Breastfeeding creates a special bond between a mother and her baby that is beneficial to both. Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby, ideally suited to his nutritional needs and body development. Whether you nurse your baby for a day or for several years, the decision to do so is one you will never regret.
Why breastfeeding is necessary Breastfeeding is, in fact, one of the most intimate bonding experiences for you and your newborn.
Exclusive breastfeeding—beginning within the first hour after delivery and continuing for the next six months—provides your child with critical nutrients and boosts his immune system, protecting him against deadly diseases.
This is why the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months could prevent the death of around a million children under the age of five each year. There is also a possible connection between breastfeeding and a higher IQ (intelligence quotient)—babies breastfed for six months or more seem to have the largest advantage. Experts say that the emotional bonding that takes place during breastfeeding probably contributes to some of this increased intelligence, but that the fatty acids in breast milk may play the biggest role in a baby’s brain developments.
Understanding your breast milk
The first milk, called colostrum, comes in small amounts and is very important for your baby—it contains vitamins and materials that help to boost his immune system. The idea that mothers are too exhausted after labour and delivery to immediately feed their babies is a misconception; the surge of oxytocin, a hormone released with skin-to-skin contact to facilitate birth and breastfeeding, helps to calm a mother after the birth of her baby.
The composition of your breast milk changes during a single feeding. The milk that comes first— the foremilk—quenches your baby’s first thirst and is rich in proteins necessary for growth. As he continues to suckle, your baby gets the hind milk, which is richest in fat for energy needs and probably the most satisfying.
Because breast milk is easily absorbed and digested, breastfed babies may need to feed every one and a half to three hours at first. Your baby needing frequent feeding is not a sign that he is not getting enough; it merely reflects that breast milk is quickly digested. You may wonder, when you look at the watery milk, how it can possibly be rich enough to feed your baby; however, and despite its appearance, the milk is rich, containing all that your baby needs to thrive, with every 30 millilitres containing 20 to 22 calories. The nutrient and sodium content of breast milk are ideally matched to the amount your baby’s maturing intestines and kidneys can handle.
Getting started Hopefully, you have had a good, easy delivery, and once your baby has been cleaned up, he will be wrapped in a blanket to keep warm. You are given the baby to hold and look at—this is a wonderful moment. You hug your baby, putting his head against your heart; your heartbeat is a familiar sound for your baby. If you talk to him, he may even open his eyes and look at you. When your baby is born, he can see as far as 30 centimetres—so he can make out your features. Now for a moment in your life you will never forget—your baby, straight after delivery, will nuzzle against your breast to find your nipple and suckle....
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By Samira M Dajani