Breastfeeding is considered the ideal and most natural way to feed a baby. The benefits of breastfeeding, for both baby and mother, are endless. Not only does it satisfy the baby’s hunger and thirst at once, it also creates a loving bond between the two. But there are many misconceptions and a lack of knowledge about this very natural process. The stigma attached to breastfeeding holds women back from talking openly about it. To help you understand the process better – and break the stigma around it – we invited International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Dr. Sabeen Adil, to Mashion HQ. She helped us understand the importance of breastfeeding and told us everything a new mother would need to know. If you missed the session, read on to see what we learned from her!
1. Importance Of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is without a doubt the safest and healthiest source of nutrition for newborns. Breast milk provides all the essential nutrients a baby needs for its first six months — vitamins, protein and fat. Breast milk, as compared to formula milk, can also easily be digested. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that breastfeeding reduces child mortality and its benefits extend into adulthood. Exclusive breastfeeding (no formula, juice, or water) is strongly recommended for the first six months. After that, the baby should be breastfed for at least another year, with other foods, such as vegetables and fruits, introduced in the baby’s diet. Sabeen says, “Breastfeeding is very important because it is the natural progression of pregnancy. Not breastfeeding your baby can deprive them of many important nutrients. The immune factors, enzymes and hormones present in mother’s milk are necessary for a child’s growth. That’s why a mother’s milk is tailor-made for her child.”
2. Signs The Baby Is Well Fed
When it comes to feeding your baby, there’s no maximum number of breastfeeds. Let the baby be your guide and feed them as often as they want. This is known as breastfeeding on demand and is considered ideal. The more often your baby feeds, the more milk you will make. According to our expert, “Breastfeeding works on a basic supply and demand rule. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding your baby — whenever the baby demands, you’ll have enough milk. This is not something you should be worried about.”
To find out whether your baby is well fed or not, she recommends observing two things: The diaper output of your baby and the weight gain.
3. Increasing Your Milk Supply
Your milk supply is determined by two factors — how often and how much milk is being taken from the breast. As long as you feed your baby whenever they want, you’ll produce plenty of milk for them. Topping it up with formula in the early weeks can reduce your milk supply. According to our expert, “Feeding the baby on demand, feeding them exclusively and correct latch of the baby automatically increases your production.”
4. Pain While Feeding Is Not Normal
New mothers often think that it’s normal to experience pain in the early days of feeding. But that’s not true. Breastfeeding may feel more natural as the baby grows, but even in the initial days, it shouldn’t hurt. Sabeen believes if the breastfeeding process is going normally, it shouldn’t be painful. “If you experience pain while feeding, then it indicates that there’s something wrong. In most cases, it’s because of the latch. If the baby’s latch is not correct then it’s going to hurt.”
5. The Effect Of Mother’s Diet On Milk Supply
New moms, especially in desi households, are suggested to focus on healthy food in order to feed the baby better. But if research is to be believed, what a mother eats has little to no effect on the breast milk and the baby’s nutrition. Our expert calls the connection between mother’s food choices and breast milk a complete myth. “You can eat whatever you want. A mother’s diet has no effect on the breast milk’s quantity or quality.”
6. Difference Between Breastfed And Formula Fed Babies
Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula feed a baby is one of the biggest decisions a new mother has to make. While the decision solely depends on the mother, there are some visible differences to consider that health experts suggest. Breastfed babies are said to have a stronger immune system and higher IQ levels. But the biggest difference is weight. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow. This usually leads people to believe that these babies are weak. But according to Sabeen, that’s not true. “In fact, they’re lean, thin and more athletic as compared to formula fed babies who are quite overweight. This shouldn’t be mistaken for being healthy as these babies are more at risk of developing health issues such as diabetes and obesity.”
7. Myths About Breastfeeding
While breastfeeding is known for its many benefits, there are still some myths around it that make mothers rethink their decision. One big myth is that breastfeeding mothers find it difficult to lose weight. The reality is actually the opposite. Sabeen says, “Mothers can easily lose weight when breastfeeding because the process of breastfeeding itself burns a lot of calories. If you maintain a normal diet while breastfeeding, it can help you lose weight and reduce your belly fat as well.” Another myth is that breastfeeding can cause breast cancer. Debunking this myth, Sabeen says, “This is not true at all. Breastfeeding, in fact, reduces the risk of cancer.”
8. Breastfeeding An Adopted Baby
Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding an adopted child is actually possible. Although breastfeeding an adopted baby is different than breastfeeding your biological baby, it can be achieved through a process called induced lactation protocol. This process helps a woman who hasn’t been pregnant produce milk. The quantity of milk a mother can produce through induced lactation varies from woman to woman as well as baby to baby. Our expert suggests induced lactation protocol for mothers willing to breastfeed their adopted babies and calls the process very important in building a bond between mother and child.