It is often a topic of debate but the fact is that breastfeeding is the best nutritional option for your baby. While commercial milk formula is an excellent option for feeding your baby, no product can replace breast milk. As more women choose to breastfeed, the question plaguing every mother’s mind is what they should and should not be doing. You have already taken the first right step by opting to breastfeed if you can and while much of what you need to do should come naturally to you, it never hurts to get advice from a medical doctor, lactation consultation or even other experienced mothers.
Do Feed Your Baby On Demand
Your newborn should be breastfed on demand. This means that baby must be given the breast as often as he/she wants. But make sure that you understand the difference between baby wanting to feed and having their other needs taken care of. Baby will feed anywhere between 8 to 10 times in a day but some will want to feed one or two times more or less. If you know you have fed baby but he/she is still crying then check that the nappy is clean and not too tight, alter the room temperature or put on more/less covers and check that everything else is in order before offering baby the breast again.
Do Not Worry If Breast Milk Is Delayed
Your breast milk may not start flowing immediately after delivery. While it is advisable to get baby sucking within an hour after birth, this stimulation may not immediately yield the desired effect. It is nothing to worry about immediately. Your breasts may need about 2 to 3 days to start producing breast milk and it can take longer if you had a caesarean section (C-section). Bottle feeding baby formula will be fine for a few days and you can always switch back to breast milk once your breasts start producing it. Also do not be too worried by the quantity of your colostrum as some women produce less than others.
Do Feed For The First 6 Months
Ideally you should breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months of life. In fact you should exclusively breastfeed and not switch to water or solid food anytime before 6 months of age. Breast is best and it is a proven fact. Baby formulas work well but can never match breast milk. Not only does breast milk provide the right nutrients for your baby to grow, breast milk also has other benefits for baby like a healthier immune system, less chance of allergies and even bowel health which baby formula cannot fully replace. If the situation permits then continue breast feeding for up to 12 months although you will introduce solid foods after 6 months of age.
Do Not Stop If Baby Has Diarrhea
Breast milk is the complete nutritional solution for your baby in the first 6 months of life and you should never stop for any reason. Even if you baby has a tummy bug and is vomiting or has diarrhea, breastfeeding should not stop. Baby does not need water or oral rehydrating solutions (ORS) like older children and adults do. Your breast milk has all the nutrition, including water and electrolytes, to ensure that baby is adequately rehydrated. Your breast milk will also help boost baby’s immune system and help him/her overcome the stomach infection or other illness that is causing the vomiting or diarrhea.
Do Help Baby Latch On The Breast
It all seems so natural – a mother producing enough breast milk and baby feeding easily off the breast. But not always. Even when you are producing enough breast milk and your nipples have developed ideally for feeding, baby may have difficulty latching on to the breast. Some babies have a problem with the latch mechanism due to being preterm or having other problems. But even if your baby is full term and healthy, he/she may need some assistance to latch on and stay on. Give baby some time to learn to latch on properly and speak to your doctor if you are uncertain. You will need to help baby along by holding your breast and moving his/her head in ways that makes it easier to latch on and be comfortable.
Do Not Let Baby Nipple Feed
Baby’s mouth is small and naturally he/she will only open and latch on to the nipple in many cases. But this may not be sufficient for drinking, and cause baby to lose contact with the nipple. You may need to squeeze your breasts a little to make it a bit pointy so that baby can fit more of your breast in his/her mouth. Support baby’s head and push a portion of your nipple and breast into baby’s mouth. Do not stuff it in and do not suddenly try to force your breast onto baby. Your baby must be comfortable with taking the breast into his/her mouth and only put in as much as baby can handle to drink adequately.
Do Express Your Breast Milk If Necessary
Nothing beats breast milk but it may not always be possible to breast feed, especially if you are working. Instead of switching baby to formula when you return to your job you should rather express your breast milk. Manual and electronic breast pumps can be used for this purpose and the expressed milk must be stored properly. The baby’s caregiver should be instructed to use your breast milk as the first option for feeding baby unless all stores are exhausted and baby formula is necessary. Human breast milk is sold in some countries so do not pass up this opportunity to give your baby the best nutrition while you have the capability to produce milk.
Do Not Top Up With Formula
Many mothers worry about whether their breast milk is enough for baby. They feel that they have to either give up breastfeeding due to insufficient milk or top up with bottle feeding baby formula. Neither are necessary. If your baby is soiling diapers at least 6 to 8 times in a day, sleeping well, gaining weight and is reaching all his/her development milestones then this should be enough of an indication that your milk is sufficient. Your quantity of breast milk is largely dependent on how often baby feeds on your breast and how well you nourish yourself. The body is able to gauge how much milk should be produced and adjust accordingly for baby’s increased demands with age.