Breastfeeding the natural way gives your baby the best start in life. Feeding a baby with the milk that has been produced by its mother’s body is the best thing she can do for him or her. Babies need milk for the first year of life and that is a very short time in a very long life. Our Western society has done great damage to our young by portraying the female breast a sexual object. We expect out babies to become independent almost immediately they are born by leaving them to sleep alone, not holding them enough and by trying to impose feeding routines. In other cultures around the world girls grow up surrounded by mothers feeding their young. Sisters, aunts, friends all breastfeed and so for them is the normal way. These cultures do not have the problems that Western women experience. Midwives often hear women say “I will breastfeed if I can” or “I am going to try”. The doubts that they will succeed make it more likely that they will have problems. If a woman has had breast changes during her pregnancy she will be able to breast feed. Women who genuinely are unable to feed their young amount to approx 2% of the female population and the difficulties are mainly due to structural changes of the breast such a enlargements or reductions.
If a woman decides to breastfeed and goes on to receive the correct advice and information she will feed with relatively few problems. Breastfeeding is the ongoing process of pregnancy and birth. It is normal and natural. Like a good birth experience it can be rewarding and give deep feelings of satisfaction. However in our society the decision to breastfeed our young require courage and confidence.
Human milk is unique and meets all the nutritional requirements of the baby. It cannot be compared with that of any other mammal and cannot be copied as it changes in its composition depending on time of day, stage of lactation and maternal nutrition. Colostrum, which is produced in the early days following birth, is very high in protein and protects the baby from developing allergies, asthma, gastroenteritis and certain cancers. Further more certain components of formula milk have recently been implicated as a trigger for the development of diabetes. The mother who breast-feeds her young is also protected against breast cancer, (which is almost unheard of in the African countries) and brittle bone diseases.
Mother and baby should not separated following birth the baby must remain in the mother’s arms and against her skin. Very soon the baby will display rooting the reflex and if left will find the breast and self attach. By keeping the baby and mother skin to skin the mother will meet her baby’s need for warmth and nourishment. Making sure that the attachment and latch is correct will optimise the feed obtained and ensure comfort for the mother. Incorrect latch is the sole reason for sore nipples and even mastitis in the vast majority of cases. The correct position for the baby is for it to be high in the mother’s arms lying across her body and ticked under her arm with the mother’s main supporting arm being the one opposite to the breast that begins the feed. The baby should be completely turned on its side so that its tummy is against the mother’s body. Mother should support the neck but not push on the baby’s head and the baby’s chin should touch the breast prior to the mouth. The baby should obtain a large amount of breast tissue and not suck on the nipple alone. The main principle is that it should not hurt and if it does it is not a correct latch.