What you need to know before starting to breastfeed your baby.

Breastfeeding is a process in which a mother feeds breast milk to her baby. It provides benefits to both the mother and the baby. How does breastfeeding help mothers & their babies?

Benefits to the baby Benefits to the mother
  • Meets the nutritional demands for the 1st 6 months of life.
  • Increases mother-to-infant bonding.
  • Helps develop the baby’s body and brain.
  • Means of contraception for the first 6 months if done regularly & exclusively
  • Prevents infections as it is clean & rich in chemicals that fight off microorganisms.
  • Saves money & decreases workload as it is readily available.
  • Protects the baby against allergies and obesity.
  • Helps in uterine contraction and prevents bleeding after birth.
  • Helps the baby get well faster during times of illness.
  • Reduces future risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer & heart disease.

Breastfeeding should be started immediately after birth within the first 30 to 60 minutes of life. We need to feed our newborns breast milk only for the first 6 months. Complementary feeding should be started only at 6 months with breastfeeding continuing to a total of 24 months or beyond. 

  • Practice 1: Do not add other fluids/foods to the diet of newborns as it predisposes them to diarrhea & infections. 

The composition of breast milk varies at different stages after birth. Colostrum is thick yellowish milk produced during the first few days after birth which contains the highest concentration of proteins and chemicals that fight off infection. 

  • Practice 2: Do not discard colostrum before you start breastfeeding your baby as it is considered nature’s first immunization.

Breastfeeding should be on demand & frequent. A newborn should feed about 8-12x/day including night feeds. 

  • Practice 3: Increase breastfeeding during times of illness as nutrient & energy requirements of the baby increase.

Proper positioning of mother & baby, attachment of the newborn to the mother’s breast & effective sucking techniques are needed for successful breastfeeding. The mother needs to get into a comfortable position. She should then hold the baby close with both the head and the body of the baby turned to face the breast. The baby’s nose should be opposite to the nipple & his/her whole body should be fully supported. The mother should hold her breast in a “C-hold” with her thumb on top and other fingers below the breast. She should then touch the baby’s lips with the nipple & wait for the mouth to open wide. Then she should move the whole body of the baby onto the breast. If there is good attachment, the baby’s chin will touch the breast, the baby’s mouth will be wide open, the lower lip will be turned outward & more of the areola will be visible above the mouth than below it. If the sucking is good, there will be slow deep sucks with some pauses & the mother’s breasts and nipples will feel comfortable. If the attachment & sucking are not good the mother should take the baby off the breast & help the baby attach again. It is always important to use both breasts and the baby should finish emptying one breast to get the rich hind milk before starting on the second breast.

Burping your baby is an important part of the feeding process. It helps remove air bubbles trapped in their stomach while swallowing. You might need to burp your baby during their feed or after they have finished by holding them in a position of comfort and then rubbing or patting their back gently. 

If a mother is HIV+, there is a risk of transmitting the virus to the baby through breast milk. In cases like this, counseling health care providers can help weigh the risks & benefits & make an informed decision on the best feeding option. If you are taking any medications, it is important to counsel your health care providers as a few medications could pass into the breast milk and affect the infant’s well-being.