Your Guide to Breastfeeding.
Breast-feeding is beneficial to the child as it is to the mother. But getting the most out of breast- feeding also requires a well thought-out program that covers a period from the moment of conception, to the time the baby sucks his or her first breast milk, and all the way to the time he or she weans.
Health program for the mother
The program must be comprehensive enough as to ensure that the mother will stay healthy all throughout the period of her pregnancy until she gets to nurse the baby. After all, it takes a healthy mother to feed a healthy baby. An effective health program for the mother consists among other things of a proper diet, enough exercise, and staying away from pollutants or an unhealthy environment. This may not be a concern for mothers who have no health problems in the first place. But if the mother has a record of health problems in the past, or if she has been used to a free-wheeling lifestyle where, for example, intake of fatty and high-cholesterol foods, alcohol or nicotine has been excessive or uncontrolled, it is necessary for her to take steps to ensure that she puts herself back in the pink of health.
Specific tasks need to be undertaken during the initial six months of nursing itself. The flow of breast milk does not normally stabilize until two or three days after delivery, especially for mothers giving birth for the first time. During this hiatus, a mixture of milk (about two thirds), water (about one third), thin gruel, and sugar can be fed to the infant.
Full ration of breast milk should be fed to the baby as soon as its supply stabilizes. Mothers have to be sensitive to how often their babies need to suckle. The first ten days of the baby’s total dependence on mother’s milk requires paying close attention to how the baby reacts to each feeding. Both under and over feeding can have awful consequences to the baby. The stomach of an infant is thin and delicate, yet unaccustomed to the process of digestion, and is likely to stimulate feedback to be baby’s brain in the number of ways. How the baby communicates and makes himself or herself understood by the mother is therefore crucial for both of them to get the breast-feeding program on track.
After a week up to ten days, a feeding interval of three to four hours is generally advisable. This must be done day and night. A practical timetable for both mother and child with regards to night feeding is setting it at ten o’clock in the evening and five o’clock the morning after. It is not good to leave the baby sucking the nipple until both mother and baby fin themselves asleep. This can only further deprive them of more time for sleep; after all sleep is something which they are often short of. A structured break allows sufficient time for proper digestion to take place and thereby stabilize the baby’s bowel movements. It makes babies less irritable and cranky, and because of which they are wont to show by crying.
The breast-feeding program should be consistently applied until the baby reaches six months after birth. It is even advisable to carry on with this program beyond this period, or until the time the baby weans, for as long as the mother stays healthy and is able to maintain producing breast milk at the same level of quantity and quality.
Breast compression is helpful when breast-feeding runs into problems. If you are the nursing mother, here is how you can apply it.
- The baby held with one arm, cup your breast with the other arm. Put your thumb on top of the breast while your other fingers are slightly pressing the breast from under it, two or three inches away from your nipple.
- Being alert all the time is not necessary, but you still need to keep a close watch on the suckling. Guide the baby so that he or she can quickly get the hang of an open-pause type of feeding; this will allow him or her to drink more volume of milk. When the baby begins to nibble or when he or she stops drinking, compress your breast firmly but not too hard. Breast compression causes the milk to flow and the baby is likely start to sucking again. Keep pressing your breast until your baby stops responding to the compression. If your baby does not latch away from your breast even after you have released the pressure, pause for a few seconds and then start compressing again. Releasing the pressure allows you to rest your hand; it also induces your milk to flow into the baby’s mouth again. If your baby ceases to suck upon releasing the pressure on your breast, it is again likely that he or she will resume sucking the moment he or she senses milk. If the baby is unable to drink enough milk, try to recompress your breast.
- Go on feeding with compression until your baby stops to drink. Pause until your baby begins to drink again, without your egging him or her on. If you can sense that your baby has stopped drinking, let him or her unlatch, or just take him or her off from your breast.
- See if your baby still wants to feed. If he or she does, offer the milk from the other breast. Follow the same procedure you earlier did with the other side. You can repeat switching one breast to the other a number of times unless your nipples get sore. Help your baby improve his or her latch.
Pitfalls of breastfeeding
One of the more common mistakes made by nursing mothers, particularly those who are inexperienced, is feeding their babies every time they cry or show signs of discomfort, thinking they are hungry. This may lead to over feeding. This is not necessary nor recommended. When over feeding happens, the digestion process can get disrupted causing, among other things, loose bowel movements, more restlessness on the part of the baby and even fever.
Also, there had been cases when mothers just cannot do away with unhealthy habit or tradition. Inadequate information on the part of lactating moms is often to blame, sometimes leading to more health problems. One misconception is eating as much food as the mother can in the belief that this will fully support the milk production capacity of her mammary glands. While input often equals output, it does not necessarily mean that gaining weight equals gaining health. For that is what excessive eating is all about: gaining weight. The breasts may supply enough milk, but the overall health condition of the mother may be compromised.
Another pitfall which often victimizes young mothers who are nursing for the first time is drinking dark sweet beer called porter. The practice draws from tradition where many a mother has been taught that porter increases the supply of milk and helps sustain her perfect physical health.
Without doctor’s approval on a case to case basis, this practice poses threats to the mother. There had been cases when porter intake, particularly in large amounts and on a regular basis, has instead caused the loss of milk supply in the mother and induced loose bowel movements in the baby. Mothers may also experience headache, thirst, hot skin, drowsiness, and fever.