Doc Talk: Breastfeeding

We all have medical questions that we want answered – that’s why Dr. Amna Asif is here to provide us with her expert opinion! Every other week, she will be sharing her expert advice with us regarding a range of topics our followers are interested in learning more about. This week in Doc Talk, she talks about breastfeeding. Read ahead to find out what the benefits are, how long one is advised to do it, the myths and more:

Breastfeeding is a partnership between you and your baby and it takes time to establish successfully. It may take up to 6 weeks for you to feel confident. It isn’t always easy, particularly if you are a new mum. It is a learned art so it takes time, patience and practice. 

Breast milk meets all your baby’s nutritional requirements from birth to around 6 months. It is specially made for your baby and there are lots of things in breast milk that are good for your baby which are not found in formula milk. 

But remember, this is all not at expense of your own physical and mental health. Despite all the significance of breastfeeding, self care is a priority too. 

What Is Colostrum Or “Liquid Gold”?

Colostrum or the “Liquid gold”, is the fluid your breasts produce in the first few days after birth. It is very valuable and helps to protect your baby from infections as it has antibodies  and works as natural immunisation for your baby. 

What Are The Benefits?

  • Breast milk is safe, easily digested by your baby and good for your baby’s development.
  • It contains all the nutrition for your baby for the first 6 months of life.
  •  Together with other foods, it is very good for the next 6 months and into the second year. So you can safely breastfeed your baby for up to 2 years.
  • It is always ready when your baby needs it.
  • Your baby will be less likely to get infections (such as ear infections, diarrhoea, urine infections etc), allergies, and many other diseases.

Breastfeeding Is Good For You Too 

  • It does not take time to prepare and has cost benefits.
  • It helps to develop a bond between you and your baby.
  • It helps your body return to normal more quickly after the birth.
  • It may give protection against some diseases, such as cancer of the breast or ovaries.

Being Unable To Breastfeed

If you are unable to breastfeed at all, or for as long as you would have liked, never see this outcome as a failure, or feel guilty about it. If you have tried, then you have failed neither yourself nor your baby. In Pakistan, there is a lot of societal pressure to breastfeed while the health and well being of the mother is completely ignored or compromised in many instances.  Please seek help of a supportive doctor or caring family member and don’t feel bad about it 

Remember, even if you do not plan to breastfeed, skin-to-skin contact soon after the birth will be a valuable experience for you and your baby.

The Amount Of Feeds Your Baby Will Need

Each child is different, but a newborn can feed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Your milk supply adjusts to your baby’s needs, so it helps to feed whenever your child is hungry. You will know that you are providing enough milk if the baby settles after feeds, has about 4-6 wet  nappies in a day, has bright eyes, good skin tone and is gaining weight appropriate to their  age. 

The best way to build up and maintain your milk supply is to feed your baby as often as he or  she needs it. This is known as “Demand feeding.” The more the breasts are emptied, the more milk is made. If you are too tired to breast feed during night time, you can express it beforehand and a family member can feed the expressed milk while you are taking rest. Always burp the baby after every feed. 

Weaning From Breastfeeding

The World Health Organization and latest guidelines from health professionals recommend  exclusive breastfeeding for six months, with a gradual introduction of appropriate solids in  the second six months, and ongoing breastfeeding for up to two years. However, when to wean is a decision that mothers and babies need to make for themselves. There are no recommendations from guidelines to continue breastfeeding for more than 2  years. 

It is astonishing that Allah SWT has said the same in Quran more than 1400 years ago. 

“And mothers [should] breastfeed their children for a total of two years. [This sentence] is for  those who want to complete breast feeding duration.” (Surah Al-Baqara : 233) 

The weaning process begins once you start to supplement your baby’s diet with anything other than breast milk, whether this is water, juice, solid foods or other milks. This process may be mutual, baby-led (when your baby decides that they no longer wish to breast feed) or mother-led (when you decide it is time to stop). 

Myths About Breastfeeding

Myth: If you have tested positive to COVID-19 , you should not breastfeed. 

Truth: If you have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having COVID-19 you and your  baby can be supported to remain together while continuing to breastfeed or supply expressed breast milk for your baby. Wash your hands before and after breastfeeding and wear a mask during feeding. 

Myth: Many women do not produce enough milk 

Truth: The vast majority of women produce more than enough milk. The usual reason that  the baby does not get enough milk is that the baby is poorly latched onto the breast.

Myth: It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt. 

Truth: Though some tenderness and breast engorgement during the first few days is relatively common, it should settle quickly. Any ongoing pain during breastfeeding can be due to poor latching of baby or Mastitis (infection of breast). Mastitis needs to be treated quickly with antibiotics. See your doctor. 

Myth: I cannot get pregnant while I am breastfeeding 

Truth: Many women can get pregnant while breastfeeding so adequate birth control is required. 

Myth: Breastfeeding baby needs extra water in hot weather

Truth: No, breast milk has all the water that baby needs even during summer. 

Myth: I have developed mastitis (infection of breast) or any other infection, I should stop breastfeeding. 

Truth: Continue breastfeeding. Breast infections, including breast abscess, though painful,  are not reasons to stop breastfeeding. Indeed, the infection is likely to settle more quickly if  the mother continues breastfeeding on the affected side.  

Myth: I am breastfeeding, I can take any medication. 

Truth: Ask your doctor if the medication is safe for breastfeeding before taking any  medication . Most medicines are safe and you can continue breast feeding while taking them.  

Myth: My baby has diarrhea and vomiting, I should stop breastfeeding. 

Truth: You need to continue feeding. The best medicine for a baby’s gut infection is  breastfeed. 

Myth: Modern formulas are almost the same as breast milk 

Truth: Formula is nothing like breast milk. Breast milk is a living substance, so complex that  scientists are still trying to find everything that is in it. Formula contains no antibodies, no  growth factors, no living cells and no enzymes to help digestion. The proteins and fats in  formula are very different from those in breast milk. 

Myth: You need a perfect diet to breastfeed 

Truth: Although a healthy nutritious diet is very important, you don’t need a perfect diet to  breastfeed. In most cases a breastfeeding mother does not have to worry about what she eats.  

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