A Breastfeeding Guide For First-Time Mothers
New mothers find breastfeeding and the whole conversation around it, rather stressful. Are you doing it at all? If you are, are you doing it right? Or doing it for too long? People fling a million questions at you when all you need is answers. Help is at hand. Here are the five basic questions answered for you.
How Do You Make Breastfeeding Easier?
Ask your doctor or nurse about the right latching techniques for the first feed. Always support your baby’s neck and shoulders while feeding. You can also use a nursing pillow so that you and your baby are comfortable. Some babies need to be fed eight to twelve times a day, so know when to wake your baby up for a feed. Remember that most babies signal when they are hungry. They may sigh, lick their lips, or get restless. Understand and watch for your baby’s cues.
Ask your doctor about sore nipples, mastitis, and other challenges that breastfeeding mothers face. You may find the process painful or stressful, or have concerns about the quantity of milk. Get professional advice. Do not rely on hearsay.
Is Breastfeeding Good For The Baby?
Breastfeeding is the natural way of giving your baby essential nutrients. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that your baby has only breast milk until six months of age.1 Breastfeeding boosts the baby’s immunity and resistance, and helps growth.2 This is because breastmilk contains protein, vitamins and fat - an essential mix for babies. It also contains antibodies which help babies fight bacteria and viruses.
Studies also show that breastfeeding reduces the risk of gastroenteritis and necrotizing enterocolitis.3 Necrotizing enterocolitis is a serious condition wherein a baby’s intestinal tissue gets damaged and dies out. Additionally, breastfeeding prevents ear, urinary tract, and respiratory infections to a great degree, and leads to lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In the long-run, there is low risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Chances of asthma, dermatitis, and sleep disorder are low too. Breastfed babies are smarter and intelligent too.
Is Breastfeeding Good For You?
Yes, breastfeeding benefits mothers too. It is linked to a reduced risk of diabetes, and specific types of ovarian and breast cancer. It is said to help restore your uterus to normal size after childbirth.4 Mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Breastfeeding also helps you shed the excess weight you gained during pregnancy. Besides that, it is the best way to bond with your baby for life.
What Should You Eat To Breastfeed Better?
Right nutritional intake and proper hydration are extremely important. Avoid smoking or having excessive caffeine while breastfeeding your baby. You should also avoid taking any medication without consulting your doctor.
When breastfeeding, you need about 2,500 to 2,700 calories per day, depending on the level of activity.5 But empty calories will not help. It is not just the quantity of breastmilk that is important, but the quality as well. Adding a health drink to your diet during this time is advisable. For instance, Mother’s Horlicks provides a host of important micronutrients, including Iodine, Selenium, Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 and B12, all of which help to improve the quality of breastmilk. This eventually ensures better nutritional benefits for the mother and baby.
You can follow your pregnancy diet, just have larger helpings, suggests the Nutrition Society of India. Have your rice and coarse grains like millet. Do not skip edible fats like oil, ghee, or butter. Mix fresh leafy greens with coloured vegetables and tubers. You must have at least 500 g of milk and milk products like yogurt. Pulses and dried beans are good sources of protein. If you are non-vegetarian, include 30 g of animal protein to your daily diet. Eat lots of fruit and moderate quantities of sugar or jaggery. Drink plenty of water and liquids to keep yourself hydrated.
When Do You Stop?
You should start breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. That way the baby gets the nutrient-rich colostrum. When to stop is another matter. The WHO suggests that you can supplement a child’s diet with breast milk for up to two years and beyond. But it is an emotional decision for most mothers. Stop when you and the baby are both comfortable with discontinuing it. Ask your paediatrician for advice.
The author is Neha Chandna, who is a practicing dietitian since the last 8 years. The views, opinions and recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of the author and intended as an educational aid. Please consult your doctor for professional advice concerning specific health/medical matters.