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Breastfeeding 101 – Benefits, guides, tips and incredible facts

Mommy breastfeeding her baby

World Breastfeeding week is celebrated in over 120 countries every year, from 1 to 7 August, to encourage breastfeeding and its many benefits for mommy and baby, and improve the health of babies around the world.  In celebration of World Breastfeeding week, we have dedicated an entire article to this with some useful guides, basics, tips and incredible facts.

When does your milk come in?

Your breast milk arrives in three stages – each for your baby’s age.  From day one breast milk is natures perfect super food for your baby.

Stage 1 – Colostrum:  The liquid gold!  The thick, yellowish (sometimes clear) substance that you produce during pregnancy and once baby arrived is Colostrum.  You will probably make very little, but your baby won’t need more than a few teaspoons of this per feeding during the first few days.  This blend of protein, vitamins and minerals help defend against harmful bacteria and viruses, possibly even stimulate your baby to produce antibodies.  It coats the inside of baby’s intestines, protecting the immature immune system, against allergies and digestive upset.  Plus, it stimulates your baby’s first bowel movement and reduces jaundice risk.  Regular suckling will help stimulate your body to produce the next stage on milk.

Stage 2 – Transitional Milk:  Next on the menu is Transitional milk, which comes in around the third or fourth day.  This resembles milk mixed with orange juice – fortunately tastes a lot better for your baby.  It contains lover levels of immunoglobulins (also known as antibodies, are glycoprotein molecules produced by plasma cells (white blood cells).  Also, less protein than colostrum but contains more lactose, fat and calories.  If it seems like you’re not producing much milk at this stage – relax – at day three, your baby’s stomach is the size of a walnut.

Stage 3 – Mature Milk:  Arriving around day ten and fourteen, mature milk is thin and white.  While it looks like watery skim milk, it’s packed with all the fat and other nutrients your growing baby needs.

What is Cluster Feeding?

When your baby starts treating your breast like an all you can eat buffet and coming back for more and more – don’t be alarmed.  What your hungry little one is doing is called cluster feeding.  This is the amazing and smart way of your baby to boost your milk supply during growth spurts.   Your milk supply is tailored to your baby’s demands.  At first, he/she probably sleep more than eating.  But has they grow, so will the calorie and nutrition needs.  Babies intake of breast milk or formula nearly double during the first six months, and cluster feeding, going back to the nipple for more, is one way of making sure you’ll have enough.  Babies are most likely to cluster feed around 3 weeks and again at 6 weeks.  That’s when they have their first of may growth spurts. 

Does breastfeeding hurt?

You might have been told breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt but, in reality, many mommy’s find the first few days uncomfortable. It’s not surprising when you consider your nipples aren’t used to all that strong, frequent sucking your baby is doing.  You may also feel period-like cramps (known as after-pains) following feeding sessions in the first few days, especially if this isn’t your first baby. This is because the oxytocin released by breastfeeding will help your womb contract further, as it starts to return to its usual size.

When your milk comes in, it’s usual for breasts to feel full, firm, and certainly bigger than they used to be. Some women find their breasts get very swollen, hard and tender – a condition called engorgement. Feeding your baby frequently should help relieve the pressure.  Hang in there mommy – it gets better and it and the benefits for you and your baby is so worth it.

How to latch your baby onto your breast?

In the beginning, it might take a few tries to get your baby into the right position – but keep trying.  It is essential to know a good latch – improper latching is the most common cause of breast discomfort.  Your baby’s little mouth should cover both your nipple and areola.  Sucking on just the nipple will not only leave your infant hungry it will make your nipples sore and cracked.  This is because the glands that secret the milk won’t be compressed.  Baby’s mouth, tongue and lips massage milk out of your milk glands. Here we listed a step by step guide to get the latch going:

  • Hold your baby facing your breasts, with the front of her body facing yours, tummy to tummy. Her head should be in line with the rest of her body, not turned, to make swallowing easier.
  • Tickle baby’s lip with your nipple to encourage baby to open very wide, like a yawn. If your baby isn’t opening up, try to squeeze some colostrum, and later, milk, onto her lips.
  • If your baby turns away, gently stroke the cheek on the side nearest you. The rooting reflex will make baby turn her head toward your breast.
  • Bring baby forward toward your breast once the mouth is open wide. Don’t lean over and push your breast into baby’s mouth — let your baby take the initiative. Keep a hold of your breast until baby has a firm grasp and is suckling well.
  • You’ll know you’ve got a proper latch when baby’s chin and the tip of the nose are touching your breast. Baby’s lips will be flared outward, like fish lips, rather than tucked in. Check that your little one isn’t sucking on her own lower lip or tongue — newborns will suckle anything — by pulling the lower lip down while nursing.
  • Watch for suckling — that is, extracting colostrum or breast milk from your breast, not just sucking or gumming your nipple. If baby is suckling, you’ll see a strong, steady suck-swallow-breath pattern. You’ll also notice a rhythmic motion in baby’s cheek, jaw and ear. Once your milk comes in, listen for the sound of swallowing or gulping. You’ll know baby isn’t latched properly if you hear clicking noises.

How long does it take to breastfeed?           

Don’t set a specific time limit for each feed – let your baby take their time and expect feedings to be long initially.

  • Sessions typically last 20 to 30 minutes. But keep in mind, that’s on average. Your baby could take more or less time and need to feed for longer in the beginning and during growth spurts.
  • Drain one breast fully. Ideally, at least one breast should be well-drained at each feeding. This is more important than being sure baby feeds from both breasts, since hind milk — the last of the mature milk that baby feeds on — is richer in fats and calories. So don’t pull the plug arbitrarily. Instead, wait until your baby seems ready to quit on breast one, then offer, but don’t force, breast two. If baby drains one breast and doesn’t want any more, start with the other breast at the next feeding.
  • Wait for baby to signal when done. End the feeding by waiting for baby to let go of the nipple. If your baby doesn’t, you’ll know to end the feeding when the suck-swallow pattern slows down to around four sucks per one swallow. Often, your baby will fall asleep at the end of the first breast and either awaken to nurse from the second or sleep through until the next feeding. Again, unlatch by pressing on your breast near baby’s mouth or carefully inserting a clean finger into the corner of your infant’s mouth.

How often should I breastfeed?

Feeding babies when they’re hungry (on demand) rather than on a schedule is ultimately best for breastfeeding success. But since babies usually aren’t born hungry — their appetite generally picks up around the third day — chances are there won’t be much demand at first. Which means you may have to initiate — even push — at first.

A newborn should have at least eight to 12 feedings each 24 hours, even if demand isn’t up to that level yet, for the first few weeks. Break that down and you’ll probably be nursing every two to three hours, day and night, counting from the beginning of each nursing session.

Feeding patterns vary widely from baby to baby, however, so you might need to nurse a little more or less frequently. If you have a hungrier or more impatient infant on your hands, you may go little more than an hour between feedings; a more easily satisfied baby might be able to go for three-and-a-half to four hours. If you feel like you’re nursing constantly, don’t worry; it’s temporary. As your milk supply increases and your baby gets bigger, the breaks between feedings will get longer.

Don’t be concerned or surprised if your formula-feeding or supplementing friends say their newborns eat far less often. Breast milk is more easily digested than infant formula, allowing the tummies of nursing babies to empty faster — and thirst for more sooner.

How do I tell my baby is getting enough milk?

Many new nursing mothers worry at some point that baby isn’t eating enough.. If you’re concerned, a few indicators can help you:

  • Disposition. If your little one seems happy and content after most feedings, then chances are she’s a satisfied customer and is getting enough milk. If she’s crying and fussing or sucking on her fingers frantically after a full feeding, she might still be hungry (though these can also be signs of gas or infant colic).
  • Dirty diapers. Keep a careful count: After three or four days, your newborn should be pumping out at least six and up to 12 with clear to very pale-yellow urine and at least three or four soft, yellow bowel movements over a 24-hour period in the beginning. For the first several weeks, it’s a good idea to keep a written record of breastfeeding frequency and diaper output, which you can bring along to the paediatrician’s office at each visit.
  • Weight. Infants should gain weight steadily every week from the second week on; 4 to 7 ounces per week is typical for newborns, although weight gain varies depending on age and other factors. Your paediatrician will let you know if your baby’s growth is on track.

How do I know when my baby is hungry?

A good way to master the right breastfeeding balance is to nurse when your baby seems hungry. Don’t wait for tears. They might be tiny but they’ll make their needs known by:

  • Nuzzling against your breasts
  • Sucking furiously on that little baby hand — or your shirt, or your arm
  • Baby opens his mouth and turns his head to the side with his mouth.
  • Sucking on her/his lip or tongue, which can look like she’s/he’s sticking her/his tongue out
  • Making lip-smacking sounds
  • If she/he does cry, it will typically be a short, low-pitched wail that rises and falls

Benefits of breastfeeding for baby:

Breast milk is considered as natures super food for baby.  Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants with a perfect mix for vitamins, protein and fat. It contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria, lowers the risk of having asthma or allergies.  Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections and respiratory illnesses.  In some studies, breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood.  The physical closeness, skin to skin touching and eye contact help your baby bond with you and feel secure.  Breastfed baby’s are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children.  It also plays a vital role in the prevention of SIDS, lower the risk of diabetes, obesity and certain cancers as well.

Benefits of breastfeeding for mommy:

The benefits of breastfeeding don’t only extend to your baby. It turns out that breastfeeding can boost your health too. It Lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  Helps you lose pregnancy weight – BONUS! May lower your risk of osteoporosis. Heals your body after delivery and triggers your uterus to shrink back to pre-pregnancy size. The oxytocin released when your baby nurses helps your uterus contract, reducing post-delivery blood loss.  Delays menstruation. Breastfeeding your baby around the clock—no bottles or formula – will delay ovulation, which means delayed menstruation. Best of all – Gives you closeness with your baby. Nursing is something special the two of you share. You and baby exchange looks, noises, and cuddles during a nursing session, and communicate love to each other.

How to increase breast milk – What to eat!

There’s no magic potion that will increase your breast milk supply, but some of these foods may help

  • Barley – You may have heard that a tall glass of Guinness or Stout is the key to healthy breast-milk supply, but research has shown alcohol can inhibit milk production. It’s actually barley, a component of beer, that may be lactogenic. Add whole barley to soups, stews, salads and even risotto.
  • Oats – Likely the most well-known breast milk “maker”.  Whether in the form of a bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal, a trendy oat milk latte or an oat-filled lactation cookie, breastfeeding moms have long relied on oats to help them make more milk. Why? The whole grain is a source of iron (half a cup of dry oats has close to 2 mg of iron, or around 20 percent of what breastfeeding moms need per day), and low levels of the mineral are known to inhibit milk supply.
  • Whole grains – Aside from barley and oats, whole wheat and brown rice are also rich in beta-glucan, but have been routinely overlooked in research on lactogenic foods simply because they’re both such obvious dietary staples, It’s important to note that white flour and white rice simply don’t have the same benefits.
  • Brewer’s yeast –  High in B vitamins, iron, protein, chromium and selenium, brewer’s yeast is routinely used as a nutritional supplement. But unlike beer-related barley and malt, brewer’s yeast has not yet been studied as a lactogenic food.  Nevertheless, it is commonly recommended as a breast milk booster and is often found in trendy lactation snacks. As brewer’s yeast is super bitter and passes readily into breast milk, it may cause gas and fussiness in some infants.
  • Fennel Seeds – They are digestives and help control baby-colic. Fennel seeds can be added along with seasonings to vegetables. Add them to your tea or boil a few seeds with milk and drink up.  Pop in a few seeds after a meal as a mouth refresher.
  • Fenugreek Seeds – Known for boosting breast milk supply. Chew on the sprouted seeds along with a glass of milk to prevent post-delivery constipation. It enhances your milk quantity. Toss in the seeds with seasoning and flavoring. Have them for breakfast as a pancake by mixing fenugreek seeds and rice.
  • Spinach and Beet Leaves – Spinach and beet leaves contain iron, calcium and folic acid.  These are essential for recouping anemic mothers.  These will help in making your baby strong.  Spinach and beet leaves contain detoxifying agents.  Spinach contains certain plant chemicals which could help prevent breast cancer. Include these leaves in a midday soup.  Remember to eat spinach in moderation as too much could cause diarrhea in your baby.
  • Water and Juices – Drinking water and juices boost lactation. It increases the total milk volume per feed.  It prevents you from dehydration and replaces fluid lost during lactation.  Have a glass of water when you are thirsty or even before you begin to nurse your baby.

How to increase breast milk – What to do!

  • Nurse frequently and efficiently: Milk production is a demand and supply process. The more the baby drinks, the higher is the production. Nurse once every two hours. Position the baby properly while nursing so that he latches on well.
  • Express milk: If the baby is unable to empty your breasts, express the milk after nursing to maintain the milk supply.
  • Switch sides: Make your baby drink from both the breasts. Switch sides twice or thrice every time you feed. But let the little one finish one breast and then switch to the other. This technique gives fatty ‘hindmilk’ to the baby. Using breast compression helps the baby feed longer.
  • Avoid solids: If the baby is younger than six months, avoid feeding her solids, water, and formula. Breast milk is all that she needs!
  • Rest well: Besides eating well, rest well. Consume well-balanced diet and more liquids.
  • Stay away from alcohol and nicotine: No surprises here, right? Alcohol and nicotine consumption are harmful not only during but also after pregnancy when you are nursing your little one. Nicotine and alcohol restrict the breast milk supply. These substances can pass into your baby’s body through breast milk and trigger developmental problems.
  • Check your medication: If you are taking medicines, find out from your doctor if they are interfering with your milk production. Avoid using hormonal contraceptives right after your delivery.
  • Stay calm and relaxed: Believe it or not, stress does play a major role in reducing the milk production. Well, handling a baby can be a tough job, and you may not get enough rest. Seek help from your family so that they babysit while you relax. The key is to stay relaxed by practicing healthy, stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises. These would help ensure a good supply of milk.
  • Use the right bra: Wearing a tight bra that compresses your chest region or one that is rigid around the band can affect milk flow. The wrong bra can lead to clogged ducts, blocking milk production.
  • Breast massage: Massaging your breast will help open blocked ducts, besides loosening hardened areas or lumps. It does not increase milk production but allows easy flow of milk. It may even lessen the risk of mastitis. Massage gently on the breasts and do it yourself as you can judge the pressure applied:
    • When both you and your baby are comfortable and relaxed, give a gentle massage on the chest region, ending towards the nipple.
    • Now let your baby suckle. Then massage another breast. Be gentle as vigorous strokes could damage the ducts.
  • Add pumping sessions: Add pumping sessions in between or after nursing sessions to maintain the milk supply. Pump for at least two to five minutes every time.

Super easy recipes to help increase your milk supply:

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