One of the first decisions that you will make about your baby is whether or not to breastfeed. Certainly, every healthcare professional will tell you that breastmilk is the healthiest baby milk out there and that breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding.

Here are what you should know about breastfeeding:

Get startedwith breastfeeding:

Learn more about what the World Health Organization say about breastfeeding.

Some Important Breastfeeding Facts

Some women, however, do not like the idea of feeding their baby in such a manner and are apprehensive to even try it. To help you understand the various advantages of breastfeeding, here are some basic facts about the most time-honoured method of feeding a baby:

  • The most nourishing kind of breastmilk is colostrum, the substance that breastfeeding mothers produce from birth onwards until the milk comes in.
  • Your body will produce the exact amount of milk that your baby needs. The more that your baby feeds, the more milk your body will produce. And if the baby’s demand decreases, so will the amount of milk that your body will produce.
  • When you breastfeed, the womb returns to its pre-pregnant size more quickly, and you will lose weight faster.
  • Some women find that breastfeeding babies acts as a natural contraceptive for them. However, this is not true of all women, so if you want to delay the next pregnancy, you should still use a contraceptive while breastfeeding.
  • Breastfeeding is the cleanest and most economical way to feed a baby – no need for bottles, sterilising equipment or expensive formula.
  • A baby’s immature gut and small stomach can digest breastmilk much more easily than formula. Unlike formula nappies, breastmilk nappies don’t smell!

Getting Started with Breastfeeding

Please watch this video on how to breastfeed your baby properly:

Babies are born with a natural reflex and instinct to breastfeed. Their sucking reflex is most powerful at birth, which is the best time to start. Many young women, especially if they have no experience of breastfeeding, may find it a little difficult at the beginning. For this reason, many hospitals provide breastfeeding information and may even have a lactation consultant on their staff. As soon as your baby is born, it would be a good idea to seek out the lactation consultant and ask her all of your breastfeeding questions. She will give you some ideas of breastfeeding positions and help you to get the baby latched on properly.

In principle, it is not that difficult to start breastfeeding as newborns possess a strong sucking reflex at birth. Simply hold the baby in the crook of your arm. Propping yourself or the baby with pillows, bring the baby close to your breast. Gently touch the side of the baby’s mouth with your nipple, and you will see how the baby will automatically open the mouth to take in the nipple. You should gently hold your nipple between your thumb and forefinger. Do not just offer the baby the tip of the nipple, but also some of the areola (the slightly darker area to which the nipple is attached). As the baby has a very small mouth, offer your nipple and areola very careful. The baby’s chin should be touching the breast but the nose should be either clear of the breast or just slightly touching it. You will know if the baby is not properly attached if you find this painful. When the baby is properly latched on, there should not be any pain at all.

At the beginning, the baby will take the breast for a few minutes at a time. At first, there will be a quick sucking action as the baby takes the thinner foremilk. As the thicker, more nourishing hindmilk comes in, the baby will start to suck more rhythmically, with the bottom jaw moving up and down with a deep action.

Common Breastfeeding Problems

If you are a new mother, you may find breastfeeding a little difficult at the beginning. You are already tired from the birth and your body is going through all of the usual postnatal hormonal changes that occur at this time. Until you have become used to breastfeeding, you may suffer from sore nipples. This should not be a cause of worry, as the skin does toughen up after a while. To help you, there are various nipple creams on the market that are safe to use while breastfeeding. Consult with the lactation counsellor or your healthcare professional to find out which one is the best for you.

You should also make sure to empty your breasts at each feeding. This is done by offering both breasts at each feeding. Once the baby is finished with one breast, burp them and then offer the second one. Make sure that the second breast becomes the first breast at the next feeding to make sure that it doesn’t get left too full, because this can lead to mastitis.

Mastitis is an infection caused by a blocked milk duct due to engorgement of the breast, or bacteria from a cracked nipple.

The Importance of a Good Breastfeeding Diet

While you are breastfeeding, you need to eat for two. This essentially means that you must eat the healthiest foods for your baby and keep your own strength up. It is highly important at this time to eat frequently, and to make sure that you drink enough, especially if you live in a hot climate. Many women make sure to drink while they are breastfeeding and then to drink again once they have finished. The importance of a proper diet cannot be stressed enough. Some women may breastfeed for the minimum six months, but others will carry on until the baby is two years old. It is a very personal decision, but either way, you need to look after your strength during this period.

Learn more about mood lifting foods to set your body into the right mood while nursing your baby.

If you do decide to breastfeed, you have made a very positive decision because you are giving your baby the healthiest start in life.