One of the greatest gifts a mother can give herself and her child is breastfeeding. It fosters a bond to which nothing else compares. It can be stronger than the bond created between mother and child during pregnancy! Yes! This time she can see, feel, touch and speak to that precious baby she holds so dear. Most mothers want to share this intimate bond with their babies but are often met with set backs and discouragement by well-meaning loved ones. Some agree that breastfeeding is best, but, only as a supplement. Pressure is the fastest cause of decline in breast milk production. The most important thing is that your baby is well fed, whether breast milk or formula milk. However, if you desire exclusive breastfeeding, then sit back, relax and grab a bowl of popcorn. Whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, whether this is your first child or the next child let’s journey together into the world of exclusive breastfeeding.
It’s no secret that breastfeeding has numerous beneficial health elements attached to it but perhaps you aren’t aware of a special milk that comes into play in the first few days of breastfeeding. The production of this ‘liquid gold’ known as Colostrum starts during pregnancy and continues for the first couple of weeks of your baby’s life. It has a yellowish-orange hue and is thick and sticky.
Colostrum is very beneficial to babies as it is their main source of immunity against germs and diseases in a brand new world. Colostrum will gradually change to mature milk after the first couple of weeks following the birth of your baby. The mature breast milk still contains antibodies and continues to help your body ward off sickness and diseases. The benefits of breastfeeding are not limited to your baby, here’s some for you too-
Breastfeeding helps your uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy size. It also helps you burn an extra 500 calories! Yes! That’s how many calories it takes for the average body to produce breast milk daily. Coupled with a balanced diet and extra servings of protein your body not only has enough nutrients to improve and sustain milk production, you may also lose some of that baby weight in the process.
Your mature breast milk also contains fat, which is responsible for growing your baby. By now, your milk production will start to increase and you must guide your body into establishing the right amount of milk supply your baby needs. This is usually the stage where a lot of mothers get discouraged and feel like they cannot sustain feeding their infants with breast milk alone. Nursing your baby can take minutes and sometimes even hours; this leaves some babies tired and their mother’s alike.
A tired baby means less suckling, less suckling means less milk being consumed; this leads to the baby not being full resulting in crying or fussiness. The sleep hormone, melatonin, which your baby gets from breast milk can also be the cause for her drowsiness during nursing. This is where expressing milk with a good breast pump comes to play.
It is important to note that nursing your baby alone will provide enough milk for your baby; but expressing gives her more than enough for the times when she needs a little top-up or measurable feeding – to ensure she is getting a particular amount of milk.
The major factors necessary to establish and maintain the right amount of milk supply are maintaining high prolactin levels, breast stimulation or suckling and milk removal. The best time to express milk is early in the morning when the prolactin levels are the highest. Prolactin is the hormone that controls milk production in the body. Pumping both breasts at the same time also yields more milk in less time, as the prolactin levels are higher in the blood when you double pump.
The more stimulation your breasts get from suckling and/or pumping, the more milk is produced. It is more effective to express more frequently for shorter periods than to express for longer periods less frequently. Fifteen to thirty minutes is enough time to express in each session.
The last but not the least, quite possibly the most important factor in establishing a good milk supply is “emptying” your breasts or milk removal, this is simply nursing your baby or pumping till your breast feel lighter or as though they are empty. Even though we say empty, we know that the breasts are never really empty but that feeling of emptiness is what signals the brain to produce more milk. Think of your breast as a container, it can only get filled up when it is empty. The combination of these three factors are essential in building the right supply of milk for your growing baby.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Feije Riemersma