Breastfeeding Basics


Breastfeeding Basics

Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the necessary vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness. Throughout the period of feeding the composition of breast milk changes matching the needs of the baby.

WHO recommends to exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. After that, recommends the introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.


Immediately after birth (and sometimes, in the third trimester of pregnancy) colostrum - a thick, viscous yellowish liquid is released. The amount of nutrient substances in colostrum and its energy value are significantly greater than mature milk. Colostrum is rich in proteins, carbohydrates with a low content of fat. Together with colostrum, useful microorganisms (bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) and other elements contributing to the formation of healthy intestinal flora, are received by the baby.

Colostrum also contains high concentrations of protective white cells (leukocytes) which can destroy disease-causing bacteria and viruses.

Colostrum is extremely easy to digest, and is therefore the perfect first food for your baby. It is low in volume (measurable in teaspoons), but high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn. Colostrum has a laxative effect on the baby, helping him pass his early stools, which aids in the excretion of excess bilirubin and helps prevent jaundice.

The colostrum gradually changes to mature milk during the first two weeks after birth. When your baby is breastfed early and often, your breasts will begin producing mature milk around the third or fourth day after birth. Your milk will then increase in volume and will generally begin to appear thinner and whiter (more opaque) in color. In those first few days it is extremely important to breastfeed your newborn at least 8-12 times each 24 hours, and more often is even better. This allows your baby to get all the benefits of the colostrum and also stimulates production of a plentiful supply of mature milk. Frequent breastfeeding also helps prevent engorgement.

During this transition, the concentrations of the antibodies in your milk decrease, but your milk volume greatly increases. The disease-fighting properties of human milk do not disappear with the colostrum. In fact, as long as your baby receives your milk, he will receive immunological protection against many different viruses and bacteria.

How do you know that the baby is hungry?

Babies should be fed when they indicate hunger. Crying is a late indicator of hunger – breastfeeding is much easier for both mom and baby if mom is able to pick up on baby’s earlier hunger cues.

Common infant hunger Clues include:
  • Smacking or licking lips
  • Opening and closing mouth
  • Sucking on lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes, toys, or clothing
  • Rooting around on the chest of whoever is carrying him
  • Trying to position for nursing, either by lying back or pulling on your clothes
  • Fidgeting or squirming around a lot
  • Hitting you on the arm or chest repeatedly
  • Fussing or breathing fast
  • Moving head frantically from side to side
  • Crying

Waking the baby to feed?

Feeding frequently in the early weeks helps make sure you have a good milk supply and most toddlers will develop their own feeding cycles at around 3-4 weeks old. If you do need to wake your baby for feeds, here are some tips:
  • Change your baby’s nappy.
  • Breastfeed in a different position e.g. some mothers find the underarm helps keep the baby awake.
  • Undress your baby down to his nappy and place him on your chest with as much skin-to-skin contact between you and him as possible.
  • Give your baby a warm bath.
  • Talk to him and make eye contact.
  • Place your baby on your lap with his legs near your tummy and head on your knees. Gently support your baby, raise him into a sitting position, like doing a ‘sit-up’. Repeat a few times.
  • Gently massage his back in circular motions.
  • Stroke his feet and hands.

Babies can breastfeed even when not fully awake. Once your baby is feeding, some of the ideas above can be used to keep him awake and feeding. In addition, it can help to switch breasts each time your baby slows in his sucking and starts to doze off. Take him off, burp him and wake him again to start on the other side. He can have each side more than once if he stays awake.

Proper breastfeeding is the key to success

A good latch is vital to successful breastfeeding. The following techniques used with proper positioning, can help ensure a good latch:
  • Get in a comfortable chair with great back support to feed your baby. Using a stool to rest your feet on will help with good posture and prevent you from straining your neck and shoulders.
  • Use your breastfeeding support pillow if you have one. (And if you don’t, use whatever kind of pillows you can find to help support you and the baby.) A good breastfeeding pillow can make a huge difference in getting the baby in a proper position to latch on well.
  • Make sure your baby is tummy-to-tummy with you at all times.
  • Make sure you bring your baby to you, and do not try to lean into the baby. Not only will this cause severe strain on your neck and shoulders, but it can affect the baby’s position.
  • Remember to keep your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip in alignment, which will make swallowing easier.
  • The baby’s nose should be opposite the nipple.
  • You might need to hold your breast to help guide the nipple to your baby’s mouth. Grasp the breast on the sides, using either a “C” hold or “U” hold. Make sure to keep fingers far from the nipple so you don’t affect how baby latches on.
  • Aim the nipple toward the baby’s upper lip/nose, not the middle of the mouth. You might need to rub the nipple across the top lip to get your baby to open his/her mouth.
  • The baby’s head should be tilted slightly back. You do not want his chin to his chest.
  • When he opens his mouth wide with the chin dropped and tongue down, he should latch on to the nipple. If he does not open wide, do not try to shove the nipple in and wiggle the mouth open. It is best to move back, tickle the lip again with the nipple and wait for a wide open mouth.
  • Try to get as much of the lower portion of the areola (the area around the nipple) in the baby’s mouth.
  • The baby’s chin should indent the lower portion of your breast.
  • Look to see if the baby’s bottom and top lip are flanged out like fish lips. If they are not, you may use your finger to pull the bottom one down and open up the top one more.

Remember, breastfeeding should not be painful. A good latch will help keep discomfort to a minimum. When the baby has not latched on well, other problems can develop including cracked and sore nipples. Once you get accustomed to positioning your baby and helping him/her get a good latch, breastfeeding can be a wonderful, pain-free bonding experience between you and your baby.


* Important Note: Breastfeeding should be maintained as long as possible, however if this is not possible, a pediatrician can help you choose a suitable breast milk substitute.


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