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Breast Feeding

Baby Care

For the best nutrition, breastmilk is the best food to feed a baby. It is made specifically to meet the nutritional needs of babies. Human breastmilk changes as the baby grows to offer the best nutrients for the baby. It has over 1000 components - many of these have not been duplicated in infant formula. Over the past 25 years, research has continued to show that breastmilk is better than infant formula. In fact, more studies are released each year showing that there are health risks to the baby and the mother when they do not breastfeed. Infant formula should be seen as a `safety net` for babies who cannot breastfeed and not as an equal replacement. Many common illnesses, such as colds, flu, skin infections or diarrhea, cannot be passed through breast milk. In fact, if a mother has an illness, her breast milk will contain antibodies to it that will help protect her baby from those same illnesses.

Knowing what to expect and how to deal with setbacks in breastfeeding can help ease the adjustment that you and your newborn will go through as you take on breastfeeding. Nursing comes naturally but it does take a while for the mom and baby to get in sync with one another.

How to Breastfeed:

Get into a comfortable position. Whatever position is comfortable for you and for the baby is a good position to use.

Position your baby facing your nipple.

Support your breast with your free hand. Keep your fingers off your areola, which the baby needs to grasp. Gently tickle the baby's lips with your nipple until the mouth is opened wide. Then, move your breast closer.

Don't stuffthe nipple into an unwilling mouth. Let the baby take the initiative. Make sure the baby latches on to the nipple and areola. Sucking on just the nipple will not compress the milk glands. It will also cause soreness and cracking. If your breast is blocking your baby's nose, lightly depress the breast with your finger. Be careful not to loosen your baby's grasp of the areola. If the baby has a strong steady rhythmic motion that is visible in the cheek, then most likely the baby is attached and sucking well. When finished or repositioning the breast, don't yank your breast out of the baby's mouth. This will cause injury to the nipple. Don't be tempted to skip or skimp on feedings because of pain. The less the baby eats, the worse the pain will be.

Breastfeeding Basics

  • Start as soon as possible after birth
  • Be patient and calm
  • Don't try to feed a screaming baby
  • Ask for help when you need it

Breastfeeding is a learned skill that becomes easier over time. You are more likely to succeed with long-term breastfeeding by having a plan, becoming familiar with basic techniques, learning how to handle minor physical problems and getting help quickly when you need it.

How the Baby is Preparing for Breastfeeding

Before they are born, babies begin learning important skills that will help them breastfeed. Teaching mothers about these skills can increase their confidence in the baby`s ability to nurse at birth.

By the time a mother is 11 weeks (almost 3 months) pregnant, her baby has learned to swallow. Babies swallow amniotic fluid in the uterus.

By the time a mother is 24 weeks (6 months) pregnant, her baby has learned to suck. Babies spend a lot of time with their hands close to their mouth before birth. Babies are often seen sucking on their thumb, fingers or hands during an ultrasound exam.

By the time a mother is 32 weeks (8 months) pregnant, her baby has learned to root for the breast. The baby will turn its head if touched on the cheek and open its mouth if the bottom lip is tickled. By this time the baby can also suck and swallow in a coordinated way.

By the time a mother is 37 weeks (9 months) pregnant, her baby has learned to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing so it can do all three when breastfeeding after birth. Babies practice shallow breathing before birth using amniotic fluid.

Breastfeeding Tips

Breastfeed your baby on demand rather than setting a strict schedule, especially in the first few months.

Taking care of yourself will also help you to establish your milk supply. Eat right and get rest when you are able.

Avoid bottle-feeding your baby breast milk until breastfeeding and milk supply are well-established, which is usually about 4 to 6 weeks. This helps build your milk supply. Not using bottles also helps prevent your baby from developing nipple confusion, which is a preference for an artificial nipple over the breast.

Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk, such as eagerness to eat and feeding sessions that last at least 15 to 25 minutes. By 6 days of age, your baby should need about 6 to 8 diaper changes, settle well after feeding and usually awaken on his or her own to feed every 1 to 3 hours. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Help clear blocked milk ducts by using warm compresses and massaging your breasts before and during feedings. Also, breastfeed more frequently and in different positions. Offer your baby the affected breast first at each feeding.

You can help relieve the pain from sore or cracked nipples with drops of expressed breast milk or lanolin creams.

The color of your breastmilk

The first milk is called `colostrum.' Colostrum is a clear, yellowish fluid. It is rich in protein, nutrients and antibodies, which protect the baby from infection. By starting to nurse the baby right after birth, the baby will benefit from the colostrum and the `mature milk` will come in sooner. Colostrum changes to `mature milk` sometime in the first 1 to 7 days.`Mature` breastmilk may look blue in color. The milk that comes out first during a feeding (foremilk) is thinner and watery. The milk toward the end of a feeding (hindmilk) looks thicker. It is richer and higher in fat. If a woman pumps her milk, the fat (or `cream`) will separate easily and rise to the top.

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