Breastmilk is better than any udder milk!-Author unknown
Ha-ha! That’s one funny quote. Having gone through the phase myself (not once, but twice), let me give you an insight into the advantages of breastfeeding. All the breastfeeding mothers will agree that it may not be as easy as it sounds, while, at the same time, it isn’t rocket science either.
In my previous blog I have explained why is breastfeeding important for your baby. Let us see here:
- What are the advantages of breastfeeding for you
- Breastfeeding diet: Why should you eat well?
- How you can make breastfeeding work
- A few tips and take-home messages for breastfeeding mothers
It is one of the most important decisions we make as mothers. Breastfeeding is physically the responsibility of the mother, but others can offer extensive support as it can be exhausting. (Pssst… now this reminds me of another saying – Becoming a mother means your baby is the one up all night drinking, and you get to be hung over the next day. Giggle giggle!)
While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is also a learned behaviour. An extensive body of research has demonstrated that mothers and other caregivers require active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding practices.
WHO and UNICEF launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in 1992, to strengthen maternity practices to support breastfeeding. The BFHI contributes to improve the establishment of exclusive breastfeeding worldwide and, coupled with support throughout the health system, can help mothers sustain exclusive breastfeeding.
Nowadays, most modern hospitals have lactation consultants. Make use of their expert advice until you get the hang of breastfeeding. Despite decades of doctors’ recommendations, nearly half of Indian infants are still being deprived of exclusive breastfeeding. In a recent study conducted in 2018, it was concluded that the most common reason for non-exclusive breastfeeding was the mother’s feeling that she did not have enough milk. Infants that were not exclusively breastfed were most commonly fed formula/animal milk or castor oil/ghee.
Advantages of breastfeeding for the mother
I’ll be glad if more mothers nowadays make the wise decision to breastfeed exclusively. After all, this is one of the best investments you are making for your child – a lifetime of health investment. But, breastfeeding offers more benefits (to us mothers) than we can think of.
1.Breastfeeding helps us lose weight
How? Did you know that breastfeeding burns a whopping 500 calories per day? Do you need more motivation? Do not expect overnight miracles, though. Give yourself six to seven months to see the result – it took you that much time to gain weight.
2.Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract
Even after childbirth, do you still feel the contractions you did during labour? The contractions do not last very long, just a couple of days. Rest assured, it means that your uterus is shrinking back to its original size.
3. Breastfeeding reduces risk of diseases
Repeated studied show that breastfeeding mothers are less prone to ovarian and breast cancers. The health benefits of breastfeeding continues even after you stop feeding.
4. Breastfeeding mothers have a lower rate of depression
Thanks to the hormone oxytocin that is produced while lactating. Depression rates are considerably lower among breastfeeding mums.
5.Breastfeeding delays menstruation
Continued breastfeeding pauses menstruation in most women. Do also note that there are a few who get back to their regular cycle just after childbirth which is also completely normal (I was one of them).
6.Breastfeeding saves time and money
Although the first few weeks seem draining, once we get the hang of breastfeeding, it becomes more of a convenience, than a hassle. One of the major advantages of breastfeeding is that it saves us the trouble of buying formula, mixing it in the right proportion and temperature. The best part is that a breastfeeding mother can feed literally anywhere – all that we need is ourselves and the baby! Even at nights, all that we have to do is feed and get right back to bed! There is no hassle of mixing formula in the middle of the night – which means that much more shut-eye time:)
And in the long run too, breastfed babies tend to fall sick less often, which saves you money on healthcare costs!
7.Breastfeeding is a good contraceptive
Another interesting advantage of breastfeeding, no doubt ! Since the menstruation is delayed, some women see this phase as a good contraceptive. It may not be very effective. On a lighter note, having more than one kid is a good contraceptive in itself.
8.Breastfeeding contributes towards a healthier nation
Increasing family and national resources is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.
Breastfeeding diet: Why you should eat well?
Breast milk composition is not dependent on the mother’s diet. However, it is prudent to eat a well-balanced diet and drink loads of water. An additional 500 calorie requirement does not warrant the intake of non-nutritive foods. Choose foods from all the food groups and make sure meals are nutrient-dense. Eating healthy now ensures that you remain healthy in the coming years. Healthy food can also positively affect the quality of the breastmilk.
It is recommended that you continue to take Iron and Calcium supplements for as long as you are breastfeeding. Consult your gynaecologist during your fourth week post partum check as to what supplements you need to take.
Making breastfeeding work
Breastfeeding is more than just a physical phenomenon. Consider the advantages of breastfeeding both for you and your baby. Your positive attitude and belief that you are capable of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months will go a long way in making it work.
As the days pass by, you may worry that you are not producing enough milk. Initially symptoms like leaking, or heaviness in the breasts might tell you that you are producing enough, but as time progresses and your milk supply readjusts to your child’s demands, you may not feel the same, but nevertheless, you are still producing enough. How can you tell? The only way to tell whether an exclusively breastfed infant is getting enough milk is by her pee count. She should have at least 6 to 8 wet diapers in 24 hours. Also, as long as your infant is gaining weight well, there’s absolutely nothing to worry.
Stressful situations affect oxytocin production, thereby inhibiting milk production. Surround yourself with positive vibes and positive people and relax. The rest is magic!
The composition of breastmilk is such that it is completely digestible and hence produces very little waste. So fret not, if your little one does not have a soiled diaper every day!
Tips for Breastfeeding mothers
Feeding on demand – Your child knows when to feed. During the first few weeks, feed on demand; after which space out feeds once every three to four hours once the baby is over a month old. At nights, try to space them out even more. Create a night time routine and switch off lights and do not stimulate or talk to the child.
Is Water allowed? – Water is a strict no- no, even in places with high temperatures. Introduction of other solids or liquids will negatively impact breastmilk supply. To know more, read “Why you should not give water to your newborn”.
Normal vs. Caesarean birth breastmilk production – How you deliver does not alter milk production. Either way, you are encouraged to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after childbirth.
Take home message
Remind yourself constantly that it’s okay to lower your standards when it comes to orderliness and cleanliness. Of course, personal hygiene is of prime importance, but when it comes to housekeeping, take a deep breath and let go of the things that don’t matter much. Learn to prioritize and get adequate rest and focus more on yourself and the newborn.
Remember also not to be too hard on yourself! Just relax while feeding – an added bonus and a valid reason to put up your feet, feed your child and bond. How long to feed is a personal decision – the longer, the better. Every drop counts! Tell yourself that making milk is a superpower:)