Breast feedingBreastfeeding is the optimal and the most effective way of nurturing an infant while simultaneously benefiting the lactating mother. Breast milk, with its over 100 nutrients, provides infants with an increased immunity against respiratory, ear and urinary tract infections while the proteins in breast milk endorse brain and nervous system development which help in improving intelligence. Breast milk improves vaccine effectiveness and decreases the incidence of cavities. Breastfeeding provides better mouth and jaw development of the infant. Mothers also benefit from nursing. The hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which make and release the milk, relaxs the mother and helps in forming a loving bond with their baby. The hormones released when the infant sucks at the breast helps the uterus return more quickly to its normal size. Nursing-women lose weight without dieting, since 800 calories a day are utilized in the production of milk. Breast milk is the ultimate convenience food, always ready to serve, warm, sterile, and of course free of cost.

Breastfeeding benefits babies because it decreases the occurrence and/or severity of:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lower respiratory infections
  • Ear infections
  • Bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream)
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Lymphoma
  • Allergic diseases
  • Other chronic digestive diseases
  • Shortens the course of infant botulism

Breastfeeding benefits mothers because it:

  • Reduces postpartum bleeding
  • Helps the uterus get back in shape faster
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Aids in birth control
  • May reduce the risk of osteoporosis, ovarian cancer and pre-menopausal breast
  • Saves money
  • Reduces parental time away from work due to child illness

Despite so many benefits of breastfeeding many women give up breastfeeding and choose not to nurse the infant. The reason behind this is lack of knowledge and guidance. Sometimes the reason is that the mother is unable to produce enough milk to support the infant. She may be not backed up by family and friends in her desire to nurse and might not have any guidance while she is attempting to learn. Breastfeeding though is natural; it is a skill that has to be learned and experienced together by the mother and baby. Both have to help each other and coordinate their efforts with patience and gentleness. For some, the skills come easily, while for many the process can take several days or weeks until feedings proceed with ease and comfort.

Reading your baby's 'sign language'
For a new mother it is difficult to ascertain when the baby is hungry, while she shouldn't wait for her baby to cry before offering to nurse. To avoid nursing time distress, here are a few tips that will help a new mother to breastfeed whenever her newborn displays the following signs of hunger:

  • Sucking on the tongue or lips during sleep
  • Moving the arms and hands toward the mouth
  • Fussing or fidgeting during sleep
  • Turning the head from side to side

Once the baby has finished nursing she will fall asleep, relax the body, open her fists and relax her forehead. Responding quickly to signs of hunger of your baby will help the child feel safe and will foster a trusting mother-child relationship.

Good positioning is vital For breast milk to flow smoothly and properly, your baby needs to be in a good "latch-on" position. This means that the baby's gums can squeeze the lactiferous sinuses located just beneath the areola, or dark area around the nipple, allowing the stored milk to flow smoothly.

Proper positioning, such as "tummy to tummy," helps encourages good latch-on. For this position, cradle your infant close to you; with her or his head in the bend of you arm and the baby's mouth should be in line with your nipple. Ear, shoulder and hip should be in a straight line.

Following are good latch-on positions if you see the following:

  • The nipple plus about an inch of the areola is in the baby's mouth and her or his nose and chin is touching your breast.
  • Your baby's lips are turned out, not tucked in.
  • Your baby's tongue is visible under your breast when you gently pull her or his bottom lip down.
  • You'll know your milk is flowing if you hear your baby swallow or see milk dribbling out of her mouth or milk leaking from your other breast.

If your breastfeeding is going on well then you will see the signs in your baby within a few days. Your baby will feed at least 7 times a day. She will have yellowish stools 4 times in a day and her urine will be clear in colour. Within weeks you will see her gaining weight.

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