Annabel Karmel shares tips on breastfeeding for moms and babies
Breastmilk is the most natural food for your baby. It contains all the vital nutrients that she needs. The vitamins, minerals, protein and fat content are ideally balanced for her, and are in a form that she can easily digest and absorb.
Breastfeeding is however very demanding on your energy levels, so your diet is just as important when you’re breastfeeding as it was when you were pregnant, because you’re the primary source of nourishment for your baby. A good diet will also help you to cope with the demands of a new baby. However, when you breastfeed, it’s important to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods every day. Keeping up a good milk supply isn’t only dependent on you eating and drinking well, you also need to rest and take care of yourself, especially if your baby is keeping your up at night.
Breastfeeding facts and know-hows
• Breastfeeding is a skill that needs to be learned, and although it’s natural, it’s not necessarily instinctive. If you have the opportunity, try to attend a breastfeeding class or a support session before you have your baby.
• Breastfeeding is more likely to be successful if feeding starts early after birth. Babies are born with a natural sucking reflex, and if you hold your baby to your breast, she may suckle within 30 minutes of being born.
• Get help from your partner and family or friends with shopping, cooking or household chores. This will give you the time you need to establish breastfeeding and recover from the lack of sleep. This period will only last for a few weeks, and most things can be put on hold.
• Don’t try to be superwoman! If you overstretch yourself, you’ll end up feeling run-down, and this could go on to affect your milk supply.
• Breastfeeding can lower the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer. A baby sucking at the breast causes the uterus to contract, and return to its normal size faster.
• You burn on average 300–500 calories a day to produce milk. So hopefully breastfeeding will help you regain your prenatal figure.
• Through breastfeeding, you pass on your antibodies to your baby, which will help to strengthen her immune system and promote resistance to stomach upsets, coughs, colds and other infections.
• If breastfed, your baby is less likely to develop ear and urinary tract infections, and is less likely to develop diabetes.
• Premature babies need to be fed frequently. Breastmilk is especially important as they miss out on the natural immunity that is usually passed on from mother to baby via the placenta during the last weeks of pregnancy, and are particularly vulnerable to infection. Breastmilk provides the antibodies to help protect them, and can reduce the risk of life-threatening gut disease. If you’re unable to breastfeed, your baby will be given a formula designed for premature babies.
• Breastfeeding has been shown to delay the onset and reduce the severity of allergies in children from families with a history of asthma, hay fever, eczema and food allergies. If there’s a history of food allergies in your family, you should breastfeed your baby for at least six months before you start introducing solids.
• Due to the changing composition of milk, it’s best to allow your baby to empty one breast before offering the other one. It is the hindmilk, which comes after the foremilk that is rich in fats and calories and really satisfies a hungry baby.
• Feeding in the bath – If you’re experiencing problems feeding your baby, try feeding her in the bath. The water relaxes you and your baby and helps your milk to flow, and some people believe it mimics the womb environment.
• If your baby sucks only on the nipple, she’ll get frustrated because she won’t get enough milk. As a result, she’ll probably try to suck harder and you’ll get sore nipples. If it feels painful, start again.
• If your baby isn’t keen to breastfeed, express a few drops of milk onto her lips so that she can smell and taste it.
• Feeding time – twenty minutes is average, but feeds can last between 10 minutes and an hour.
• If it really hurts when your baby latches on, slide a finger into the corner of her mouth to break the suction, and then try again.
• Most of all, enjoy this precious time with your new baby. It will pass all too quickly, and this is a great excuse to savour every minute.
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