By Maria Baghdoyan, Corporate Nutritionist, Nestlé Middle East
Breastfeeding is by all means the best way to nourish your baby from the day he/she's born.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to two years or for as long as possible.
Why breastfeeding is best
The secret lies in the breastmilk, which consists of a special mixture of antibodies and nutrients and provides many health benefits for your baby. What makes breastmilk even more unique is the fact that it changes its composition to suit your baby's needs at each stage.
Types of breastmilk produced at each stage
- The first stage of breast milk, which lasts for several days after delivery. It's usually yellowish or creamy in color, and much thicker than the milk produced later in breastfeeding.
- Is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and antibodies that pass from the mother to her baby
- Occurs 2 to 4 days after colostrum and lasts for about two weeks.
- Includes high levels of fat, lactose, and water-soluble vitamins.
- Contains more calories than colostrum.
This is the final milk produced of which 90% is water necessary to keep the baby hydrated. The other 10% is composed of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which are necessary for both growth and energy.
There are two types of mature milk:
Fore-milk: found during the beginning of feeding and contains water, vitamins, and protein.
Hind-milk: occurs after the initial release of milk and contains higher levels of fat necessary for weight gain.
Below are some key benefits of breastfeeding for your baby:
- Helps to strengthen the baby's immunity and digestive health to fight infections and other health issues like colic, gas diarrhea or constipation.
- Lowers the baby's risk of ear infection, diabetes and other illnesses
- Reduces the baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Benefits of breastfeeding beyond your baby
Did you know that breastfeeding has a number of benefits for you as a mother as well?
Breastfeeding benefits for the mother:
- Stimulates uterine contractions to help the mother recover faster after delivery.
- Helps the mother lose weight.
- Stimulates the production of Prolactin that helps the mother feel calm and relaxed.
- Plays a role in lowering a mother's risk of breast cancer or uterine cancer.
What about nutrition during breastfeeding?
As a breastfeeding mom, good nutrition is crucial not to compromise on the quality of milk delivered; therefore your body needs to be supported with a healthy varied eating plan.
The following are the main guidelines for a nutritious breastfeeding diet:
- Vary your meals so that you eat a variety of all the food groups: Grains and Cereals, Fruits and Vegetables, Milk and Dairy, Meat and Legumes.
- Drink lots of water to compensate the amount of fluids you typically lose during each nursing session.
- Limit your caffeine consumption, as this stimulant can reach your baby through your breast milk. Stick to 1-2 cups of coffee/tea daily.
- Enrich your meals with fiber sources such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and seeds, to prevent or ease symptoms of constipation, one of the most common issues postpartum.
- Try to limit your intake of high fat and high sugar foods and opt for healthier options like nuts, olive oil and avocado in moderation and satisfy your sugar cravings with fresh fruits, fruits smoothies or a bowl of low fat yogurt with a sprinkle of wholegrain cereals and freshly cut fruits
7 facts about breastfeeding
Now, you are probably wondering about the secrets behind breastfeeding because eventually you can learn the basics of this experience and its steps through books and consultancy sessions, yet you will not be able to assimilate what you go through until you start feeding your newborn baby.
So here are some important facts about breastfeeding that you may have not known:
- From 0 to 6 months a baby doesn't need any other food or drink but breastmilk
- A newborn baby should be given to his mother right after birth, so he can make skin-to-skin contact to stimulate the colostrum
- Regular breastfeeding can stimulate a mother's breasts to produce more milk. A newborn baby shall breastfeed at will, a minimum of 8 times a day.
- Breastfeeding promotes the production of Oxytocin which helps a mother relax and get herself a good time of rest and sleep.
- At the beginning of breastfeeding, a baby may find difficulty latching on properly, causing pains and discomforts.
- A breastfeeding mother needs 500 extra calories a day to help her body produce milk, and it would be better if these calories come from healthy sources that are high in nutrients and vitamins.
- Certain foods you consume could cause your baby to become irritable or develop an allergic reaction. In general, try to avoid spicy and gassy foods and lay away from all carbonated beverages. But if your baby becomes fussy or develops a rash, diarrhea or congestion soon after nursing, consult your baby's doctor.
Now that you got to know more about breastfeeding and its benefits, we advise you not to let go of this special experience but do your best to make it work for your sake and the sake of your little one!