Find out all about feeding cycles, nipple confusion and the changing nature of breast milk from the experts, from this primer on breastfeeding
A newborn baby brings with it oodles of joy and for mommy dearest, a whole cache of physical and mental changes. To ensure the time spent with your infant is less of a puzzle and more fun, experts give you a lowdown on breastfeeding. So what is it about mother's milk that is just so magical, we ask? "Breast milk contains all the goodies your baby requires," says Dr Vinit Samdani, paediatrician at Jaslok, Bhatia and Saifee Hospital. "It provides the baby with nutrition, aids weight gain, boosts digestion and builds immunity against infections."
And just like the adage, 'Mother knows best', a mother's milk also changes according to gestation. "Keeping in tune with a baby's requirements, the constituents in the milk will change. Hence, the milk for a premature baby will be different for the milk for a three month-old," says Dr Ashok Gawdi, pediatrician at Fortis Hiranandani, Vashi, Mumbai.
Dos and don'ts While hormonal and bodily changes after delivery are natural, it's wrong to assume that dealing with motherhood comes naturally to women. "An expectant or new mother should be aware of what being a mother brings with it," says Dr Samdani. "It takes around 24-36 hours for the first milk to appear, so it's important the mother is patient, as stress reduces the secretion of milk."
Dr Gawdi also insists that young mothers maintain a feeding cycle. "Feeding the baby every two hours, and 15 minutes on each side is important, or else the baby will sleep after five minutes and then wake up hungry soon after. This means the mother won't get any rest," he says. For those who are expecting their first child, Dr Gawdi advises them to enroll in breast-feeding classes which will equip expectant mothers with adequate information on how to handle their new born.
Working mothers can also continue breast-feeding their child by storing their breast-milk in feeding bottles for later use. However, bottle feeding should be the last option. "Even if one has to use the bottle, it has to be sterilised before each feeding," says Dr Samdani. "Avoid relying too heavily on the bottle as this might cause Nipple Confusion, where the child will prefer the artificial nipple to the natural one as he doesn't need to suck on the bottle's nipple compared to the mother's," he warns.
Diet control "Breast feeding has no cons, but pay close attention to the mother's health as they can pass on their infection or the effects of the medicines on to their child," says Dr Gawdi. Some mothers may also need to prepare for breastfeeding more than others. "For those with flat nipples, elongate them before feeding so that it's easier for your baby. Use nipple shields and creams when in pain.
Also, a mother's diet is the biggest culprit for problems in the child. In India, we tend to give nursing mothers a lot of dry fruits and fatty foods thinking that it will help both mother and child, but instead it just makes the milk fatty and the child can't digest it. This causes loose motions, indigestion, etc. It's very important that the mother moves back to her pre-pregnancy diet after childbirth," he says.
"A baby needs to be breastfed till the age of nine months, after which they can be slowly weaned off with the help of liquids and semi-solids," says Dr Samdani. "With the right information, motherhood can be every bit the special experience it is meant to be," he summarises.