Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. Breastfeeding is the process by which human breast milk is fed to a child. Breast milk may be from the breast, or may be expressed by hand or pumped and fed to the infant. It is most effective way to provide baby with a caring environment and complete nutrition which meets nutritional as well as emotional needs of baby. The United Nations International Children’s emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding to babies until 6 months of age.

Physiology of Lactation

Human milk produced due to interaction between hormones and reflexes. There are two hormones that directly affect breastfeeding: prolactin and oxytocin. A number of other hormones, such as estrogen, are involved indirectly in lactation. When a baby suckles at the breast, sensory impulses pass from the nipple to the brain.

Types of Breastmilk

There are various stages of breastmilk that you’ll see as your baby gets older:

  • Colostrum is produced by your breasts during first 3 days after delivery. (Some people leak colostrum during pregnancy and others don’t – both are normal.) It is thick and yellow in color which is rich in antibodies and vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Transitional milk is produced starting from next 2 weeks after birth. In this, immunoglobin and protein content decreases while fat and sugar decreases.
  • Mature milk is then produced from two to four weeks postpartum. It is thinner and watery but has all nutrients for ideal growth of baby.
  • Foremilk It is the milk secreted at the start of feed which is rich in proteins, sugar, vitamins and water. When your milk lets down the fat, which is more dense, tends to stay stuck further back in the milk ducts. This means that milk at the beginning of a pumping session is generally less fatty and more watery than later on.
  • Hindmilk It comes later, towards the end of a feed which is rich in fat and energy and satisfies the baby’s hunger. As the feeding or pumping session progresses, the fatty globules are dislodged and the milk that you are producing gets fattier. Like transitional milk, which gradually becomes more mature over time, it’s not an abrupt switch. As time goes on, the composition of the milk slowly changes and starts to contain more fat.

Initiation of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding should be started within 30 min. of birth or as soon as possible after normal delivery whereas in case of cesarean section delivery, within 4 hours. Rooming-in and bedding-in should be done with and baby to prevent separation and promote breastfeeding.

Positions of Breastfeeding

  1. Cradle hold

This is the most traditional breastfeeding position for breastfeeding of baby.

In the cradle hold, hold baby’s body with the arm nearest to the breast you’re nursing from. So, if they’re nursing on your left breast, you’ll hold their body with your left arm. Gently cradle their back with your forearm, and make sure they’re tummy to tummy with you, their head turned toward your chest.

You can use your free arm to support your breast or shape your nipple so it’s easier for baby to latch.

2. Cross Cradle

This hold is a variation on the cradle hold. It allows mother to give your breast and baby a little extra support. It also allows a little more control and a good position for new parents.

Hold your baby’s body with the opposite arm from the breast you’re nursing with. Hold and support breast with your arm nearest to it.

3. Football Hold

Sometimes called the “rugby hold,” this position is great for feeding after a C-section as it takes the weight of your baby off your lap and away from your incision. This position also allows you to see your baby nurse more fully as they latch — so you can ensure they’re latching well.

In this position, you hold your baby on the side of your body, with your arm supporting their back and your fingers gently supporting their neck. You can use your other hand to support your breast as you latch them on.

Often, using a pillow to support baby’s body is helpful.

4. Side-Lying Hold

It is one of the best way to give breastfeeding when you’re nursing all day and night.

First, make sure the surface you’re nursing on is free of pillows and extra blankets. Lie on your side and position your baby on their side so that they’re close to you, tummy to tummy. Position them a little below your breast as they come to latch on.

You can support your neck or back with a pillow, and you can support your baby with your free arm.

Advantages of Breastfeeding

Breastfeed is ideal food for the neonates. It has several advantages for baby as well as mother.

Advantages for baby

Breast milk contains everything your baby needs to grow and develop. It provides a unique and specific formula of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant.

  • It’s easy to digest for baby’s immature tummy and intestines.
  • It contains antibodies that protect against infection and boost immunity.
  • It has the right amount of fat, sugar, water, protein and vitamins for your baby’s growth and development.
  • It promotes healthy weight gain in infants.
  • It changes to meet your baby’s nutritional needs as they grow.
  • It promotes emotional and physical bonding between mother and baby.
  • It is economically friendly because it is available free of cost for baby and it is safe and free from any contamination.

Advantages for mother

Breastfeeding offers several benefits for you, too. Some of the other benefits of breastfeeding for you include:

  • Promotes faster weight loss after birth.
  • Breastfeed serves as a natural contraceptive because lactation suppresses ovulation in mothers who give exclusive breastfeeding.
  • You can breastfeed anywhere without worrying about preparing bottles or mixing formula. Your milk is always available without needing to bring other supplies.
  • Breastfeeding increases both emotionally and physically emotional bonding.
  • Breastfeeding promotes involution of uterus. It helps bring back mother in shape after delivery.

Factors Inhibiting Breastfeeding

  • Lack of support from close family and friends can affect decisions about feeding.
  • Lack of knowledge, negative attitudes and beliefs about breastfeeding by others (partners, family members, support people and the general public) can be unsupportive.
  • Sore nipples. Mother’s nipple feels tender when they first start breastfeeding.
  • Low milk supply
  • Early breast engorgement.

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