Breast milk is considered the best food for babies because it meets specific nutritional requirements of an infant. Studies have shown the first milk that comes out, known as colostrum, which is thick and yellow, plays a big role in boosting the baby’s health. Breastfed babies have a healthier start in life.
Breast milk has a balance of nutrients that closely match the baby’s requirements for brain development, growth and a healthy immune system. Breast milk contains immunologic agents (agents that boost the immune system) and other compounds that act against viruses, bacteria and parasites.
Numerous studies have found that breastfed babies are less susceptible to respiratory infections, ear infections and diarrhoea since breast milk is uncontaminated. Other studies have found that breastfed babies gain less weight and tend to be leaner at the age of one. This serves as an indicator of a healthier baby in future where he will not be overweight or suffer obesity. Breastfeeding is also beneficial to lactating mothers. It releases a hormone that causes the uterus to return to its normal size and shape more quickly and also reduces blood loss after delivery. Breastfeeding for a longer period, say up to two years, lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Other benefits are weight loss and a remedy for postpartum anxiety and depression since the mother gets emotionally attached to the baby. Unfortunately, not all women are able to breastfeed comfortably mainly due to low breast milk supply, which is a common problem experienced by a number of nursing mothers. Poor nutrition, sore nipples, baby’s inability to suck properly, or stress can cause inadequate supply of milk. But these factors are preventable. There are ways to boost your milk supply so that you can nurse a healthy baby and we give you tips below. Boosting milk secretion…
• Breastfeed and pump breasts frequently: Most women don’t produce milk immediately after delivery. This is normally due to hormonal imbalance. In such cases, milk starts oozing one to five days after birth, depending on the individual. To enhance milk secretion, the mother needs to breastfeed the baby in order to ‘awaken’ the hormones that boost milk production, even when no milk is coming out. Suckling causes the release of prolactin hormone, which starts milk production. This leads to the release of oxytocin hormone that causes the ‘letdown reflex’ of the milk glands. The milk is squeezed out of the milk gland into the milk ducts and into the nipple – this process is known as the ‘let-down reflex’. Frequent breastfeeding and breast pumping, preferably eight to 12 times a day, will ensure the release of these hormones and production of more milk.
• Eat a balanced diet: Without proper
nutrition, you cannot produce milk. Ensure you eat a balanced diet that will supply you with essential minerals to boost milk production, including vitamins, proteins, calcium and iron. Also, take lots of liquids that will provide you with the necessary minerals and boost your energy level.
Liquids like fruit and vegetable juices, bone soup and water should always be stocked in your house. Consider snacking during the day. This is not the time to snack on junk foods, but rather on healthy foods like vegetables and fruits. Avoid taking alcohol and smoking when nursing.
• Avoid stress:
Even though stress cannot be avoided especially after birth and when nursing your baby, try as much as possible to relax. You can take some time off when the baby is asleep to unwind. You can take a nap or sit alone in a quiet place and reflect on your life. Consider taking a long warm bath using a relaxing bath gel. Also, consider leaving your baby in the care of someone you trust and treat yourself in a day spa. Unwind in the Jacuzzi or steam bath or get a massage.
• Give both breasts at every feeding:
Offer both breasts when breastfeeding, alternating to ensure the baby suckles equally from each. This ensures equal milk secretion. Let the baby suckle on one breast for a few minutes then switch to the other. Ensure that she doesn’t suckle on one breast for long as she may get enough milk and refuse the other breast. Compress your breasts during breastfeeding to ensure all milk is drained. Ensure the baby has a good latch when breastfeeding.