By Dr Santosh Mhetre,
This is especially for all new mothers and women who are planning a pregnancy.
Are you confused about infant feeding?
Is breast feeding better or bottle feeding?
Here is some invaluable information
Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is one of the first decisions new parents will make. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding as best for babies. Specifically, babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months and breastfeeding should continue until twelve months along with solids (and beyond) if the mother is willing.
Breastfeeding (or nursing) may not be possible for or preferred by all women. The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby should be based on your comfort level with breastfeeding as well as your lifestyle.
The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a very personal one. But here are some points you may want to consider as you decide which is best for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding: The advantages
Reduces infections: Antibodies passed from a nursing mother to her baby can help lower the occurrence of many infections, including
– ear infections
– respiratory infections
– meningitis (infection of the lining around the brain and spinal cord).
Breastfeeding is particularly beneficial for premature babies for the development of the brain.
It protects children later in life against
– sudden infant death syndrome
As a rule, formula-fed infants have more infections and more episodes of hospitalization than breastfed babies.
Nutrition and ease of digestion: Breast milk is the ‘perfect food’ for a baby’s digestive system. Formula-fed infants have more difficulty with digestion than do breastfed infants. Breast milk tends to be more easily digested so that breastfed babies have fewer incidences of diarrhoea or constipation.
Economic considerations: Breast milk doesn’t cost a cent. And because of the immunity and antibodies passed onto them through their mothers’ breast milk, breastfed infants are sick less often than infants who receive formula, thereby reducing medical bills.
Different flavours: A nursing mother will need 500 extra calories per day to produce breast milk, which means that she should eat a wide variety of well-balanced foods. This introduces breastfed babies to different tastes through their mothers’ breast milk, which has a different flavour depending on what the mother has eaten.
Convenience: With no bottles to mix and sterilize and no last-minute runs to the store for more formula, breast milk is always fresh and available. And because breast milk is always at the right temperature, there’s no need to warm up bottles in the middle of the night. It’s also easy for breastfeeding mothers to be active − and go out and about − with their babies and know that they’ll have food available whenever their little one is hungry.
Obesity prevention: Babies who are breastfed tend to gain less unnecessary weight, which may help them avoid obesity later in life.
Smarter babies: Recent studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed for six months have IQs 5 to 10 points higher than children who were formula fed.
‘Skin-to-skin’ contact: Many nursing mothers really enjoy the experience of bonding so closely with their babies. And the skin-to-skin contact can enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant.
Beneficial for the mother, too: The ability to nourish a baby totally can also help a new mother feel confident in her ability to care for her baby. Breastfeeding helps shrink the womb, so nursing mothers may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. In addition, studies have shown that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of breast cancer, uterine and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding: The challenges
for the mother
Although it is the best nutritional source for babies, breastfeeding does come with some concerns that many new mothers share. Whereas it’s easy from the get-go for some, it can be challenging for others. First time mothers need a lot of patience and persistence to get used to the routine of breastfeeding. But all the effort is worth it in the long run − for both the mother and the baby.
Common concerns of new mothers, especially during the first few weeks and months, may include
Personal comfort: Initially, as with any new skill, many mothers feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding. But with adequate education, support, and practice, most mothers overcome this. The bottom line is that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.
Latch on pain is normal for the first week to 10 days, and should last less than a minute with each feeding. But if breastfeeding hurts throughout feedings, or if the nipples and/or breasts are sore, it’s a good idea for breastfeeding mothers to seek the help of their doctor, and/or their child’s doctor. Many times, it’s just a matter of using the proper technique.
Time and frequency of feedings: There’s no doubt that breastfeeding requires a substantial time commitment from mothers. Parenting itself requires time commitment. Some women may be concerned that nursing will make it hard for them to work, or travel because of a breastfeeding schedule or a need to pump breast milk during the day.
Breastfed babies also need to be fed more often than babies who are fed formula, because breast milk is digested faster than formula. This means the mother may find herself in demand every 2 or 3 hours (maybe more) in the first few weeks.
This can be tiring, but once breastfeeding has been established (usually in about a month), other family members may be able to help out by giving the baby pumped breast milk if the mother needs a break or has to get back to work outside the home. And it’s not long before babies feed less frequently and sleep through the night (usually around 3 months). Also, with a little organization and time management, it becomes easier to work out a schedule to breastfeed and/or pump.
Limiting caffeine: Caffeine intake should be kept to no more than about one to three cups of regular coffee per day for breastfeeding women because it may cause problems such as restlessness and irritability in some babies.
Maternal medical conditions, medicines, and breast surgery: Medical conditions such as HIV or AIDS or those that involve chemotherapy or treatment with certain medications may make breastfeeding inadvisable. In these cases, a woman should check with her doctor or midwife if she’s unsure.
But most mothers are able to breastfeed even while on medications. Mothers who’ve had breast surgery, such as a reduction, may have difficulty with supply if their milk ducts have been severed. In this situation, it’s a good idea for a woman to talk to her doctor about her concerns.
How do I know, if my baby is getting enough milk?
– If your baby is gaining weight.
– If he/she breastfeeds eight to twelve times a day — about every two to three hours.
– If you hear baby swallowing.
– If you feel breasts empty after feeding.
– If your baby is wetting diapers about 8-10 times per day.
– If your baby sleeps for two hours after feeding.
– All of the above indicate that your baby is getting enough milk.
Next week we will continue with the storing of breast milk, benefits over bottle feeding and lastly, formula feeding.