The benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby

Breast milk is the common food for infants. Breastfeeding, or chest feeding, has many benefits for both the breastfeeding woman and the child. Breast milk contains antibodies that can protect infants against disease. It may also reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer for breastfeeding women.

However, breastfeeding is not for everyone. Formula is a safe and nutritionally complete alternative. The many benefits of breastmilk mean that any breastmilk, whether given to the breast or pumped, is almost always beneficial for the infant.

Breastfeeding is a personal choice. However, it is important to know a few facts. Here’s the gist:

Breastfeeding works on the principle of supply and demand, so breastfeeding more often increases milk supply. Colostrum is the early breast milk produced immediately after childbirth. It is produced in small quantities, but is rich in antibodies and other important cells. A few days after childbirth, the female body begins to produce mature milk in greater quantities.

The best breastfeeding positions

For the new mother, it can be difficult to find a comfortable breastfeeding position. Experimenting with different positions can help find the best position for herself and their child(ren). Whichever position you choose, care must be taken that the baby is on the parent’s stomach, not on his back, with his head turned towards the breast. The baby must be able to move his head, neck and lips freely. Resist the temptation to press on the back of the baby’s head to help latch on.

Here are some popular positions to try

The cradle

A comfortable option in the weeks following birth, this position involves holding the baby’s body in the same hand as the breast the baby is breastfeeding. Rock the baby with their body facing the parent, and provide extra support with the free hand. This hand can also help the baby latch on or adjust the latch.

Lying on the side

This is a good position when mom needs to rest, as it involves mom and baby lying on their side, facing each other. The new mother may need to adjust her position to achieve the most comfortable latch. This position can be beneficial for the mother who has a large amount of milk or a strong let-down.

The cross cradle

Similar to the cradle position, this position involves the mother sitting in an upright position and cradling the baby. The mother uses the hand opposite the breast on which the baby is nursing to hold the baby, which makes it easier to adjust the position of the baby’s head.

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A good option for older babies with good head control. The baby sits on the parent’s lap, facing them, and nurses in an upright position, often with the legs straddling the nursing mother.

Breastfeeding in a lying position

This is a good position for skin-to-skin and allows the baby to lie on top of the nursing parent. The nursing mother lays down, and the couple lies belly to belly. Both hands are free for the breastfeeding mother to support the baby’s head and change position.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is beneficial for both the breastfeeding mother and the baby. It can also be affordable and accessible for most people who are able to breastfeed.

Here are some of those benefits:

Convenience: Breastfeeding mothers do not need to pack bottles or formula.

Affordability: Breastfeeding is free, although a pump and bottles can increase the cost.

Safety: Breast milk is always clean, safe and at the right temperature. Formula is safe. However, a parent should mix it with clean water. In some areas, it can be difficult to have access to drinking water.

When a mother breastfeeds, her body reacts to the needs of the infant.

The infant’s saliva provides information about its general health, which causes the mother’s body to modify the milk. This means that a mother’s breast milk always contains exactly what her baby needs, even if her needs change over hours, days, weeks or even years.

Metabolites (small molecules) in breast milk can influence the infant’s digestive system and immune system, among other things. They may also benefit them by reducing the risk of:

– respiratory infections
– ear infections
– asthma
– allergies
– obesity
– type 1 diabetes
– gastrointestinal infections
– sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

For premature or medically vulnerable infants, breast milk is especially important. Preterm infants who receive breast milk have higher survival rates, lower rates of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), and shorter stays in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Breastfeeding can also support the health of the nursing parent, providing benefits such as:

– a natural form of contraception, as full-time breastfeeding can delay the return of menstruation
– a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer
– a lower risk of type 2 diabetes

How to bring a baby to the breast?

When hungry, most babies open their mouths, stick out their tongues. These natural reflexes indicate that the baby is ready to eat. When hungry, babies instinctively look for a pacifier to hold on to. However, latching on can be difficult, and this is the hardest part of breastfeeding for many parents. A woman can try these techniques for a baby who is reluctant to latch or won’t open her mouth:

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– Start by making sure that the breastfeeding mother is in a comfortable position.
– Place the baby tummy to tummy. Make sure he can move his head freely. Support it with one hand at the base of the skull, not the back of the head.
– Place the baby so that the nipple is pointing towards his nose. The baby’s head can be tilted back slightly, with the chin against the breast.
– Tickle the baby’s lip with the nipple until he opens his mouth.
– When the baby’s mouth is wide open, gently pull the baby’s body towards you. The nipple should point slightly upward and reach the back of the baby’s mouth. For the comfort of the mother, it is better to move the baby towards the nipple than to move the towards the baby.
– If the latch is correct, the baby will have the whole areola in his mouth, not just the nipple. The baby’s lips should turn outward. If this is not the case, it is necessary to try to rotate them gently towards the outside.
– If latching on is painful, the mother can contact a midwife or doctor.

Common breastfeeding problems and solutions

Breastfeeding can be tricky. If a woman has persistent problems that she cannot solve, it may be useful to contact a doctor, a midwife.


Some common breastfeeding problems include:

– difficulty latching on, especially if the baby has an anatomical abnormality such as tongue tie
– pain when breastfeeding
– dullness, inflammation of the breast tissue caused by a blocked duct or infection
– return to work and lack of time to express milk
– insufficient support from friends or family
– exhaustion due to frequent breastfeeding, especially at night
– low milk production
– lack of breastfeeding support or knowledge.

Appropriate environmental and health care support can overcome many of these problems. People who have difficulty breastfeeding should be aware that breastfeeding can be difficult, especially in an unsupportive environment. People who stop breastfeeding often do so because of factors beyond their control, such as returning to work too early or family pressure.

Tips to promote breastfeeding

Here are some strategies to support breastfeeding:

– Spend time with the baby immediately after birth, if possible. When a baby has skin-to-skin contact and latches within an hour of birth, it makes a big difference in long-term milk supply and breastfeeding success.

– Frequent and on-demand breastfeeding: milk production increases when the baby empties her breasts frequently.

– Have frequent skin-to-skin contact with the baby, which can promote bonding and improve milk production.

– Promptly seek breastfeeding support in the event of a problem.

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When to stop breastfeeding

If possible, try to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Then you can introduce solid foods while continuing to breastfeed until the baby is one year old.
After that, mothers can continue breastfeeding as long as it is beneficial for the parent and the baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends continued breastfeeding until the child is at least 2 years old.

Some parents may find it easier to switch to a combination of breastfeeding, pumped breast milk and formula when they return to work and other responsibilities. Some babies wean off breast milk gradually as they become interested in other foods. Some research suggests that children who are allowed to breastfeed as much as they want will not wean until around age 3.

Breastfeeding Diet Considerations

There are many misconceptions about what breastfeeding mothers should, or shouldn’t, eat while breastfeeding.

Foods to avoid

According to a 2017 study, most breastfeeding mothers think they should avoid certain foods. However, there is no evidence that a breastfeeding mother should always avoid certain foods. Instead, mothers should focus on how certain foods affect them and their baby. Some babies have food sensitivities, and removing these foods from their diet can help. If they notice the baby is restless or gassy after eating certain foods, they can try to avoid those foods.

Although mothers may want to try an elimination diet, they should always consult a health professional or dietitian before doing so.

Seafood is a food group that is advised to be consumed in moderation. Indeed, some seafood, such as shark, swordfish and tuna, have high levels of mercury that can be transmitted to the baby through milk.

Foods to Include

Nursing mothers need about 330 to 400 extra calories per day. They should try to eat a wide range of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins like fish and nuts.

Many mothers may also find it helpful to take a prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding. Most prenatal vitamins provide additional iodine and choline, which breastfeeding parents need in greater amounts. Vegetarians and vegans may also need additional B12, which may be lacking in plant-based diets.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice. [HighProtein-Foods.com]

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