Breastfeeding is the process of feeding your child with breast milk directly from the breast or from a cup or bottle. If the mother can safely breastfeed, she should start within the first hour of birth and continue for six months. Breast milk contains all the nutrients and immune-building components that a child requires for a healthy life.
You and your child both benefit from breastfeeding. For the mother, it reduces the risk of breast cancer and provides the required nutrients for the development of the child.
Breastfeeding is feeding a baby with the milk produced from the breast. Breastmilk contains all the nutrients a baby needs to develop physically and mentally.
Breastfeeding benefits both mother and child. The benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Breastfeeding can help mothers to lose pregnancy weight.
- Women who breastfeed their child(ren) have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding can work as a form of birth control (though unreliable).
- Breastfeeding reduces your child's risk for medical conditions in later life, such as obesity and diabetes.
- Breastmilk is easily digestible for the child.
- It passes some immunity from mother to child.
- Breastfeeding creates a bond between mother and child.
- It saves on buying infant formula.
A mother can choose to give her child only breastmilk (excusive) or to provide additional infant formula (partial):
- Exclusive breastfeeding: you only give breastmilk to your child. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of a child's life, as breastmilk is the safest food at this age. You can breastfeed by putting the breast in the mouth of the baby. You can also do this by expressing breastmilk and storing it in a fridge. You can warm the stored milk gently and feed this to the child with a cup and spoon or a feeding bottle.
- Partial breastfeeding: you provide formula food or solid food in addition to breastmilk. Introducing other foods is recommended after six months because breastmilk is not enough for the growing child after this age. There are situations where you cannot exclusively breastfeed a child in the first six months. If the mother is finding it difficult to breastfeed, it is recommended to include formula to provide the required calories and nutrition.
Milk production might be little at the early stages of breastfeeding. There are ways to increase milk production, namely:
- Frequent breastfeeding prompts the brain to produce the hormone needed to increase milk production.
- Pump between feeds either with a manual pump or an electric pump. This should be done when you still feel milk leftover or when the child misses a feeding time.
- Breastfeed from both breasts.
- Oats and lactation cookies contain galactagogues that stimulate milk production.
- Drink lots of fluids.
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Stop smoking and quit drinking alcohol when you are pregnant and while breastfeeding.
If you are worried that your baby is not getting enough milk and you have tried some of these options, seek medical advice.
Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and child. Breastfeeding may be stressful, and your nipples may hurt. Ask for help when you feel stressed or anxious. For example, let your partner mind the baby when you need sleep or rest.
If you feel your baby is not getting the required food, contact your healthcare provider. You may undergo an assessment and, if necessary, your healthcare provider can prescribe supplements to improve your breastmilk production.