The first instinct of a newborn baby is to reach up and take its first taste of breast milk, which begins to strengthen the bond between mother and baby. The ability of a mother to produce a nutritionally complete meal for her newborn is one of nature’s wonders, and research has confirmed that breastfeeding is linked to healthier mothers and infants in many different ways.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk contains hormones, growth factors, cytokines, specialized cells and much more. It offers many advantages over cow’s milk or soy protein infant formulae. Although infant formula can seem like an easier option, the benefits of breastfeeding are immense and far outweigh the convenience of pre-packaged milk.
How your Baby Benefits:
- Reduced likelihood of your baby developing allergies.
- Protection against a wide variety of conditions, from ear infections, childhood cancers, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and gastric infections.
- Significantly reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese.
- Provides essential stimulus to your baby’s immune system and protection against infection.
- Improved visual, psychomotor and cognitive development, leading to higher IQ scores later in life.
How you Benefit:
- Improved recovery following childbirth, and positive psychological effects.
- Longer post-partum infertility for natural family planning.
- Accelerated weight loss to return to pre-pregnancy weight (breastfeeding can burn 500 calories a day).
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis, breast and ovarian cancers.
- Time savings: no need to make up formulae or sterilize bottles.
- Cost savings: nature’s elixir is completely free.
- Your baby will feel safe and secure, increasing the bond between you.
A Guide to Breastfeeding
Before your baby is born, obtain as much information as possible about how a baby attaches to the breast, and how to hold him or her for optimum comfort. Babies have the instinct to feed but mothers often need to learn, and practice, how to nourish. Responsive feeding is best as babies are very good at regulating what they need — let your child guide you.
There are various positions that work well for different women; you just need to find the one that suits you. It’s important that you feed on both breasts regularly to release the milk that has been produced. This will make you feel more comfortable and also reduce your risk of developing an infection in the area.
For the first six months, infants should ideally be nourished on breast milk alone. Solid foods may slowly be introduced after six months. The benefits of breastfeeding continue for at least one year after birth.
Diet Recommendations while Breastfeeding
Making sure that you eat a healthy and balanced diet is the most important factor — your body will do the rest. The following tips are aimed specifically at breastfeeding mothers, and will help you provide the best nourishment for your baby.
- A varied diet packed full of fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates will make your milk nutritionally robust. Some foods flavor the milk and while initially your baby may express a dislike of new tastes, in the long run babies that are breastfed different flavors are more likely to try new foods when weaning.
- Make sure that your stay well hydrated. It is essential that you replace the extra fluid that you are passing on to your newborn via breastfeeding. This will also help to keep your milk supply high and ensure that your baby always has enough milk to drink. Water is the best option, as well as caffeine-free herbal teas.
- Limit your caffeine consumption. Caffeine is a substance that can pass from your blood stream into your milk supply. This means that you could give your baby a little dose of caffeine whilst breastfeeding, which can make them jittery, agitated and have difficulty sleeping. While these effects will pass, it is best to prevent them by limiting caffeinated drinks, or having a coffee after breastfeeding.
- Ask your pharmacist. Some common prescribed and over the counter medications can also pass into your milk. The easy solution to this is to avoid taking medications unless absolutely necessary and get advice from your pharmacist or doctor.
A Final Note
Breastfeeding is a pleasurable experience that only a mother and child can enjoy as they strengthen their relationship bond. Eating well and staying hydrated is important to keep your milk supply healthy and nutritional for your newborn baby. Simply relax, enjoy and your body will do the rest for you.