Breastmilk has been widely accepted as the gold standard for baby nutrition and confers several short-term and long-term benefits. Breast milk balances nutrients needed for rapid growth and development, especially during the first six months of life, and contains immune factors that protect against various infections and illnesses. Many studies have also shown that breastfed babies have a higher cognitive function and a lower risk of chronic diseases.
To maximize the benefits of breastfeeding, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommend the following:
- Exclusive Breastfeeding: Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life without introducing any other foods or liquids except for vitamin and mineral supplements, as advised by healthcare professionals.
- Continued Breastfeeding: After introducing complementary foods, breastfeeding should continue alongside the appropriate complementary feeding until at least two years of age or longer if the mother and infant desire.
- Responsive Feeding: Responsive feeding, whereby the infant is fed on-demand and allowed to self-regulate their intake, supports optimal growth and development.
Despite these recommendations, many moms struggle to breastfeed their babies. Here are answers to a few questions you might have as a mom:
1. How long should I breastfeed my baby?
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. After six months, complementary foods can be introduced while breastfeeding until at least 12 months of age or longer if the mother and baby desire.
2. How often should I breastfeed my baby?
Newborns have small stomachs and must feed frequently, usually every 2 to 3 hours. As the baby grows, feeding frequency may decrease, but it is essential to provide on-demand, as babies have varying hunger cues. Babies often indicate hunger by smacking their lips, rooting, or putting their hands into their mouths.
3. Is breastfeeding painful?
Breastfeeding should not be painful. While some discomfort may occur during the initial days, persistent pain can indicate an improper latch or other issues. Seeking support from a lactation consultant or a healthcare provider can help identify and address breastfeeding difficulties.
4. Can I breastfeed if I am sick?
In most cases, breastfeeding can continue even if the mother is ill. Breastfeeding can provide antibodies to the baby, offering some protection. However, certain infections or medications may require temporary interruption of breastfeeding. Consulting a healthcare professional to assess the situation and receive appropriate guidance is essential.
5. How can I increase my milk supply?
Maintaining good hydration and a balanced diet is crucial for adequate milk production. Feeding frequently and on-demand can also help stimulate milk production.
6. Can I breastfeed if I have inverted nipples?
Yes, many women with inverted nipples can successfully breastfeed. Techniques like breast shells, nipple shields, or manual stimulation can help draw out the nipple before latching the baby. It is recommended to seek assistance from a lactation consultant for personalized guidance.
7. Can I Breastfeed if I Return to Work?
Yes, it is possible to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. Employers are encouraged to provide facilities for expressing and storing breast milk. Pumping at work can help maintain milk supply, and keeping expressed milk in appropriate containers ensures that the baby receives the benefits of breast milk even when apart from the mother.
Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to babies and mothers, promoting optimal growth and development while fostering a strong emotional bond. You must seek support, knowledge, and guidance to overcome any breastfeeding challenges you may encounter. Every breastfeeding journey is unique, and seeking professional help from lactation consultants or healthcare providers can enhance your experience.