Learn Breastfeeding Basics: Breastfeed successfully
Get the basic knowledge you need to successfully breastfeed your baby
Breastfeeding period can be a pleasant and fulfilling time for many mothers. The practice of breastfeeding is not only a physical contact between a mother and her baby. It is also an intimate and emotional experience for both the mother and baby. You should enjoy every moment of it from when you deliver your baby to when you stop giving your baby breast milk. As you prepare to welcome your baby (if you are presently pregnant) or nurse him/her, you should have some knowledge about breastfeeding. This article will help you to learn breastfeeding basics.
What is the breastfeeding Practice in Nigeria?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global breastfeeding rate of babies in their first six months of life is about 38%. Breastfeeding rates differ across countries with higher breastfeeding practice happening in developing than in developed countries. Senegal, for example, had a breastfeeding rate of 99% while the United Kingdom had a breastfeeding rate of 0.5% in 2015.
Not much progress is made in increasing the rate of breastfeeding worldwide. Thus, the Global Nutrition Monitoring Framework proposes an increase in the rate of breastfeeding to 50% by 2025.
Also, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding (WABA) collaborates with other players for breastfeeding to strongly uphold breastfeeding principles and advocate for better investment in breastfeeding activities. In a strong statement to the Joint Statement for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62), stated that:
breastfeeding and skilled lactation support can empower rural women and improve health outcomes.
What about in Nigeria?
How much breastfeeding is practiced in Nigeria?
If you live in Nigeria and deliver your baby there, you should be interested in knowing the practice of breastfeeding. According to the National Demographic and Health Survey (2013), the practice of breastfeeding is common in Nigeria, but only 17% of children less than six months of age are exclusively breastfed as recommended by WHO.
Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health in the National Strategic Plan of Action 2014 has set to meet breastfeeding rate target of 50% by 2018. Hopefully, this target will be met by Nigeria despite the very low breastfeeding rate of 17%.
Although the practice of breastfeeding is high in Nigeria (especially in the northern region), exclusive breastfeeding rate is very low in the north. Mixed-feeding (adding water, food etc. in addition to breast milk) is common in this region. Mixed-feeding predisposes children to have recurrent diarrhea, infectious diseases such as pneumonia and to become malnourished.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 53% of deaths of children under five years in Nigeria (NSPAN 2014). Some of the underlying risk factors of malnutrition include poor maternal nutrition, sub-optimal and inappropriate infant and young child feeding practices (IYCF), inadequate health services, and limited access to nutritious foods. Inappropriate breastfeeding practices (including the poor practice of exclusive breastfeeding by women) are major factors contributing to infant and child mortality in Nigeria.
The NDHS 2013 and other national health surveys have reported that low-level of literacy among mothers (especially in northern Nigeria) is associated with low maternal and child health outcomes. Many women especially in rural areas lack basic education, hence do not understand the need to get access to healthcare and the benefits of doing so. The women do not seek antenatal care to learn breastfeeding basics and other forms of education on maternal and child health.
WHO recommends initiating breastfeeding within the first one hour of birth of a baby. The Nigeria National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN 2014) advocates that:
breastfeeding should be initiated within 30 minutes of delivery, and infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and thereafter breastfeeding should continue up to two years and beyond while safe complementary foods are introduced at six months after delivery” (NSPAN 2014).
The strategic plan highlights six strategies to increase coverage of nutrition interventions in Nigeria. This includes increasing the exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first six months to at least 50% by 2018. The strategies are:
- Behavior Change Communication
- Service Delivery
- Capacity Building
- Advocacy and Resource Mobilization
- Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation
- Coordination and Multi-Sectoral Partnerships
And, the strategies are delivered through:
1) Health facility;
2) Community structures; and
Like Us on facebook/arewacafeteria
Learn the breastfeeding basics.
To learn breastfeeding basics, you need to start by understanding what Breastfeeding is. Breastfeeding is the process of feeding babies and young children with milk that comes from the breast of a woman. It is also called “nursing” or ‘suckling”. Breastfeeding is an animalistic behavior practiced by mammals.
A successful practice of breastfeeding is not automatic. It does not usually happen without initiative and practice. Most mothers who have successfully breastfeed their babies will tell you they learned and tweaked their skills to breastfeed along the way, with their babies learning with them.
The following steps will help you prepare for a successful breastfeeding experience:
- Make the decision to breastfeed; knowing that it will benefit you and your baby.
- learn breastfeeding basics: know about breastfeeding
- Be willing to learn and adjust during your breastfeeding journey.
- Be positive, patient and persistent
- Prepare: get your nursing essentials (nursing bras, pads, cover, pillow, dresses, etc.)
- Don’t panic if there is a problem related to your breastfeeding or things don’t turn out the way you expected
- Ask for help if you have any problems
- Be confident and optimistic you will succeed with your breastfeeding
Does breastfeeding have any benefits for the mother and baby?
Of course yes!
The 2008 Lancet series on maternal and child undernutrition and survival highlight evidence of the impact of undernutrition on infant and child mortality and set of interventions that target the “first 1,000 days” (from pregnancy to 24 months old) with high impact in reducing death and disease and avoiding irreversible harm among infants and children. The Lancet series estimated that with an increased practice of breastfeeding, about 820,000 child deaths could be prevented. Thus, breastfeeding has a great role to play in reducing the risks associated with infant and child deaths.
Some benefits of breastfeeding to the baby include…
- Lower risk of diarrhea, respiratory and ear infections, gastrointestinal disorders and skin infections
- Lower risk of food allergies, asthma, type 1 diabetes and leukemia
- Decreased risk of adult obesity
- Baby cries less
- Baby may be more emotionally secure
- Improved cognitive and motor development
Benefits of breastfeeding to the mother …
- Mother is more emotionally satisfied
- Breastfeeding delays return of menstruation after delivering, so a mother is less likely to become pregnant in early months
- Lower risk of maternal cancers (ovarian and breast cancer)
- Faster maternal recovery and weight loss postpartum
- Less blood loss following delivery
- Decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Less post-partum depression
- Increased mother-baby bonding
- Breastfeeding is cheaper than infant formula
Follow Us on Instagram: @arewa_cafeteria
Colostrum: the newborn “starter food”
Colostrum, the yellowish, gummy breast milk rich in proteins and antibodies is produced towards the end of pregnancy and could be released before or after childbirth. It has a laxative effect that enables your baby pass excess bilirubin in loose stools, which prevents your baby from jaundice.
The World Health Organization recommends that babies be fed with colostrum within the first hour of delivery.
Colostrum has rich nutrients and antibodies a newborn needs. Colostrum provides warmth for the newborn and may reduce the risk of death from hypothermia.
You might be worried about the small amount of colostrum your breast produces.
The amount of colostrum is enough for the small size of your baby’s stomach.
Breast milk production starts three to four days after childbirth. As you continue exclusive breastfeeding in these early days, you will notice two types of breast milk when you nurse your baby.
There is the “foremilk”.
This is the first milk drawn during suckling. It is light and has a thin consistency. It also has a lower amount of fat. It does not satisfy the baby’s thirst nor meet liquid needs.
Then there is the second type of milk called the “hindmilk”.
This follows foremilk during suckling. It has a higher fat and calorie content than foremilk. Hence, hindmilk is important for your baby’s growth and development.
Breastfeeding experts recommend you breastfeed extensively on one breast before switching to the other. That way, the baby will likely feed on both foremilk and hindmilk and get the most nutrients of both types of milk.
Aha! This is important!
Avoid pre-lacteal feeding; that is, using either water-based or milk-based liquids with breastfeeding. Both reduce exclusive breastfeeding time by up to 81%.
This is because breast milk has water, proteins, fats, sugars, enzymes, hormones and growth factors, all in sufficient amounts required for your baby’s normal growth and development. It also has antibodies and other immune substances to help your baby fight against common infant and childhood infections.
Lactation and the let-down reflex
Let’s talk about how breast milk is formed.
Image credit: www.slideplayer.com/slide/4266361/
While breastfeeding is a learned behavior, lactation is an automatic physiological process that follows pregnancy. Lactation is the production and secretion of breast milk to nourish a baby.
Once upon a time…
As a girl develops during puberty, her mammary glands develop too but remain relatively dormant until she matures and becomes pregnant. During pregnancy, the mammary glands enhance the growth of a duct system in the breast. This duct system enables the breast to produces milk.
It is as simple as that!
Well, maybe not that simple.
Two hormones are responsible for producing breast milk- prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin is responsible for milk production. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract during childbirth and mammary glands to eject breast milk during lactation. It is the suckling action of a baby that largely stimulates the release of these hormones. We call this process “the let-down reflex”.
Certain factors can either enhance or prevent the let-down reflex…
- When a mother thinks lovingly of her baby
- Sight & sounds of a baby
- When a mother touches her baby
- Mother’s confidence about breastfeeding
- A mother Feeling relaxed and calm
- Undue worry and anxiety by the mother
- Physical stressful conditions, e.g. a sick or unhealthy mother
- Mental stress e.g. postpartum depression
- Lack of rest by the mother
- Separation of baby from mother (no physical attachment)
How should you breastfeed?
Image credit: cgbabyclub.co.uk
Congratulations! You have learned the basics of breastfeeding. You want to have a pleasant and successful breastfeeding, right?
Successful breastfeeding depends on two main things:
- Good latching (fastening of your baby’s mouth to your breast) and,
- Proper positioning of your baby.
Place your baby on your chest, close to your breast. This stimulates a baby’s natural tendency to seek your breast and start sucking.
Ensuring that you place your baby’s mouth correctly to your breast is important to achieving easy and painless flow of breast milk. Proper latching prevents nipple sores, cracked nipples and pain during breastfeeding. While good positioning prevents you from having back pain and breastfeeding fatigue by both you and your baby.
Similarly, the way you hold your baby during breastfeeding is equally important because this determines how comfortable you and your baby are. Uncomfortable breastfeeding positions can decrease frequency and duration of breastfeeding.
When should you start breastfeeding?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that a mother initiates breastfeeding within the first hour of a baby’s life and continue to breastfeed as often as the baby shows signs (cues) that they need breast milk.
Typically, in the first few weeks of life, a baby breastfeed after every two to three hours; even less for some babies. Average feeding time is about ten to fifteen minutes, alternating on each breast. As a baby grows older, the frequency and duration of breastfeeding decrease.
Early skin-to-skin contact with your baby is highly recommended. Skin-to-skin contact triggers the breastfeeding process, creates bonding between you and your baby and keeps the baby warm.
For babies who cannot start breastfeeding immediately (for example, those that are small-for-gestational-age or preterm babies), colostrum should be hand-expressed and given to the baby using cup and spoon until the baby can latch to your breast and suck directly.
Follow Us on Twitter: @arewa_cafeteria
How much is enough breast milk for your baby?
Many mothers can produce enough amount of breast milk their baby needs. Even in stressful conditions (e.g. during illness or hunger), mothers still produce enough breast milk to meet immediate needs of their babies.
Here’s a secret…
Frequent breastfeeding triggers more milk production. The more often you breastfeed your baby, the more breast milk you will produce. When breast milk stays for a long time without being drained, or, if there is insufficient emptying during breastfeeding, this could eventually lead to low milk supply.
The amount of breast milk produced at a given time depends on the stage of breastfeeding. A newborn requires about 7 ml of breast milk on the first day. But by one week, they need about 60ml.
For how long should you breastfeed?
Based on WHO guidelines, which Nigeria has adopted, a baby should breastfeed exclusively (no water, no juice, no other non-human milk or foods added) for the first six months of life. You should introduce soft foods or semi-solids as complementary foods to the breast milk at 6 months. Then you start giving complementary foods, based on the 10 recommended feeding practices for children 6 months to 2 years, while you continue breastfeeding on demand until a baby reaches 24 months or beyond.
How often should you Breastfeed?
You should breastfeed your baby as often as he or she shows hunger cues and for as long as they want to breastfeed. An episode of breastfeeding may last 15 to 20 minutes, alternating from one breast to the other. For most healthy newborns, they demand breast milk every one to three hours in a day in the first month.
Sick babies may not last long breastfeeding and may cry excessively or intermittently while breastfeeding, thus decreasing breastfeeding time.
Again, a very hungry baby may last longer breastfeeding or be “angry” and refuse breast milk until they become calm.
The timing of each breastfeeding episode varies with babies and depends also on other factors.
- State of health of your baby.
- How hungry your baby is.
- Uncomfortable breastfeeding positioning
- Improper latching
- Uncomfortable environmental temperatures (too cold or too hot), and,
Sometimes babies just won’t let go of the breast.
They simply may find the breast comforting; they may even fall asleep while breastfeeding.
And what is that?
Hunger cues are signs a baby shows when hungry and he or she wants to nurse. These signs may include sucking his lip, tongue, finger, fisting, fidgeting, crying, etc. First-time moms may find it difficult to know baby hunger cues initially.
Experienced moms (those who have delivered and nursed a baby before) have a little advantage over first-time moms in identifying hunger cues. Usually, from previous breastfeeding experience, moms who have nursed a baby before can decipher when a baby wants some breast milk.
Are you a first-time mom?
With patience and practice, you will also learn when your baby wants to nurse. Even the so-called “experienced moms” will tell you that each baby has their own peculiar hunger cues.
If you have any problems related to breastfeeding such as nipple sores, cracked nipple or painful breast, low milk production, latching or positioning challenge, talk to your doctor or midwife about it. They will properly guide you to solve the problem. They are there to support you.
How about breastfeeding at night?
Having to breastfeed your baby at night could be challenging. It could also be easier than thought if you manage the challenge well. Remember, your baby needs to suck often, even at night, in the first months after birth. Babies often wake up and suck at night. This is a normal baby behavior.
Other things to consider about breastfeeding
Let’s face it. Things aren’t always how we expect them.
You might have expected to have your baby through vaginal delivery but, ouch! You ended up with an emergency Caesarian section.
Or, you could have chosen to have an elective Caesarian section as well.
In either case, a Caesarian-Section could affect how you breastfeed your baby. But that does not necessarily stop you from breastfeeding, except there are medical reasons not to do so.
You may experience a slow release of breast milk especially if you separate from your baby for a long time. Or, you and your baby are sleepy, drowsy and may not breastfeed optimally immediately after a Caesarian section due to the effect of the anesthetic drugs. This is common if the operation is under general anesthesia. In epidural block, there is minimal interference with breastfeeding, as drugs are unlikely to affect breast milk.
Early attachment of your baby to breast and frequent breastfeeding would increase breast milk supply.
You may also have to adopt a more comfortable breastfeeding position. With a Caesarian section, you would want to avoid pain by placing your baby away from the incision site. The football hold or lying down positions are particularly helpful.
Do you need some help?
Ask for it!
In the early days after a Caesarian section, you will most likely need extra help with the baby. Your spouse and other family members should prepare ahead for this help. It is important to communicate with family members about your condition and how they can support you.
Are you a working mom?
You should know the policies on breastfeeding and the law on the marketing and use of breast milk substitutes in Nigeria. It will also help to know labor laws on maternity leave. Ask your employer about your workplace policy on breastfeeding. Discuss your plans for breastfeeding with your employer and colleagues ahead of your return to work; preferably before you go on maternity leave.
You can still practice breastfeeding optimally if you are a working mom. Simply prepare ahead of your return to work. Arrange how you will nurse your baby while at work and, you will increase your chances of success in breastfeeding while you work.
Let’s admit it.
Breastfeeding can be tasking, no doubt. But it could be easier if you learn breastfeeding basics before you deliver your baby. Get as much information about breastfeeding as you possibly can during your pregnancy. That way, you know what to expect and you will be fully prepared.
You may want to listen to our pidgin podcast series on exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding of the breastfed child.
Breastfeeding is a joyful journey for both the mother and the baby. It does not come without a few problems, but these can be overcome with the right information and support to the mother. The benefits of breastfeeding clearly outweigh its challenges.
Which aspects of breastfeeding in this “learn breastfeeding basics” do you have questions about? Which part do you find interesting and which do you find difficult to understand?
Drop your questions or share your experience in the comment section. I am happy to hear from you.
Congratulations on choosing to breastfeed your baby!
We value your suggestions!
Please fill the form below and send to us.