One of the most important decisions parents need to make before their baby is born is whether or not to breastfeed baby. But why? What happens if you can’t breastfeed? What problems can you encounter when you are breastfeeding? How can you solve these? Savannah Senior, Clamber Club Expert and Speech-Language therapist, sheds some light on the benefits of breastfeeding and gives us some useful breastfeeding tips.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Protects your infant against infections. “Breastmilk contains antibodies which the mother has been exposed to and these then help fight infection and disease,” says Senior. She adds, “your infant is less likely to get diarrhoea, gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, otitis media (ear infections) and bacterial meningitis.”
Breastfeeding enhances the development and maturation of your infant’s immune system, central nervous system and the organs.
Breastmilk contains enzymes that are required to absorb important nutrients. Formula milk does not contain these enzymes.
Colostrum is the first milk that your baby is exposed to after birth and contains more protein and vitamin A than mature breastmilk.
“Colostrum is important in the prevention of jaundice, stabilizing a newborn’s glucose levels and lining the gut to prevent infection,” explains Savannah. Colostrum helps to prevent excess strain on your infant’s immature kidneys. This is because the renal system is not fully developed before day three and would thus be unable to filter large amounts of milk.
Breastmilk fed directly from the breast is never contaminated and is at the correct temperature for your infant. It is also made up of the correct amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates for sick and healthy infants.
Breastmilk is more easily digested than formula milk and is an intestinal soother. Formula milk may result in intestinal irritation. This results in an increased risk of allergies. Breastfeeding also decreases the risk of asthma and eczema.
Breastmilk can act as a natural painkiller and is able to soothe infants by increasing endorphins and decreasing stress hormones. “Breastfeed your infant during injections or other procedures to calm him, if this is not possible, give him a few drops of breastmilk before the procedure,” suggests Senior.
Decreases the risk of postpartum depression.
“Often breastfeeding difficulties are caused by poor positioning and latching of your infant,” says Savannah.
Here are some tips to help you determine if your child is positioned and is latching correctly:
What are the signs of correct positioning?
- Your infant’s neck and body is straight
- Your infant’s body is facing your body
- Your infant is held close to your body
- The infant’s whole body is supported
What are the signs of correct attachment?
- Your infant’s mouth is wide open
- Your infant’s chin is touching the breast
- There is more areola (the darken circle around the nipple) visible above the breast than below
- Your infant’s lips are curled outwards.
- You can hear your infant swallow.
“If positioning and attachment are correct and you are still concerned consult a health care professional such as a qualified lactation consultant or a specialised dietician or speech therapist,” recommends Senior.
WHO recommendations for breastfeeding:
- Infants should be breastfed exclusively for 6 months (no other liquids, foods or substances other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated).
- Infants should be fed on demand.
- Breastfeeding should continue for as long as the mother and infant are both benefiting. One can enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as 2 years of age, with increasing amounts of complementary foods from 6 months.