Breast milk is the perfect food for babies. It’s easily digestible and provides everything your baby needs for the first six months of life including important antibodies which help fight infection. It also helps protect babies against middle ear infections, gastroenteritis, asthma and eczema. And there are benefits for mums too. Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis later in life – and breastfeeding helps mother and baby to get to know each other and build a loving relationship. If that’s not enough, it’s also free, instant and environmentally friendly!
Top 10 Tips
1. The Ministry of Health recommends women breastfeed for 12 months.
2. If you’re doing well and want to carry on, you might like to know that the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond.
3. The first milk mothers produce after birth is called colostrum (AKA ‘liquid gold’), which is full of disease-fighting antibodies called immunoglobulins that strengthen your baby’s immune system.
4. Colostrum also acts as a laxative which helps clear out meconium (the first dark-green poo) from your baby’s bowels.
5. Full milk comes in after about three days. This can be uncomfortable.
6. Let your baby drink for as long as they want from the first breast before swapping to the second breast. This is because at each feed, babies get foremilk first, which is thin and quenches their thirst; followed by hindmilk which is richer in fat content and high in calories. They need both to thrive.
7. Start feeding from the second breast first on the following feed. (You can put a safety pin in your bra to remind you which one that is.)
8. Baby’s suckling stimulates the breast to produce milk – the more your baby feeds, the more milk your body will produce. This is known as supply-and-demand. If your baby is not feeding well or you start using formula, your baby will take less from you and your milk supply will decrease.
9. It usually takes one to two weeks to get your milk supply going and it can take six weeks or longer for the supply-and-demand mechanism to become well-established.
10. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, talk to your midwife, Plunket Nurse or a lactation consultant.