Breastfeeding - Practical Answers To Make Your Experience Simple And Easy

Breastfeeding is a natural phenomenon associated with the loving and compassionate journey of motherhood. The benefits of breastfeeding are emphasised at all times until every woman entering the phase knows the importance of the whole process!

But as your parenting support partners, we want to answer some basic questions which every mother comes across at the time of actual beginning or during the breastfeeding journey. These questions come across when you actually start the phase of breastfeeding. 

You will get a lot of advice from everyone about breastfeeding, but as an informed parent ask your paediatrician and trust your instincts about your child.

To solve some of your doubts and make you feel confident about this blissful experience, we have compiled a list here. 

How Often Should you breastfeed?

How many times you should breastfeed varies with the age of the child. Newborn babies might need to nurse 8-12 times a day and must feed during sleep also and the gap should never be more than 4 hours. By the time they are 1-2 months old, their feeding cycle can change to 7-8 times a day, upto six months or until they exclusively breastfeed. After starting solid food, you should gradually increase food meals and continue feeding 4-5 times a day or whenever the child demands. The number of feeds per day may rise during growth spurts. You should be concerned if the frequency of feeding reduces suddenly when the child is exclusively breastfeeding. Every child is born with the intuition to breastfeed. It is advised to manage the same gap between their feeds so that the child doesn't get too hungry and unconsolable. Everything is absolutely normal as long as the baby is breastfeeding regularly, not vomiting after feeding, and sleeps well. 

How long should you breastfeed?

It is advised that every baby should be breastfed exclusively for upto six months and after the introduction of solids, the babies should be nursed atleast upto the age of 1 to 2 years. The colostrum (The first milk that comes from breasts immediately after delivery) is sufficient to produce antibodies in the baby to fight the infections during the initial days after birth. Regular breastfeeding enhances the Passive Immunity of babies and improves it with age. (Read our blog on Immunity and foods)

In some cultures, the children are breastfed upto 4 to 5 years of age, however, doctors recommend an optimal time of 2 years or whenever the mother and baby can positively and comfortably wean off. Once the baby starts eating solid food properly, the breastmilk will only be a source of a complete range of vitamins and nutrients in the form of supplements rather than for satiating hunger. 

Did you know that breastmilk evolves with the age of babies and produces antibodies for fighting off infections causing diarrhoea, fever, breathing problems and improves digestion system? Although, the lower frequency of breastfeeding should be counterbalanced with solid food after six months of age for complete nutrition. 

To Pump Or Not?

Pump, definitely pump, as and when you want, wherever you want! Pumping breastmilk/ Expressed milk has been a norm in the western world for more than four decades, while in our country, it has been only recently accepted and adopted in the last decade itself. There are many taboos around pumping breastmilk, which need to be crossed out big time! Pumping is safe and does not affect the quality of the breastmilk. Not all mothers can direct breastfeed for a year due to various reasons such as work and health issues. This should not be the reason to deprive your baby of the goodness of this process and pumping breastmilk comes to the rescue. Breastpumps are manual or electronic, used as many times as required. It assures constant supply to your child who is exclusively breastfeeding even in your absence, and balance natural immunity boosters in their bloodstream!

How to Store the Breastmilk?

Expressed breastmilk can be stored for upto 1 year in specific temperature requirements. It can be stored in a bottle at room temperature for 4 hours and upto 4 days in the refrigerator and upto 1 year in the freezer. In case you need to keep express milk during travelling, it can be stored in a vacuum or insulated cooler with frozen ice packs for upto 24 hours and then be used or refrigerated immediately. There are many sealable breastmilk storage bags available in the market for long term storage. Store them in glass or in food-grade containers and bottles for daily use. Hygiene is the topmost priority for correct breastmilk storage

Always keep the storage container at the back of the fridge or refrigerator where the temperature is lowest and does not change. Never store in the doors as the temperature on doors changes frequently due to constant opening and closing. Do not store expressed milk in plastic containers or disposable plastic items not suitable for breastmilk.

Is Switching breasts compulsory?

It is not mandatory but advised to balance the production and supply in both breasts. Usually, each breast is sufficient to satiate the baby. However, if the child falls asleep before feeding is complete, or to get relief from over-full breasts (that cause painful engorgement) switching sides is recommended. But if the feedings are very often or in the case of multiples, where the chance of having full-breasts is less, switching sides during every feed is not necessary. Also switching sides pre-maturely (before 10 minutes) can cause fore-milk and hind-milk imbalance and lead to colic. (Read Colic in Babies Blog). Adopt the pattern of breastfeeding from the very beginning before your child gets habituated with one side. 

How often do you need to burp the baby?

Babies should be burped after every feed, while switching breasts or before restarting if your baby falls asleep while feeding and wakes up immediately to feed more.

There is no specific length of time or number of times to do this the right way, the pattern is different for each baby. Hold your baby upright with head supported on your shoulders with the gentlest pat or rub on the back for a minute or two. If the baby doesn't burp for upto 5 minutes, you can still put them down. The burping process time is to be adjusted according to your baby's conditions regarding spitting up, vomiting and comfort.

When to introduce solids?

You must have heard about starting solids for babies after 6 months of age, but we shall tell you why behind it! The exploration of other foods such as purees, mashed pulses can be started once -

The baby is six months old,

Can hold their head themselves,

Weighs more than 13 pounds or around

Shows attraction and interest in food that you eat in front of them.

All of these above points are a sign that your baby's digestive system is ready to start a form of food other than breastmilk. If not specifically told by the paediatrician, solids should be started after 6 months only.

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