should eat a wide variety of well-balanced foods. This introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through their mothers’ breast milk, which has different flavors depending on what their mothers have eaten.
Convenience. With no bottles to mix and sterilize and no last-minute runs to the store for more formula, breast milk is always fresh and available. And because breast milk is always the right temperature, there’s no need to warm up bottles in the middle of the night. It’s also easy for breastfeeding mothers to be active – and go out and about – with their babies and know that they’ll have food available for whenever their little one is hungry.
Obesity prevention. Recent studies indicate that breastfeeding might help prevent childhood and adult obesity. According to the National Women’s Health Information Center (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), babies who are breastfed tend to gain less unnecessary weight, which may help them be less overweight later.
Smarter babies. Recent studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed for 6 months have IQs 5 to 10 points higher than children who were formula fed.
“Skin-to-skin” contact. Many nursing mothers really enjoy the experience of bonding so closely with their babies. And the skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant.
Beneficial for mom, too. The ability to nourish a baby totally can also help a new mother feel confident in her ability to care for her baby. Breastfeeding also burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. In addition, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of premenopausal breast cancer and also may help decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding: The Challenges

Although it is the best nutritional source for babies, breastfeeding does come with some concerns that many new mothers share. Whereas it’s easy from the get-go for some, it can be challenging. Sometimes, both mother and baby need plenty of patience and persistence to get used to the routine of breastfeeding. But all the effort is often worth it in the long run – for both the mother and her baby.
Common concerns of new moms, especially during the first few weeks and months, may include:
Personal comfort. Initially, as with any new skill, many moms feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding. But with adequate education, support, and practice, most moms overcome this. The bottom line is that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.
Latch-on pain is normal for the first week to 10 days, and should last less than a minute with each feeding. But if breastfeeding hurts throughout feedings, or if the nipples and/or breasts are sore, it’s a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to seek the help of a lactation consultant, their doctor, and/or their child’s doctor. Many times, it’s just a matter of using the proper technique.
Time and frequency of feedings. There’s no question that breastfeeding does require a substantial time commitment from mothers. Then again, many things in parenting do. Some women may be concerned that nursing will make it hard for them to work, run errands, or travel because of a breastfeeding schedule or a need to pump breast milk during the day.
And breastfed babies do need to eat more often than babies who are fed formula, because breast milk digests faster than formula. This means Mom may find herself in demand every 2 or 3 hours (maybe more, maybe less) in the first few weeks.
This can be tiring, but once breastfeeding has been established (usually in about a month), other family members may be able to help out by giving the baby pumped breast milk if Mom needs a break or has to get back to work outside the home. And it’s not long before babies feed less frequently and sleep through the night (usually around 3 months). Also, with a little organization and time management, it becomes easier to work out a schedule to breastfeed and/or pump.
Limiting caffeine. Caffeine intake should be kept to no more than 300 milligrams (about one to three cups of regular coffee) per day for breastfeeding women because it may cause problems such as restlessness and irritability in some babies. But many women are used to drinking less caffeine anyway because they kept their caffeine consumption to a minimum during pregnancy. Women who enjoy caffeine, however, can still have a little by combining caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks, and some might find they’re satisfied just by trying similar-tasting non-caffeinated beverages.
Maternal medical conditions, medicines, and breast surgery. Medical conditions such as HIV or AIDS or those that involve chemotherapy or treatment with certain medications may make breastfeeding inadvisable. In these cases, a woman should check with her doctor or a lactation consultant if she’s unsure if she should breastfeed with a specific condition or while taking medications.
But most moms are able to breastfeed even while on medications. Mothers who’ve had breast surgery, such as a reduction, may have difficulty with supply if their milk ducts have been severed. In this situation, it’s a good idea for a woman to talk to her doctor about her concerns and work with a lactation specialist.

Is it all right to use milk powder?

There are many different kinds of milk powder available in the shops today. Studies show that there is no great difference in the nutritional or food value of the different products. If a mother either cannot or doesn’t want to breastfeed her baby, there is no need to worry. Milk powder will be sufficient.
It’s vital to buy the correct milk powder to suit the age of the baby. It is also extremely important when mixing up a formula to use the correct amount of powder for the weight of the baby. The correct amounts are shown on the label. Use the measuring spoons that come with the tin. ‘One spoonful’ means a level spoon. If the mixture is too strong or too weak the baby can become sick.
If using milk powder it is important to be clean and hygienic. Teats and bottles need to be sterilised and boiled once a day. When mixing the powder always use boiled, COOLED water. It’s possible to prepare several bottles at once but remember that if the water is hot, cool the mixture in cold running water straight away.
Prepared bottles can be kept in the fridge but never for more than one day. If the baby does not empty their bottle, throw the rest away. Leftovers that have been kept at room temperature for more than one hour must also be thrown out.
Never store a prepared mixture in a vacuum flask because this can cause an upset stomach. The mixture is 37oC and it is at this temperature that bacteria grow most quickly.
A vacuum flask can be used to store boiling water when feeding the baby away from home, but the water should only be mixed with the measured powder at feeding time. Don’t forget to let the formula cool before giving it to the baby.
The temperature of the mixture has to be 37oC. The easy way to test the temperature is for the mother to put a few drops on the back of her hand or on her lower arm. The milk should not feel either hot or cold against the skin. If unsure, use a thermometer.
If using a microwave to heat up the bottles, be aware that the milk in the centre of the bottle will be much warmer than the milk along the sides. Shake the bottle well before testing the temperature. Always check the temperature carefully so the baby will not scald itself.
A baby being fed by bottle also needs closeness and contact. So mothers who are feeding their baby with a bottle should always hold their baby and chat to them while keeping eye and skin contact. If a baby is just given a bottle in its cot, he or she will miss out on the contact, the closeness and touch that are so important for well-being and development.

Based on a text by Christel Bech, nurse and Vibeke Manniche, paediatrician (PhD)


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