Breastfeeding covers an essential stage during the first period of life, being a key factor for the correct development of your baby. This complete food provides the necessary nutrients for their growth and development, in addition to generating a strong mother-child bond.
You probably have doubts about this period; will I be able to breastfeed? Will I have enough milk? How long should I breastfeed my baby? On the other hand, is my milk really better than artificial milk? Among other things. Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you should know about breastfeeding, including some false myths that you can banish.
Breast Milk Why Is It So Special?
It is often said that it takes time for milk to “rise” after delivery, but it is terminology that can lead to the belief that, during the first days of life, the baby will not find enough food in the mother’s breast. Banish this worry; what takes a few days to rise is mature milk.
From birth, your breasts will have the milk that your baby will need in his first feedings, colostrum. It has a different name because its composition is different, more suited to the needs of a newborn: it is thicker because it is more concentrated, it has more proteins and vitamins A, E and K, minerals and, what is more important, more quantity of immunological elements than mature milk, and which does not contain any artificial milk
Colostrum gives way to transitional milk, whose composition varies according to the baby’s needs until mature milk appears on the 4th-15th day, which is richer in fat and maintains immunoglobulin’s and living cells in its composition. Essential for the correct immune development of your baby.
The composition will change depending on what your baby requires at each moment: a mother of a premature baby will make different milk than that of a mother of a full-term child, and the milk of a mother of a healthy baby will be different from that of another mother of a baby of the same age with a cold.
Did you know…
The composition also varies during feeding, the initial milk being lighter and richer in sugar and the final milk being more fat and satisfying
How Long Should You Breastfeed Your Baby?
We can divide breastfeeding into two periods ranging from birth to 6 months, and from 6 months to 2 years.
- 0 to 6 months: In the first 6 months of life, the baby only has to ingest milk, preferably breast milk, exclusively.
- From 6 months to 2 years: from then on, milk will continue to be their main food and, afterwards, complementary feeding will be introduced. You can expand the information on this stage and other aspects of baby care in the Practical Guide for Parents published by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics.
Breastfeeding should be maintained until at least 2 years of age, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). We have assumed the early abandonment of breastfeeding to such an extent that these breastfeeds are called “prolonged”, when in fact we should call “interrupted breastfeeding” to all those who do not reach 2 years.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
The benefits of breastfeeding are widely studied and proven.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby:
A breastfed baby will have fewer respiratory, gastrointestinal and ear infections, optimal motor, cognitive and immune development (breast milk is what nature has intended for the infant’s immune system to finish developing, and It must be taken into account that the immune status will be decisive when facing many diseases throughout life), fewer allergies, fewer digestive problems and better intestinal flora, less constipation and the risk of sudden infant death will be reduced.
In addition, it reduces the risk of being celiac, having cavities or misplaced teeth, diabetes, breast cancer (in girls who have been breastfed), chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, multiple sclerosis, and obesity.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mum:
Reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, of developing type 2 diabetes, improves bone demineralization, reducing osteoporosis in the future, decreases the incidence and severity of postpartum depression, facilitates postpartum recovery by reducing the bleeding, helps in postpartum weight loss and favors the bond with the baby.
In addition, prolactin (a hormone that stimulates milk secretion through a direct action on the mammary gland) makes sleep deeper and more restful. Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding will give you a better rest.
How To Breastfeeding?
When you have been breastfeeding for a long time, you will find that you handle yourself perfectly in almost any position, but when you have never done it, it is normal that you have doubts about how to position yourself.
- It is essential that you are comfortable, a shot can be very short or eternal, your comfort is essential.
- Your baby should have his little body aligned and tight in front of you, without having to turn his head. You should grab more areola under the lower lip than under the upper lip.
So that it opens its mouth wide and grips properly you can brush its nose with the nipple, you will see the incredible effect you get with something so simple.
- When he sucks you should not hear clicking sounds with his tongue, his lips will be everted outwards, with his mouth wide open (like eating a large hamburger, not like sipping a spaghetti) and you will see his rounded cheeks, not sunken.
If you want to breastfeed lying down, you just have to lie on your side and give your baby the breast, which is lower, remember that he should not turn his head, so you should turn his body towards you, holding him so that he does not roll and has a mouth above.
If you prefer to sit, position the baby turned towards you with the help of a nursing pillow or your arms. If you give him the left breast, your baby will rest his head on your left forearm, with that hand you can support him by the back or bum, leaving the right free.
Some women, with the freehand, support their chest by placing the index and middle fingers, making a V with them. By exerting the pressure the milk ducts are blocked, the baby will get less milk and you can produce a blockage. If you need to hold your chest, do it in a C shape, with the thumb on top and the other four fingers of that hand at the base of the chest?
And remember: breastfeeding can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but it shouldn’t hurt. If it hurts, see your midwife assess the grip.
How Many Times or How Often?
Breastfeeding is on-demand, either maternal or artificial. The tit does not understand clocks, there will be children who suck less time and more times throughout the day and others who take very long and less frequent feedings (yes, there are those who take many feedings and quite eternal).
You should know that there are some stages of maximum growth, in which babies demand more breasts, this happens so that your production increases. Quiet, it is exhausting, but in a few days everything will return to the same routine, these outbreaks or lactation crises are normal. They usually occur at 3 weeks, a month and a half, at 3 months, a year, and 2 years.
Do you remember that the composition of milk changes in the same feeding?
Years ago, it was recommended to give 10 minutes each teat, every 3 hours. Today it is highly discouraged, since this way the baby will go very hungry because he will be taking only the least nutritious part of the milk. That is why you have to let the baby be satisfied and let go of the breast alone… let it go! Don’t think that by falling asleep they will have finished eating, because babies continue to nurse while they sleep. In fact, it is one of the best ways to get you to sleep.
When it is released, offer the other breast, it may not want it, it is not necessary to eat both in the same feeding. If she does not accept it or breastfeeds very little, in the next feeding she begins offering that first.
It is common for pregnant women to worry about knowing which breast to offer first in each feeding when their baby is born, but believe me, at the beginning of breastfeeding your breasts will be so full that it will be obvious which breast you have the fullest.
Feeding Tips While Breastfeeding
Nature is wise and has prioritized the proper nutritional composition of breast milk; even if the diet you follow is not balanced.
Remember that alcohol passes into breast milk, so it is preferable not to consume it at this stage or to do it in small quantities and then leave enough time until the next feeding so that it does not pass to the baby.
Some substances in tobacco also pass into the milk, but it has been seen that feeding artificial milk is more harmful for the baby than breastfeeding, even if the mother smokes.
You will see that after childbirth your figure will not be the same as it was before pregnancy, your gut will still seem pregnant probably on your thighs and hips you have accumulated fat. But don’t worry, I have good news: breastfeeding consumes more energy than pregnancy.
Did you know…
Although it seems incredible, making milk spends more than making a baby. That is why mothers who breastfeed regain their previous weight better than those who do not breastfeed.
The caloric burn will be high, not only should you not diet while breastfeeding, but you should increase your intake by 500 kilocalories a day , it will not cost you to do so, you will see how hungry you are at all hours!
Remember that your diet should always be healthy, not just during breastfeeding.
OVERCOMING DIFFICULTIES IN BREASTFEEDING
Breastfeeding is not always easy, sometimes there is a bad grip due to the shape of the baby’s tongue or the nipple, if it is too large or flat, your midwife will teach you how to solve it with more postures that are appropriate.
When there is a bad grip, the dreaded cracks appear. Do not rush to buy a nipple shield without a midwife having evaluated a feed, keep in mind that with a bad grip your baby may not be getting enough milk either, it is important to solve it.
Mastitis is one of the best–known problems of breastfeeding. It is an inflammation of the chest, which is swollen, hard, red and hot. Sometimes there is also a general malaise and fever.
The cause is usually infectious, if they are not resolved with an adequate and frequent expression of milk, it may be necessary to prescribe antibiotics.
Do not abandon breastfeeding due to mastitis thinking that this will be solved, not following the proper treatment and stopping the expression of milk worsens the symptoms. It is very safe to continue breastfeeding during mastitis, even taking antibiotics, neither the infection nor the medicine poses the slightest risk to the baby.
One difficulty, as often as unknown, is Raynaud’s phenomenon. 1 in 5 women may feel discomfort in the nipple during breastfeeding due to circulatory causes: the blood does not reach the surface of the nipple adequately and this causes slight pain (if in winter your fingertips turn white from the cold, maybe due to this phenomenon).
It is resolved by avoiding cold environments when breastfeeding, correcting posture, avoiding tobacco and, for the most intense cases, with medication compatible with breastfeeding.
It can be discouraging to know that these difficulties exist; you may not have any throughout your breastfeeding… or yes.
Think that the moment of breastfeeding your baby will be very intimate; knowing that he only needs you to grow without missing anything is something completely magical. It is tiring, at times, tremendously exhausting, but when your breastfeeding ends, you will miss very much those moments of complicity in which it seemed that the two of you were still one.
Although it sounds very “like a mother”, babies grow very fast and when you want to realize it you will no longer have a baby, but a whole little man or a woman, and these annoyances will be just one more anecdote.
- HOW MUCH MILK SHOULD MY BABY DRINK?
The boxes of artificial milk indicate indicative amounts of what each child should eat according to their age (although the one that many babies eat does not correspond to them).
This makes breastfeeding mothers wonder how much milk will come out of their breasts and if it will be enough, but it is impossible to quantify.
The only way to measure the amount of breast milk is by expressing it with a breast pump, but a breast pump will always extract less milk than a baby will because its effectiveness is less than your little one’s suction.
Don’t worry, the baby’s checkups assess how he is growing, a baby that eats enough will develop properly and will make at least 5 or 6 pee a day (in summer, if you sweat a lot, you can eliminate less fluid through the urine ).
- HOW DO YOU KNOW IF A DRUG, SUPPLEMENT, OR COSMETIC IS COMPATIBLE WITH BREASTFEEDING?
Although there are those who continue to affirm that during breastfeeding you cannot take any medication other than paracetamol, the truth is that the vast majority are safe. On the e-lactation website, made by pediatricians, they analyze the presence in the milk of medications that the mother has taken and determine if there are traces of the drug in the milk if it is safe for the baby.
In your browser, there are medicines, foods, and cosmetic components and they are cataloged according to their risk for breastfeeding. In addition, if what you are looking for has high or moderate risk, they will indicate a safe alternative.
- HOW LONG AND HOW CAN I KEEP BREAST MILK?
To know all the keys to the correct conservation of breast milk, I recommend this complete guide.
Broadly speaking, expressed breast milk should always be kept in a container designed for it, clean and in good condition, the bags will save you space.
At room temperature it can be kept 6-8 hours (less, if it is very hot), 8 days in the fridge and several months in the freezer; it will depend on the temperature, if it is less than -19ºC it can last up to 6 months, if it is higher, it can be kept for 3-4 months.
Remember that thawed milk cannot be refrozen and that at room temperature it will only last 1-2 hours and in the refrigerator for a maximum of 24 hours.
- IS THERE A METHOD TO STIMULATE MILK PRODUCTION?
The best way to stimulate milk production is to increase feedings since the amount of milk you will make will depend on the amount of suction at the breast.
Do you remember lactation crises? When the baby hits a stretch, he will need to eat more, so you will be nursing for a few days at all times, increasing the suction, you will start to produce a greater volume of milk.
Milk contains a protein called lactation inhibitory factor (FIL), which is what sends the signal to stop production when the breast is full. Every time the baby drinks milk, the level of FIL present in the breast decreases and your body will take it as a sign of the need to manufacture more.
Night feedings are especially important; prolactin is the hormone responsible for making milk and is always higher at night than during the day. Remember this, since, if you want to stimulate milk production, you should not withdraw night feeds.
In some cases, it is necessary to increase production in a special way, for example, when the child has been given artificial milk for a while and want to remove the bottles to return to exclusive breastfeeding. In those cases, it may be helpful to stimulate production by pumping between feedings.
- DOES THE BABY WHO IS BREASTFEEDING NEED TO DRINK WATER?
When it was advised to breastfeed or bottle-feed 10 minutes every 3 hours, in addition to running the risk of malnutrition by not giving them time to eat enough, they were exposed to dehydration, especially in hot weather, when they sweat more and become thirsty. Then it began to be advised that babies drink water.
However, today it is known that food must be on-demand.
As at the beginning of the feedings, the milk is lighter, babies who are thirsty but not hungry will only want to suckle for a little while, so it is important to offer the breast when the baby cries, it may have eaten 20 minutes ago, but be a little thirsty.
If he is less than 6 months old, he should not give water, since his small stomach would fill up and lose his appetite, drinking less milk than he needs. If he is older than 6 months, you do have to offer him water, although at first he will not pay much attention.
- MY CHILD HASN’T “POOPED” IN SEVERAL DAYS, IS HE CONSTIPATED?
A common mistake is to define constipation based on how often your baby has bowel movements when it really depends on its consistency.
Breast milk is used almost entirely, it hardly generates residue, so it is normal if your baby at first makes a stool after each feeding, but then does not do more than once a week. Of course, when you do it, its consistency is soft.
If your baby has a bowel movement every day one or several times, but its consistency is hard, we would speak of constipation.
When breast milk is given it is really strange to see babies with constipation, in those cases it would be necessary to assess whether they are giving enough feedings a day.
- MY CHILD WON’T STOP CRYING, HOW DO I KNOW IF HE IS SUFFERING FROM INFANT COLIC?
Infant colic is a bit of a catchall for a baby’s cries. When he cries and we do not know why we usually say that he suffers from infant colic.
The cause, how they occur, and how they are resolved is unknown, but it seems that they have little to do with digestive issues, but rather with the amount of contact.
All babies cry, it is their innate mechanism to get our attention to keep us close and ensure the care that guarantees their survival.
There are babies who cry more than others do and there are parents who are more alarmed than others are, so in these cases it is very important to have a good professional to reassure you. If the baby’s crying is normal or to look for the real cause of that crying so insistent: teeth coming out, cold, heat, some hair or thread wrapped around a finger or toe, a dirty diaper, constipation, fear, discomfort due to skin irritation, hunger…
- IS IT NECESSARY TO TAKE EXTRA IODINE WHILE BREASTFEEDING?
Yes, lactogenesis consumes a large amount of iodine, so breastfeeding mothers are supplemented with 200 micrograms per day of iodine while breastfeeding lasts (when the feedings are already punctual throughout the day, it can be suppressed).
This iodine is funded by Social Security, but multivitamin complexes are not, because they have no proven benefits at this stage.
On the other hand, you should know that your hair would fall a lot within a few months of giving birth. It is all the hair, which did not fall out during pregnancy; this will be temporary and is normal and physiological, and it is not related to breastfeeding or nutritional deficiency.
- HOW CAN I COMBINE BREASTFEEDING AND RETURN TO WORK IF I WANT TO CONTINUE BREASTFEEDING?
It will be necessary for someone to bring your baby to your workplace, for you to go home (find out about breastfeeding permission) or to use a breast pump. When your baby turns 6 months, the time you spend apart will be able to take complementary feeding.
It is not necessary to previously train the baby with bottles; you will be frustrated when you see that he does not want them. Don’t worry, he’s smart and won’t go hungry when you’re away, but he prefers mom to a synthetic nipple. When he is hungry, he will eat.
There are even children who prefer not to eat anything while their mother is at work and to join the feast as soon as she returns, hooking on the tit.
- HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN TO WEAN MY CHILD?
If you want to wean, it will be time to do it. Breastfeeding is a matter of two and will end as long as one of the two does not want to continue. Pediatricians indicate a minimum duration of breastfeeding, not a maximum.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SUCCESSFUL BREASTFEEDING
The most valuable thing for successful breastfeeding is correct information and support from professionals and the family environment. Even if you are lucky and your breastfeeding is very simple, it is more than likely that you will get advice from outdated people that may make you doubt if you do not have the proper knowledge.
When your baby is getting a stretch and you see that you spend several days nursing, nursing and nursing more, you will have to reorganize with someone to take care of the rest of your tasks.
A suitable chair or a breastfeeding pillow will give you comfort, the breast pump will help you to stimulate the breast and create a milk bank at home, the breastfeeding clothes will make it easier for you to breastfeed outside the home. The breastfeeding discs will prevent you from always going with milk-soaked clothes, a co-sleeping crib will make nighttime feedings easier… but all this takes a secondary place with respect to information and support.
Especially at the beginning, when you are not yet very fluent with breastfeeding, try not to have distractions and breastfeed in a quiet place, leave mobile and visits aside. It will help you learn to handle yourself better.