How to Breast-Feed a Baby

Deciding whether to breast or bottle-feed is one of the major decisions every new mother has to make and most mothers -particularly with their first baby – will want advice. This should be readily available from someone with knowledge and experience, such as the midwife or health visitor.

The wishes of the mother are as import­ant as the needs of the baby. Whichever method is adopted, satisfactory infant feeding depends on a contented baby and a happy mother.

Breast milk is quite different from cow’s milk. It looks rather like water, and indeed many mothers think that their milk is “no good for the baby” because it looks so watery. This is not the case: breast milk is meant to look exactly the way it does. It also contains valuable antibodies. As long as the mother is eating well, the baby will receive all the nutrients he needs in his first months.

Breast-feeding is easier than bottle-feeding. The milk does not need to be sterilized, nor does it need to be warmed. It does not have to be specially stored, nor does it have to be prepared before use.

When to feed

Many mothers prefer the idea of fixed feeding times. During the first weeks of the baby’s life, however, they will be lucky and unusual if their baby also prefers fixed feeding times! Demand feeding usually turns out to be more satisfactory for both mother and baby. Instead of keeping a crying baby waiting for his next feed, or waking a sleeping baby when it is “time” to feed him, the baby is fed when he is hungry.

In fact, babies who are on a self-demand schedule usually acquire a routine of their own. Feeding times will rarely be evenly spaced but will nevertheless be found to occur at about the same time every day.

All babies need feeding at night for at least their first six weeks of life. Some persist in wanting an extra night feed for weeks or even months. In these circumstances, patience is the only solution. The baby will not go on wanting to be fed at 2am or 3am for ever; in the meantime it would be unfair to refuse his demand.

How much to give

There is no accurate way of telling how much milk a baby takes when he is breast­fed. For some mothers, this uncertainty is one of the strongest inducements to bottle-feed. If, however, a mother can be per­suaded to continue with breast-feeding, within a very short time she will know well enough whether or not her baby is satisfied.

The position of the baby

The baby should feed with both the nipple and the surrounding area in his mouth for the best flow. Make sure he has room to breathe, and that his head is above the level of his stomach.

How long to take

Feeding time is not merely an opportunity get food into the baby. Mother and baby need to get to know each other and to bu up the ties that come from the physical contact of feeding.

As a general rule, about ten minutes sucking at each breast is adequate, but it is usually recommended that one breast at least is emptied at each feed. It is customary to start the feed on alternate sides. Some babies get all they want from one breast, others need only five minutes on each side. Others still are only content if they are allowed twenty minutes or more at each breast. A new mother will be given advice about how long to take over feeds from the hospital or her health visitor, and she will soon learn to know when her baby has had enough at each feed.

Alleviating mothers’ anxieties

Many mothers want to breast-feed, but feel that their supply is inadequate. In the first few days after birth this is quite normal. After that nature usually achieves a perfect balance between the demands of the baby and the mother’s ability to satisfy him.

There are no specific foods or fluids which will improve the mother’s supply of milk. Neither are there any special medicines which are known to help. A mother who really feels worried that her baby is not thriving because she has not got enough milk should take expert advice.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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