Why is Breastfeeding Important for Your Baby?

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Breastfeeding refers to feeding your baby breast milk, usually directly from your breast. It is also known as nursing or chest feeding. The decision to breastfeed is a personal choice that can often attract opinions from friends and family. After introducing other foods, they suggest continuing to breastfeed throughout the baby's first year of life. The frequency of breastfeeding depends on whether your baby prefers small, frequent meals or longer feedings, which will change as your baby grows. New-borns typically require feeding every 2-3 hours. By 2 months, feeding every 3-4 hours is common, and by 6 months, most babies feed every 4-5 hours. Ultimately, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one that you should make based on what's best for you and your baby, as every mother and child are unique.


What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding for your Baby?

Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to the baby. First and foremost, breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It contains a perfect combination of vitamins, protein, and fat – everything your baby needs to grow. Moreover, it is easily digestible than infant formula. Breast milk also contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding helps in reducing the baby's risk of developing asthma or allergies. Furthermore, babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months without any formula have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhoea. They also require fewer hospitalizations and visits to the doctor.


What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding for the mother?

The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact when you hold your baby can help them bond with you and feel secure. Breastfeeding can help you lose pregnancy weight faster as it burns extra calories. It also releases the hormone oxytocin, which aids your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding beyond 1 year, and up to 2 years, has continued benefits, especially for the parent as it lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may also lower the risk of osteoporosis. Additionally, breastfeeding saves you time and money as you don't have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles. It also provides you with regular time to relax quietly with your new-born and bond.


What Should I Expect When I Start Breastfeeding?

When you begin breastfeeding, your body will produce a substance called colostrum that is thick and yellowish in colour. This substance is rich in essential nutrients that are important for your baby's immune system. After approximately three days, your milk will start to come in, but this may take longer for first-time parents. During this time, your breasts may become firmer and leak on occasion. If your breasts become too full with milk, you may experience some discomfort. In the early stages of breastfeeding, your nipples may become sore or cracked.


How to Increase Milk Supply?

Breastfeeding is the best way to provide nutrition to your baby. Experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding (without formula or other liquids) for the first six months. However, some mothers may struggle to produce enough milk early on, especially if their baby was born prematurely or they were separated from their baby soon after birth. If you are having trouble producing enough milk, one way to increase your milk supply may be to pump more frequently, rather than for longer periods. Try pumping for ten minutes, then take a ten-minute break for about an hour, in addition to your normal pumping schedule. This can help boost your milk supply within three to four days. Staying hydrated is also important when nursing, especially if you are drinking caffeinated beverages. If you are not seeing an increase in your milk supply despite pumping often, you should talk to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant. It may be that your breast pump does not fit properly, and they can help you find the right size for you.


How to Get a Good Breastfeeding Latch?

To improve the quality of the latch during breastfeeding, try experimenting with different positions until you find the most comfortable one. When latching, make sure your baby's mouth covers both the nipple and a significant portion of breast tissue. You can also try using a nipple shield or check for tongue-ties, which can be corrected with a procedure called a tongue-tie revision. Remember not to be afraid to unlatch and try again if you encounter difficulties.


Common Breastfeeding Challenges

Breastfeeding can come with several common concerns or challenges. These include sore nipples, dry and cracked nipples, worries about producing enough milk, pumping and storing milk, inverted nipples, breast engorgement, blocked ducts, breast infection, and stress. To prevent sore and dry nipples, ensure your baby latches on correctly and avoid soaps, perfumed creams, or lotions with alcohol in them.


How can Breastfeeding Challenges Be Overcome?

Practice nursing with each breast fully enough to empty the milk ducts. Breastfeed frequently to keep producing milk and use a breast pump if necessary. Breast milk can be safely stored in a refrigerator and freezer, and thawed in a bowl of warm water. Women with inverted nipples can breastfeed successfully with the help of a lactation consultant. To relieve breast engorgement, apply heat and cold and release milk by hand or a pump. Blocked ducts can be relieved with warm compresses and gentle massage.

 If you have a sore area on your breast along with flu-like symptoms, fever, and fatigue, call your doctor since you may have a breast infection that requires antibiotics. Stay relaxed and calm before and during nursing to help your milk let down and flow more easily, which, in turn, can help calm and relax your infant.

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