Friday, October 13, 2006

Breastfeeding and Bottle-Feeding Babies

A lot has been said about whether it is better to breastfeed your baby or choose bottle-feeding. Both methods of nurturing your baby have their benefits and drawbacks. One important thing to remember is that if you start with breastfeeding, you can later switch to bottle without much difficulty but not the other way around. Before choosing your method of feeding your baby, take a look at what benefits each of these two feeding methods offers.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Mother's breast milk is the perfect baby food available to the infant in the right time and at the right temperature. It is always there upon the baby's demand and provides many health benefits for both the mother and the child. All the essential nutrients required for the baby's growth are naturally present in the breast milk. It is a food easy to digest and therefore does not cause constipation in the infant. Mother's milk has antibodies that further the baby's immune system and reduce the risk of diseases like eczema and diabetes in later life. For women, especially those who need to lose weight, breastfeeding is especially recommended. This is because longer-term breastfeeding helps lose extra weight that is usually added during pregnancy.

How to Proceed with Breastfeeding

It is advisable to put your baby to your breast as soon after delivery as possible. The baby's sucking starts sending signals to the mother's body and encourages milk production. Before the breast milk comes, colostrum (the thick, yellowish first milk) is produced to feed the baby for the first 3 to 4 days. It is low in fat and so easy to digest by the infant's delicate digestive system. Also, it is packed with protein, carbohydrates, and antibodies (which boost the baby's immunity). It keeps the baby safe from infection. After 4 to 5 days, colostrum is replaced by regular breast milk.

Regular Breastfeeding

When the breasts start producing milk, the mother feels a little tenderness and discomfort. There is nothing to worry about this feeling and it naturally disappears after a few days. Still, to minimize its effect, you can wear a well-fitting nursing bra and gently express a little milk before starting to breastfeed the baby. This will relieve any fullness felt as a sign of discomfort.

Self-Expressing

Since many women find it hard to be around every time the baby demands their milk, they want to self-express so that the baby can get breast milk even when they are away. This may be difficult for many women, especially in the beginning. Following tips are helpful in successfully expressing your milk at an early stage.

Persist in expressing even if it does not work at first. With time, it gets easier.

You may use an electric or battery pump or just a hand-held pump.

Refrain from expressing in the first few weeks because a normal baby's sucking is the most natural and effective mechanism of drawing milk from the mother's breasts.

If your baby is still tiny, you are not very likely to get enough milk at each session of self-expressing and more than one session will be needed to get enough milk to keep for the wee infant.

After expressing, place the breast milk immediately in the fridge or freezer. In fridge, you can leave it for as long as 48 hours. In a sterile container, it can be frozen for up to three months. However, do not forget to put a label on it along with the date of freezing. After defrosting, use it within 24 hours.

Encouraging Milk Flow for Expressing

If you are having difficulty with expressing, you can encourage milk flow to make the process easy. A few simple ways of doing this are by: (1) taking a hot bath or shower a little before starting to express (2) sitting calmly and relaxing (3) looking silently at your baby or a photo of his/her (4) expressing straight after a meal, especially in the early morning when the breasts are full.

Bottle-Feeding

Although formula milk is not as rich in the natural nutrients the baby requires, it does contain essential ingredients to meet the baby's growth needs. A major benefit of feeding milk by bottle is that relatives other than the mother (Dad, uncles, aunts etc.) can be more involved in the feeding process. In case of bottle-feeding, remember to use only formula milk or breast milk in the bottle. Do not feed babies younger than one year with cows milk; it is hard to digest and can cause an allergic reaction. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on the package in case you use the powdered formula milk. Use sterilized equipment to prevent infection. Do not let a youngster feed your baby via bottle unless you or some other adult is there to supervise.

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