Importance of Breast Feeding for Your Baby



Why breastfeeding is important? What does WHO say?

WHO & UNICEF recommends that a baby should be exclusively breast fed for 6 months. After six months, safe & proper additional foods and liquids should complement breast feeding to meet the nutritional needs of a young child up to the age of two years.

Why breast milk is best?

  • Breast milk is Mother Nature’s gift to the baby! There are more than 200 constituents of breast milk known to science.
  • About 80 percent of live cells in breast milk are made of macrophages that kill bacteria and viruses
  • Breast milk is sterile and free from pollutants
  • Breast milk in the first few days called Colostrum. This is called Liquid Gold for the baby. Colostrum contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease, as well as being lower in fat and higher in protein than ordinary milk.

Who can Breastfeed?

Any woman who has given birth will have the ability to breastfeed. It is very rare to see some physical problem for the mother preventing her from breast feeding. Size of breasts does not have any effect the amount of breast milk production. Even with inverted nipples, women will be able to breast feed with some help. Amount of breast milk production will increase as your baby continues to suckle. Even mothers who have had Caesarean Section, Breech baby and twin babies can also breast feed comfortably with sufficient milk.

What are the benefits for the baby?

  • Nature has designed the breast milk in such a way that it has the perfect combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrate, and fluids that newborn babies require. The composition of the breast milk changes as per the baby’s requirement so that baby gathers maximum nutrition. No formula milk can ever substitute breast milk in this manner
  • Breast milk is packed with antibodies which help the baby fight against infections. Hence the baby is has less chances of ear infection, diarrhoea & respiratory infections. Breast fed babies will have much less visits to the doctors for illnesses.
  • Hormones released during breast feeding will increase bonding between the mother and the baby. This leads to the fulfillment of the baby’s emotional and physical needs.
  • Breast milk also has long term health benefits. It reduces the chance of child hood obesity; high blood pressure; high cholesterol level; eczema; type 2diabetes; leukaemia; asthma in later life.

What are the benefits for the mother?

  • Breast feeding is free and easily available.
  • Breast feeding stimulates the secretion of beneficial hormones called, prolactin and oxytocin. Pro- lactin ( pro lactation) Helps the mother to relax and facilitates bonding towards the baby. Oxytocin causes uterus/ womb contraction and reduces bleeding and anemia. Thus, breast feeding helps the uterus to come back to the pre pregnancy size and decrease the chance of post delivery bleeding risk and anemia
  • Breast-feeding uses up about 500 extra calories per day. So, it is easier to lose weight after giving birth if you are breast-feeding.
  • Breast feeding reduces the risk of pre menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, Osteoporosis (less breakage of bones ) and postnatal depression
  • It is very convenient and no hassle of sterilizing/ boiling the bottles. There is no preparation time needed.

How to ensure adequate breast milk?

Take pre-natal vitamins, specifically vitamin D supplement is recommended for all breast-feeding women and for breast-fed babies. Iron and Calcium supplements are also beneficial. Please consult your doctor.

Increase protein intake in the diet – include Dals, Milk and Eggs daily in your diet.

Begin breast feeding within the first hour of birth. Breast feed on demand. This will help regulate the fat content in the milk.

Eat lot of fresh fruits to get vitamins and micronutrients.

Ensure adequate intake of fluids including water and milk. Breast feeding can make you thirsty.

What are the steps of breast feeding?

Hold the baby’s whole body close with the nose at the level of the nipple – ” nose to the nipple”. Let the baby’s head tip back a little to allow baby’s upper lip to brush against the nipple – this helps baby to open mouth wide. When baby’s mouth is wide open, the chin is able to touch the breast and with the head tipped back the tongue can reach out and grab as much as breast as possible. Once chin is touching and nose is clear with mouth wide open encircling the nipple, baby starts to suckle and cheeks appear full and rounded as baby feeds. After baby has been fed, hold them upright on your shoulder to wind (burp). Breast fed babies have less problems with wind over bottle fed babies.

Please watch for the following signs to make sure your baby is feeding well:

  • The baby’s chin is firmly touching the breast.
  • The baby has a big mouthful of breast.
  • The baby’s cheeks are rounded throughout sucking.
  • Breastfeeding is not painful to the mother – although the initial sucks are strong with mild discomfort.
  • There is rhythmic sucking and swallowing, with occasional pauses. There will be cycles of short sucks and also long, deep drawing sucks.
  • The baby looks satisfied at the end of the feed and comes off the breast on his own.

Reliable indicators of baby getting enough milk

You will notice that the baby gains weight adequately and regains birth weight by 2wks. The other way to monitor weight gain is that the baby gains 500gms or more per month or 125gms/wk. The baby should pass light coloured urine about 6 times or more times a day by 4 days of age if the baby is exclusively breast fed. Please monitor the wet nappies.

Diet during breast feeding

The mother should try to eat a balanced diet. Foods that can be used liberally in the diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, soup of vegetables, milk, curd/Lassi, sprouted moong/ channa, fermented products like Idli, Dhokla, Dosa etc and egg white. Include lot of iron and protein rich food in the diet. The food items which are good sources of iron and protein for vegetarians include Legumes (Dhals), Milk, Paneer, Spinach and other green leafy vegetables, Anar ( Pomegranate), Banana and black grapes. Orange juice and Amla have plenty of Vitamin C which is important for Iron absorption in the body. Handful of nuts for snacking is a good idea for making the diet iron and protein rich for vegetarians.

Natural Galactogogues

Natural galactogogues are foods that increase breast milk production. Indian cuisine has plenty of such food items which are used in everyday cooking. Some examples are Methi seeds (Fenugreek), Garlic, Saunf (Fennel seeds), jeera water, oats and Brewer’s Yeast.

Common problems during breast feeding

Full breasts with discomfort and pain – It may happen 3-4 days after delivery, breast are full, hot and hard to touch

Management – Baby needs to be well attached and breast fed frequently. You can express the milk if required. Simple pain killers like Paracetamol may help if the pain is intense.

Breast engorgement – This happens in blocked milk duct. Breast appears swollen, skin looks shiny and red. This may be accompanied with pain in breast but pain may not be as severe as mastitis. You may also notice mild fever.

Management – Feed the baby frequently, apply warm compress or take bath with warm water. Try simple & safe pain killers.

Mastitis – hard swelling in the breast with redness and severe pain. In this condition mother will have fever too

Management – take rest, Breast feed the baby frequently, apply warm compress, take simple analgesics. You may need to be treated with antibiotics. Contact your doctor.

Sore or fissured nipples – Pain when baby suckles. This is due to excess suction on the nipples

Management – If you develop sore nipples, check the position of the baby. Make sure the baby has adequate amount of breast tissue, areola and the nipple in the mouth. Improve the baby’s attachment. You can try some soothing creams.

Working women & breast feeding

  • Avail all possible leave at your credit including unpaid leave
  • If possible, take your baby to work, make use of the crèche if available
  • Do not start other feeds before you really need to.
  • Don’t think “I will have to go back to work in 12wks, so I might as well bottle feed straight away”. This is the most common mistake the mothers do. Even if you can brest feed for a short period of time, it does provide significant benefits to the baby. The baby will have received some amount of valuable antibodies during this time.
  • Continue to breast feed even at night, in the early morning, and at any other time that you are at home.
  • Express as much breast milk as you can before you go back to work, into a very clean jar, even 1 cup (200ml) can give the baby 3 feeds/day of 60-70ml each.
  • Cover the milk and keep in the coolest place that you can find in the house or in the refrigerator
  • Expressed breast milk stays in good condition for 8-10hrs even in a hot climate and up-to 24hrs in the refrigerator
  • Breast feed your baby after you’ve expressed the milk, so the baby will get the breast milk that you can’t express including some hind milk.
  • Don’t boil or reheat your own breast milk
  • It is absolutely not necessary to bottle feed at all, even very small babies can feed from a cup if you decide to use a formula
  • Breastfeeding should begin within an hour of birth
  • Breastfeeding should be “on demand”, as often as the child wants day and night
  • Bottles or pacifiers should be avoided.


Source by Dr. Anuradha K