Breastfeeding is a subject that any mother will think about, often well before your hungry baby has even arrived. What are the benefits? Is it OK to breastfeed in public?
Conversations about breastfeeding pop up every day between mothers and mothers-to-be up and down the country. So here are a few answers to some of your most commonly asked questions:
Is breastfeeding better for my baby?
Your breast milk is packed with essential nutrients for your baby. They find it easier to digest – which is more comfortable for them – it strengthens their immune system and provides a number of long-term health benefits. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and a combination of breast milk and solid food from about 6 months. Some countries recommend you begin to wean your little one onto solid foods a little earlier, but continuing to breastfeed while weaning is best for your baby’s health.
Breastfeeding is also good for you! It can help you lose weight after the birth.
How is breast milk produced?
You produce colostrum, or pre-milk, during pregnancy, so it’s ready for when your baby is born. You start making milk within a couple of days of the birth because of your newborn baby suckling and the hormone changes brought about by the delivery of the placenta.
Breastfeeding is controlled by the principle of supply and demand. As your baby consumes your milk, more is made to replace it. The more the baby feeds, the more milk you produce.
There are two hormones that cause you to express your milk. These hormones also affect your womb, so you may feel some mild pain or tingling while you breastfeed. These hormones can be activated even when you’re thinking about your baby, so your breasts may leak milk even when you aren’t breastfeeding. This is completely normal and a sign that your body is working well to produce milk.
As your baby grows, their need for milk will increase. By responding to your baby’s demands to feed longer and more often over a day or two, your body will produce more milk.
What happens in the first few days of feeding?
During your baby’s first breastfeed, usually within the first hour of birth, they will consume up to 5ml (1 teaspoon) of colostrum. They will then usually want between three and eight feedings in the next 24 hours.
Colostrum is a clear or yellowish liquid that is extremely rich in important nutrients, and high in protein and protective agents. You will only produce a very small amount of colostrum, but this will be more than enough for your newborn and will help them pass their first stool.
Within 5 days of giving birth you will start producing breast milk. Your breasts may well feel heavy, hot and uncomfortable for the first couple of days but don’t give up and continue to feed your baby as frequently as they demand. Regular feeds can help avoid painful engorgement of the breast tissue and cold compresses applied to your breast after breastfeeding can be soothing and help to reduce any swelling.
Is it really acceptable to breastfeed in public?
It is now more acceptable to breastfeed your baby when you’re outside the home. One of the many advantages of breastfeeding is that the food is always ready. Breastfeeding when you’re out is convenient, hygienic and the most natural and healthy way for your baby to feed, so be proud of what you’re doing.
If you feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, there are a number of ways to feed more discreetly.
Many mothers find that quite often people are not even aware they’re breastfeeding and think you and your baby are just having a cuddle. It may help you to feel more confident about feeding in public if you master your technique at home first. Practice using a shawl or scarf as a cover-up if you like and if you feel self-conscious, choose your seating position or table carefully, e.g. with your back to the majority of people in the restaurant or cafe. A scarf, pashmina, shawl or muslin square placed over any exposed skin once your baby is latched-on can make you feel more comfortable
It’s also increasingly easy now to find somewhere a little more private to feed your baby while you’re out. Many shopping centers, department stores, baby shops and supermarkets have special feeding rooms where you can breast and bottle feed, and change your baby’s diaper.
The more often mothers are seen breastfeeding outside the home, the more a part of everyday life it will become and mothers can stop feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable.
I would like to breastfeed for as long as possible, is there any way to make it fit around my busy life?
Expressing is a convenient way of making sure your baby still receives all of the benefits of your breast milk when you can’t be there to feed.
You can express your breast milk straight into a bottle. This can be stored in the fridge and then warmed to feed your baby when needed. If you are thinking about expressing your breast milk, it’s best to wait 4 to 6 weeks until breastfeeding is fully established, unless a Healthcare Professional recommends otherwise.
Please be aware that the information given in these articles is only intended as general advice and should in no way be taken as a substitute for professional medical
advice. If you or your family or your child is suffering from symptoms or conditions which are severe or persistent or you need specific medical advice, please seek professional medical assistance.
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