Correct Breastfeeding

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Breastfeeding is a practice that has been used for the benefit of the baby since the beginning of evolution of mammals. Human mothers can choose to breastfeed or choose artificial feeding for their babies unlike other mammals.

Breastfeeding, however, is complete with benefits for both the mother and the baby and although it seems like a challenge initially, it can be a wonderful experience for both the mother and the baby.

There are several things to be kept in mind to make breastfeeding correct and according to the recommendations by most acclaimed paediatric and obstetric organizations worldwide.

Some of these include:-

  • Beginning as soon after birth as possible - This ensures that the baby does not get any artificial feed before breastfeeding is begun. In addition starting early ensures that the baby gets the colostrum. Colostrum is the early, yellow milk that is secreted right after childbirth. It possesses several beneficial nutrients and should be offered to the baby.

  • Continuing exclusively until the baby is 6 months of age - Breastfeeding should be the only nourishment for the baby until he or she is 6 months old. Thereafter other foods may be added slowly to breastfeeding. Not even water should be given along with breast milk for the first 6 months. Breast milk provides both for the thirst and hunger of the baby.

  • Feeding on demand – The baby should be fed as per the demand. This helps frequent feedings and provides for the nutritional needs of the baby. The new mother must learn to recognize the cues for the baby’s hunger signs. Usual signs of hunger include alertness in the baby when he or she starts to move their head and look around for the nipple to suck on. Signals may begin with lip smacking, making sucking noises. Babies may suck on his or her own finger or fist or an offered finger of an adult. As he or she gets hungrier this may result in a crying to be fed. If the baby is asleep and 4 hours have elapsed after the last feed, the baby may be woken up gently for the next feed.

  • Getting and practicing a good latch - A comfortable latch on to the breast ensures a full and satisfied feeding for the baby and no sore nipples and pain for the mother. A good latch means whole of the nipple and the dark area around the nipple (the areola) is in the baby’s mouth and his or her chin presses into the mother’s breast. The baby’s lip is puckered out like she is kissing. Signs of a good latch include:-

    • No pain, pinching sensation and uncomfortable feeling for the mother

    • The baby appears to be comfortable

    • Little of the areola is visible

    • The baby’s tongue is under the nipple

    • The baby can be heard to swallow in between breathing.

  • Feeding both the fore and the hind milk - The initial milk that comes is called the fore milk and this is thinner and more watery. This helps to quench the thirst of the baby. After the initial phase the milk is thicker and is called the hind milk. This satisfies the hunger of the baby and helps the baby grow and gain weight. Babies need both fore and hind milk. Mothers should ensure that both the fore milk and the hind milk are given to the baby before turning the baby to the other breast.

  • Making breastfeeding an enjoyable and bonding experience - by holding the baby close with skin to skin contact. Talking to the baby if the baby is falling asleep. Ideally the mother and the baby should be in the same room after childbirth and the initial months to ensure frequent feeding and recognition of feeding needs of the baby by the new mother.

  • Avoiding nipple confusion - Babies should not be offered any pacifiers or artificial nipples during their period of exclusive breastfeeding to avoid nipple confusion.

  • Following good hygiene and a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of fluids - to ensure good health. Breastfeeding mothers should be aware that most drugs, cigarette smoke and alcohol have the potential to travel into breast milk and reach the baby. They need to abstain from alcohol, drugs and smoking as much as possible while breastfeeding.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 28, 2013

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