Mother’s breast milk is the perfect start for babies. It has all the nutrients in the right quantities and is packed full of disease-fighting antibodies. It is free, needs no preparation and is available wherever mum is and whenever baby needs a feed.
Babies will let you know when they are ready for a feed. Clues include sucking noises, hands moving towards the mouth or baby turning towards your breast. All babies are different. Some may feed for 10 – 20 minutes on each breast. However much or long they need, it is best, whenever possible, to feed when baby wants to.
Prop up your feet and support your arms and head with pillows. But the most important thing is to remain relaxed. Babies pick up on mother’s anxiety and stress.
Here are some interesting facts about breast milk, breastfeeding and babies that we found fascinating.
- Your baby can smell you. Newborns have a strong sense of smell and know the unique scent of your breast milk. That is why your baby will turn his or her head to you when he or she is hungry.
- Is baby feeding enough? As long as your baby appears content and satisfied after feeds, is healthy and alert when awake, is gaining weight after the first few weeks, is feeding regularly and has at least six wet nappies in every 24 hours, your little one is probably getting all the nutritious milk needed. Seek advice from your healthy visitor or doctor if you have any concerns.
- Your baby can see you up close and personal. Babies are born extremely nearsighted, which means they can only see things about 8 to 15 inches away. That also happens to be the distance between your face and your baby’s face when breastfeeding. So when your baby locks eyes with you, it’s a true bonding moment.
- The very best thing you can do for your milk supply is nurse your baby often. Breastmilk is very easily and quickly digested so a newborn will want to nurse at least 10-12 times in 24 hours. Usually this spaces out to about every couple of hours but it’s common for babies to nurse every hour or so in the evening.
- Breastfeeding allows your body to recover from pregnancy and childbirth more quickly. The hormones released when you breastfeed make your uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy size.
- Breastfeeding exposes your baby to many different tastes. Formula has one taste. But through your breast milk, your baby eventually gets a slight taste of whatever you eat, although not directly. This will later make introducing solid foods easier.
- Breastfeeding may help you to lose weight. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed can burn as many as 600 calories a day, which may help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight.
- Your body starts getting ready to breastfeed during pregnancy. After you give birth, your body gets the final signal to make milk, which is usually more than one newborn can handle. Why? Your body doesn’t know whether you have one, two, three, four, or more babies to feed. Your supply then regulates to meet your baby’s (or babies’) needs.
- Before your milk comes in, in the first few days after birth, your breasts make a thick, sticky, yellowish fluid sometimes referred to as “liquid gold.” Called colostrum, this liquid has the calcium, potassium, proteins, minerals, and antibodies your baby needs. Your baby needs only a few teaspoons to feel full and stay healthy until your milk flow increases, about two to five days after birth.
- Your breast milk changes during a feeding session. When your baby first starts to nurse, your milk is thinner and thirst-quenching. Toward the end of the feeding session, your baby gets thicker, fat-rich milk, which gives your baby the calories needed to grow healthy and strong.
- Breast milk heals. Breast milk is filled with special components that are designed to help fight infection and cut down on swelling in the breast. So, if your breasts are sore those first few days, gently massaging some of your milk into your nipples and breasts can soothe the soreness and speed up recovery.
- Once a baby learns to latch on correctly it shouldn’t hurt to breastfeed. Always let your nipples dry before getting dressed again and a thin smear of white soft paraffin or purified lanolin can help with any cracks or bleeding. Also wearing cotton lined bras helps air to circulate. If soreness persists, seek advice from your midwife.
- Babies drink until they feel full, not until the breast is emptied. On average, babies remove 67% of the milk mum has available.
- Your body is constantly making the perfect milk for baby. Milk changes its nutritional profile as baby grows (milk made for a 3 month old is different than for a 9 month old). Milk can even change day to day—for example, water content may increase during times of hot weather and baby-sickness to provide extra hydration.
- Your right breast produces more milk. Almost 75% of all mums produce more milk in their right breast, whether they are right or left handed.
- Human milk contains substances that promote sleep and calmness in babies. Breastfeeding also calms you and helps you to bond with your baby.
- Breastfeeding doesn’t cause your breasts to sag. Pregnancy hormones can stretch the ligaments that support your breasts, so wearing a well-fitting bra while you’re pregnant is a must.
- Breastfed babies typically get sick less. Human milk boosts a baby’s immune system helping baby fight viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, including ear infections, diarrhoea, and stomach problems.
- Children who are breastfed have a lower rate of certain illnesses as they grow up. Babies who are not breastfed have a higher risk of asthma, diabetes, and childhood obesity.
- You can still breastfeed while sick. In fact, it’s good for your baby. When you get sick, your body starts fighting the illness by making antibodies, which then get passed on to your baby. By the time you show symptoms of illness, your baby has already been exposed to the virus or bacteria, which boosts your baby’s immune system. By continuing to breastfeed, you’re not just keeping your milk supply up, but you’re further protecting your baby from getting sick in the future.