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Nourish Your Baby

First few weeks
Concerns
Bonding with the baby
Working mothers

The decision to breastfeed your baby is a personal one. Nursing provides your baby with all the nutrients it needs but not all Gulf mothers are aware of these benefits.

Human milk is uniquely tailored by nature to satisfy the nutritional needs of a baby. Its vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates are present in the exact proportions needed. It also carries antibodies against a variety of diseases, provides immediate heightened protection against ear and respiratory infections, and guards against diarrhoea. Statistics even show that children who had been breastfed as babies have a higher IQ than those who hadn't.

It becomes surprising then to note that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, 1.5 million babies die world wide because their mother's decide not to breast feed them. Most of these deaths do occur in third world countries where ignorance, illiteracy and poor hygiene result in the misuse of commercial infant formula. But still babies around the globe are at risk, and that alone should encourage mothers worldwide to insist on doing what nature had intended them to.

By choosing to breastfeed, a mother is not only choosing what is best for her baby but also what is best for her. That is because breast feeding has been proven statistically to reduce a mother's baby blues (feelings of frustration that a mother usually experiences after giving birth due to hormonal changes) and more importantly it reduces the mother's risk of developing breast cancer and breast diseases in general.

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First weeks most difficult

Dr Mona Salameh, a renowned consultant in paediatrics who is also a mother of two children, talks from both professional, and personal experience, when she says: "The first two weeks are the most difficult," she explains, "and it is no time for the mom to be taking major decisions, as to whether she wants to continue or not. Once her milk supply is established and she becomes an expert at it, it is very unlikely that she would decide to quit."

One of the major reasons why some woman who come to me quit breast feeding," adds Dr Mona, is the misconception that they are not producing enough milk. "That is usually untrue because a woman usually produces more than enough for one baby and sometimes even for two. The insistent belief of the mother that her baby is still hungry after feedings, makes her follow each of her feedings with a bottle supplement, and since breastfeeding is a supply and demand process, the breasts then fail to produce the required amount of milk." So Dr Salameh advises the mother to avoid offering her infant baby-formula until after his first month.
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Concerns
Another reason that forces a mother to quit breast feeding or to take the decision not to do it in the first place is due again to a misconception that if she breastfeeds, then the shape of her breasts will be altered, while if she doesn't they will stay perfectly firm. Dr Tabbah, admits that to a certain extent breastfeeding does weaken the elasticity of the breasts, thus causing them to sag. But both he and Dr Mona agree that the pregnancy itself does the bigger harm. Dr Mona says: "The mother's breasts will be affected anyway whether she nurses or not."

Dr Tabbah further explains that the situation cannot really be remedied, but there are certain exercises that might help. He also gives another tip: "Don't wear a bra while breastfeeding. Try to give your breasts time to let their own muscles do the support instead of the bra, and thus tighten and not sag."
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Bonding with the baby
One common and surprising reason why some women tend to give up on breastfeeding is the insistence of the husband. This is what happened to Soumaya: "My husband was the reason I quit breastfeeding. He got so upset about it and we'd fight a lot. He'd give me silly reasons everyday why I should stop and at last I did." "It is perfectly normal for the father to feel left out upon the birth of a baby," says Dr Salameh, "especially when it is a first child." All of a sudden, his wife no longer has time for him. She is always tired and when ever he sees her, she has this new little creature held close to her, receiving all her attention.
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Working mothers
In our modern society, more Arab women are joining the work force, and one of the most difficult tasks for a working mom is to keep up with her breast feeding. But Dr Mona explains that the mother has the option of pumping her milk (with special pumps purchased at pharmacies) while at the office to give it later to her baby, or if that gets too difficult," she says, "then there is no harm for the mom to supplement her milk with one bottle of infant formula each day, remember, not before the first month is up, to be given by a caregiver while she is at work." Continuing on breast feeding while going back to work can give comfort to both mom and baby who would need to be parted for the first time since the birth.

Finally, some women view breastfeeding as simply an inconvenient process that confines them to their homes at many times, and messes up their lifestyles. But any mother who has given breastfeeding a chance has experienced special moments with her baby that will always be part of her memories, has felt emotions so intense, so strong, that words no matter how deep in meaning cannot define. She has felt a sort of satisfaction, contentment and inner peace that only one who has nursed understands.
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