Knowledge, skills, and physical preparedness on top of a mother's instinct are all important to accomplish breast feeding. Here are 10 things you should know about breast feeding.
1. Prepare yourself physically. Apparently, checking if your breasts are ready is important. Some women may have inverted nipples, but this should not get in the way when planning to breastfeed. There are several ways to solve this problem, from a simple massage to surgical measures; it is just a matter of choosing which is best for you. A mother must also keep in mind that small breasts don't mean less milk. The breast's ability to produce milk depends on the condition of the mammary glands, your hormones and your nutrition.
2. So, eat right. Your milk's quality and quantity depends on your nutritional intake. Proper hydration helps increase your milk production. This doesn't only include drinking water. Eating fruits and vegetables is also encouraged because not only do they contain water, but they are also high in essential nutrients that will help your milk to be of great quality.
3. Being sick is not an excuse for not breast feeding. The WHO (World Health Organization) has written some guidelines regarding diseases and medications that contraindicate breast feeding. The most commonly known are HIV and drug abuse. Otherwise, women with simple colds, flu, or medications for non communicable diseases are mostly safe to breastfeed.
4. Breast milk is the best. It is free, always available and ready. Not only is it the most clean (sterile even), but it also contains immune globulins that boost your child's immune system, which protects your baby during the most vulnerable stage of infancy. Colostrum (first milk that comes after childbirth) has the highest amount of immune globulins. Breast feeding also makes your baby safe from unexpected allergic reactions from formula milk, and it is also best for babies who may be lactose intolerant. Dental caries (decay) and obesity are also less likely for babies who are breastfed. In a study by Vennemann et al published in the Pediatrics journal on April 2009, they found out that breast feeding even reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by approximately 50% at all ages throughout infancy. Remember that there is still no formula milk available in the market today that compares to all the nutritional contents and benefits of breast milk.
5. Breast feeding has more benefits for your baby aside from providing nutrition. A British Medical Journal article by Dr. Montgomery revealed that breast feeding and resilience against psychosocial stress are positively correlated. This is due to the mother-baby interaction and bonding while nursing and breast feeding.
6. Mothers also benefit from breast feeding. Exclusive breast feeding delays the return of menstruation, so the mother is safe from being pregnant again right away for some time. This is called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), a natural contraception. When feeding the baby, mothers also produce the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin not only makes the breast milk eject, but also makes the uterus to contract, resulting in uterine involution. This helps the mothers regain their pre-pregnant figure - no need for tummy tuck!
7. Breast feeding may hurt. Yes, the mother may suffer from soreness of the nipples if the right technique and breast care are not applied. Proper latching is important, meaning the position of the breast in the baby's mouth should be correct; otherwise, the baby may bite or suck the wrong way. Wiping your nipples and areola with cotton and warm water before and after is also advisable. It cleans your nipples before feeding and also wipes off the baby's saliva which is rich in chemicals that may harm your sensitive nipples.
8. Breast milk may be shared. Mothers who are healthy and has a lot of milk may share their milk with babies whose mother is not able to produce milk. The mother receiving milk donations from other moms may put the milk extracted to feeding bottles and then hold the baby in their arms while feeding so mother-baby bonding is still enjoyed.
9. Working is not a hindrance to breast milk feeding. Working moms may use breast pumps to extract their milk. It should not be a one-time a day extraction as your milk is produced in time when your mother's instinct tells you your baby is hungry. Extracted milk stored in the refrigerator has a shelf life of 5 hours, and up to 6 months when stored in a freezer (-19 degrees Celsius. Of course, you may reheat the milk to room temperature before feeding it to your baby, but do not microwave!
10. Exclusive feeding is best up to six months. After that, your baby needs more nutrients than what breast milk or formula may offer. You may start feeding the baby with rice or cereals, but only as supplement to breast feeding. Breast feeding with supplemental food is recommended up to two years.