Breastfeeding: Feeding a child human breast milk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, human breast milk is preferred for all infants. This includes even premature and sick babies, with rare exceptions. It is the food least likely to cause allergic reactions; it is inexpensive; it is readily available at any hour of the day or night; babies accept the taste readily; and the antibodies in breast milk can help a baby resist infections.
In breast milk, the amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are well balanced for the human baby, as are the sugars (primarily lactose) and fats. The baby's intestinal tract is best aided in its digestion by the vitamins, enzymes, and minerals found in breast milk. Breast fed babies do eat more often than formula fed babies since breast milk is more quickly digested and leaves the stomach empty more frequently.
The prospect of breastfeeding can be daunting: What if my baby doesn't latch on? What if there's not enough milk? What if it hurts too much? The best way to handle the anxiety: Learn as much as possible about breastfeeding before you start. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies breast feed exclusively for at least six months and at least partially, in combination with solids, until they turn 1. Not everyone can achieve that, but here's what you need to know - about getting your baby to latch on properly, how breastfeeding affects you, and more - so you both can get the best start.
Why Exclusive Breast Milk?
From the moment your baby is born, your body starts producing the perfect mix of nutrients in your breast milk for him. While formula contains essential vitamins and proteins that a baby needs, it doesn't have all the benefits of breast milk, such as antibodies that strengthen your baby's immune system.
It's good for your baby.
Research shows that breast fed babies are significantly less likely to suffer from ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia, asthma, diabetes, and urinary-tract infections, as well as from food allergies and eczema if your family has a history of either. Nursing may also boost babies' brainpower. Mother's milk also helps protect babies from becoming obese later in life, and girls who are breast fed are also less likely to develop breast cancer as adults.
It's good for you.
Oxytocin, a hormone released during nursing, helps to return your uterus to its regular size more quickly and reduces postpartum bleeding. Breastfeeding also burns about 500 calories a day, which can help you lose your baby weight faster. And women who nurse are at lower risk of developing breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly osteoporosis. Not to mention that breastfeeding is convenient (no bottles to wash or formula to mix) and cheaper than formula (you need only a few nursing bras and a breast pump).
Baby needs it give it
Your first milk is colostrum, a thick, yellowish pre-milk that's high in the fats and proteins your newborn needs and easy for her to digest. It's also extremely rich in the substances that protect her against infections.
Two to five days after birth:
Your milk will begin to "come in" now. This transitional milk is thinner than colostrum but far more plentiful, and higher in lactose and fat, which help your baby's brain develop. Your breasts will feel their largest and firmest now. You'll begin to feel your milk "let down," or move through your breasts - often described as a pins-and-needles sensation.
Two weeks after birth:
Your milk will become even thinner and more watery, but it's still rich in nutrients. Your breasts will probably feel smaller and softer now. Mature milk becomes fattier over the course of a feeding (the first part is mainly water), so allow your baby to drink for about ten minutes before you switch to the other breast.
Make breast feeding easy
Nursing can be physically draining. So rest as often as you can, and drink lots of water. Consider letting your baby sleep in your bedroom in a crib, bassinet, or co-sleeping attachment (a low crib right next to your bed) so you don't have to go far to feed her. Initially, nursing can be painful. A topical moisturizing cream for your nipples may help - just ask your doctor which kinds are safe for your baby. And, of course, support from your partner, family, or friends can make the process easier.
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