It is widely accepted that breastfeeding is preferable to bottle-feeding in providing nutrition to babies. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends exclusively feeding your baby breast milk for the first six months of life.
Benefits Breast milk contains an ideal combination of nutrients to meet a baby’s needs for early development. The milk is also easy on an infant’s digestive system so there’s less chance of constipation or diarrhea. Breast milk is natural and uniquely produced by each woman for her baby; an nursing infant is less likely to be exposed to allergic substances. The milk also contains antibodies that prevent illnesses. Colostrum, the milk produced in the days after giving birth, contains vitamins, minerals, proteins and immunity factors to help protect against infections.
Basics A newborn is fed on demand, as often as every two to three hours, or 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Some babies feed in clusters, meaning they feed more often for short periods of time. Cluster feeding may be a sign that a baby is going through a growth spurt, which typically occurs at 2 weeks, 4 to 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months.
Technique It varies depending on the baby. Typically a mother should feed her baby from each breast for as long as the baby wants. Alternating the breast that a mother begins with at each feeding will encourage each breast to produce the proper amount of milk. A baby is feeding well when she is making short swallowing sounds, she is calm and content afterwards, nursing or breastfeeding doesn’t hurt, and the baby’s jaw muscles move evenly while she sucks.
Watch for signs of success Your baby is getting enough breast milk if she produces six to eight wet diapers a day and one or more loose stools the first month after each feeding and then less frequently in coming months. Healthy weight gain is another sign that a baby is getting enough milk.
When there’s a problem If breastfeeding hurts, a doctor, a midwife, lactation consult or support programs at the La Leche League Canada can provide advice and help.
Mastitis is a bacterial infection that can cause breast swelling, soreness and fever. Bacteria may enter the breast through a crack or sore in the nipple. Mastitis may require antibiotic treatment.