About Feeding Your Baby - Breastfeeding
Breastmilk is the perfect food due to its unique properties that help with growth, development and immunity. Breastfeeding may have its challenges for some families, so it is important to know that you are not alone. If you are having difficulties Ngala recommends that you seek support from a family member or friend who has successfully breastfed, a lactation consultant, your child health nurse, community nurse or organisations like Ngala or the Australian Breastfeeding Association (external link).
The National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia’s peak health organisation) recommends, when possible, exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six-months old and beyond 6 months in tandem with the introduction of some solids.
Breastmilk is a complete source of nutrients for your baby until six-months of age. Until this age, your baby’s digestive system is still immature and breastmilk is easy to digest and offers the maximum protection against stomach infections.
- Health authorities recommend that infants are exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months (5-7 months). Exclusive breastfeeding means the infant only consumes breast milk and no other solids or liquids apart from drops or syrups as a supplement or medicine.
- Exclusively breastfed babies will get exactly the right amount of hydration from breast milk and do not need additional water.
- Supplementing breastfeeding with any other drinks can affect the success of breastfeeding initiation and reduce the duration.
Benefits for you:
- It costs you nothing financially
- It is what nature intended us to do as mothers
- It gives you invaluable bonding time with your baby with emotional and other long term benefits for both of you.
- It frees you from dealing with menstruation for as long as you continue to breastfeed regularly. This is because the hormone prolactin, that stimulates breast milk production, also inhibits ovulation and therefore menstruation. Keep in mind that it is not completely fail-proof as it depends on how regularly you are breastfeeding each day as well as the duration of the feeds. In terms of preventing conceiving again when breastfeeding, you will be fertile around two weeks BEFORE getting your first period after pregnancy and you will not know when exactly your period is going to return. In other words, use another form of contraception if you are not planning to get pregnant again straight away.
Benefits for your baby:
- Exclusive breastfeeding promotes the ideal early growth pattern for your baby which will result in the best possible health for your baby today and into the future. Research shows that the longer you can breastfeed your baby, the less their chance of becoming overweight or obese, and it helps to optimise their brain development, gut function and immune system
- Your breast milk composition changes automatically according to your baby’s needs, including how hot the day is, the age of your child and the time of day (Even if it is a hot day there is no need to give your baby water as your breast milk will provide the hydration needed).
- You can increase your baby’s familiarity with different flavours by eating a wide range of foods, particularly of vegetables whilst breastfeeding – making introduction of these foods easier when they transition onto solids.
- Breast feeding is linked with lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). (external link)
- Breast fed children show better performance on intelligence tests.
Challenges of Breastfeeding
Initiating breastfeeding and establish a feeding routine can take a fair bit of effort so you need to be prepared for some challenges.
- It will take up a lot of your time so be prepared to use the
time for multi-tasking
eg an opportunity to sit and rest, read to older children, read the newspaper,
plan a shopping list.
- You may get painful breasts, bleeding or cracked nipples and infection (mastitis). Prevention is better than cure so take advice from your doctor, midwife or child health nurse.
- You may feel really hungry and need to try hard to avoid convenient but energy-dense snacks. Always have some healthy foods like fruit or yoghurt on hand.
- It could make you feel quite tired as breastfeeding uses a lot of energy, so make sure you eat regular meals and snacks and ask others to help you.
- You may have times when you are concerned whether your baby is getting sufficient milk. Patience and perseverance is important at these times. Your baby regulates your milk production. He needs more as he grows rapidly in the early weeks and more frequent feeds will increase your milk production to keep up with this growth.
- Lactation can make exercising a little uncomfortable when you are feeling very full and top heavy. Supportive clothing will help and try to exercise soon after a feed when your breasts are nor so full. This problem will reduce once you have established a feeding routine.
- Your breasts may well leak at not the most ideal moments leading to some embarrassment – make sure you wear or keep breast pads with you at all times to minimise this problem.
- Breast feeding can may make you feel a bit tied down, but remember it is only six months of exclusive breastfeeding and gives you time for close bonding with your baby.
- It will take up a lot of your time so be prepared to use the time for multi-tasking
For more information about breastfeeding, the following websites are useful:
- http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/general.html (external link)
- http://www.health.wa.gov.au/havingababy/after/feeding.cfm (external link)
- http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/newborn_nutrition_nutshell.html/highlight/breastfeeding (external link)
Note: If you are producing more milk than your baby can consume then you may be interested in donating the extra milk for feeding very sick and/or premature babies. For more information see PREM Bank (external link)
When breastfeeding does not go as planned
Sometimes breastfeeding does not work out for a variety of reasons. You then have a number of different options for feeding your baby:
- Expressing breast milk and bottle-feeding your baby
- Feeding with artificial milk (or formula)
- A combination of these
For more information see the Australian Breastfeeding Association website (external link)
- If you are exclusively formula feeding your child they may need some extra water (boiled and cooled) to ensure they are adequately hydrated.
- In special cases (such as if your baby if very sick and/or born prematurely) using donor milk from a breast milk bank (external link) can be an option.
See here for more information about donor milk (external link).
Information you may find useful
Ngala Books & DVDs
the Ngala Helpline for early
parenting support on
9368 9368 or 1800 111 546
8am to 8pm everyday or
When: 21 Feb, 9:30am
Birth to 4 months: A 5-week series of workshops for parents with a newborn baby. Each workshop covers a wide range of topics about you and your new baby and provides the opportunity to meet and connect with other new parents in your local area.