Motherhood can be an exciting period but sometimes, new mothers may be at a loss to the best way to care for their new baby’s needs, especially in the area of feeding. Questions like how often her baby should be fed?, how long the baby should be fed?, how long she should breastfeed?, kinds of food to wean her baby with? if it’s okay to sleep while breastfeeding her baby can be a source of concern to a mother. For the best for a mother and child, proper education is therefore important.
How long a mother should breastfed her child exclusively
Health organisations, including the World Health Organisation [WHO], recommend six months for exclusively breastfeeding babies. They add that a child should be breastfed for one year. Mothers are also advised that no other food or drinks should be given to the child until six months. According to Dr Taiwo Babayomi, the Managing Director, Mobolaji Hospital, Oke Bola Ibadan, “after the introduction of other foods at six months, such as tea, cereal, corn meal [pap], recommendation includes continued breastfeeding until at least one to two years.” Mothers with certain medical conditions or on medication are not allowed to breastfeed. Such mothers should seek consultation from their doctors if a case like this arises.
Why your baby needs breast milk for six months
Breast milk makes the child’s bone stronger; makes the body fit and healthy; decreases the risk of asthma, food allergies, celiac disease; it may also improve cognitive development and decrease the risk of obesity in adulthood. Breast milk possesses all the nutrients babies need for good health and growth. It stimulates the immature immune system of the babies and also improves response to vaccinations. It contains several antibodies and enzymes that help the baby grow up to resist diseases. Breast milk contains enough sugar, water, milk and most especially antibodies which are safety mechanisms that prevent babies from getting infections or diseases. This is something no infant formula can provide. It also has the advantage of no requirement of heating, no risk of spoiling and no requirement of sterilisation.
What mothers stand to gain from breastfeeding
Women who breastfeed also derive several benefits in addition to protecting and nourishing their babies. Experts state that they have lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Other benefits include less blood loss following delivery and better uterus shrinkage. It also delays the onset of menstruation and fertility. It is also highly helpful in burning calories and consequently losing weight. Most importantly, it also creates the love and affection between the mother and child, which is called bonding.
How much and how many hours should a baby be fed?
According to Dr Muyiwa Ajibade, a paediatrician, newborn babies should be fed more often both day and night but this can reduce as the baby grows older. The baby should be allowed to breastfeed till he or she is full and pulls away from the breast. Mothers need to ensure that they breastfeed from one breast till it’s empty before they switch to the second. If she swaps breasts in the middle of feeding without emptying one, it would cause the breast to engorge with milk and this can be painful. Also, it is important that to check that the baby is latched on well to the breast — the baby’s mouth should cover the areola and not just the nipple.”
How to wean a child off breast milk
Giving up breastfeeding can be an emotional experience for both the mother and child. Though some women find it difficult to wean their babies off breast milk, weaning does not necessarily signal the end of the intimate bond which is created through nursing between a mother and her child. It just means the mother is nourishing or nurturing her baby in a different way. According to Dr Babayomi, “before a mother can stop breastfeeding her child, she must have introduced other kinds of food which the child may come to like, such as tea, pap, water, and so on. An infant cannot suddenly stop taking breast milk when he is not familiar with others.”
Experts state that a baby should never be fed with adult milk but formula specially constituted for children.
Breastfeeding while sleeping
Mothers breastfeed as often times as the baby cries, even at night when the mother is tired and needs to sleep. Most times, babies need to be fed at night and many new mothers fall asleep while breastfeeding. Although, co-sleeping has proven beneficial as mothers who share bed with their babies tend to breastfeed longer and maintain exclusive breastfeeding longer than those who don’t co-sleep, it could also portend danger in certain cases. According to Dr Babayomi, “mothers who tend to breastfeed at night should always be alert because anything can happen. There is something called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) which may occur while breastfeeding. SIDS occurs in this case when the baby ceases to breath normally or at all and to prevent this, mothers should always stay awake and be vigilant especially while breastfeeding at night.”
What a mother can do to increase breast milk supply especially after putting to bed
Breastfeeding mothers are advised to eat one or two portions of green leafy vegetables daily, eat nutritious food, drink enough milk and beverages and also take fruits regularly to boost milk supply. Drinking plenty of water is important for a mother’s personal growth and increasing breast milk supply.