Notes to broadcasters
Content: Breastmilk is best for babies. It provides good nutrition, and protection against disease and allergies. It is economical and practical. Mothers should always feed their babies breastmilk. Here is why.
I am going to tell you about mother’s milk and how a baby feeds. We’ll also talk about some of the problems you may have while breastfeeding. Let’s start by stressing that nature has designed human milk for the human baby. Cow’s milk is made for calves, and even when processed for commercial use is never the same as human milk.
Mothers should not be put off when they notice their milk is thinner and bluish compared to cow’s milk. Human milk is better for babies than cow’s milk. Human milk contains substances known as amino acids. Amino acids help build protein which is crucial to a baby’s health. At least two of these vital amino acids are found only in human milk. There are also substances in breastmilk that reduce the likelihood of diseases and allergic reactions, such as eczema.
One of the earliest signs of pregnancy is enlargement of the breasts. As pregnancy progresses the breasts become heavier, bigger and warmer. The nipples enlarge. The area around the nipples, which is called the areola, gets darker. All this means the breasts are getting ready to produce milk. Towards the end of your pregnancy and for the first few days after the baby is born, the breasts give a nutritious, creamy-looking milk called colostrum. It contains antibodies. Antibodies are substances thatfight disease and give the baby a natural defence system. When the thinner milk starts to flow, it comes up tubes under the areola and into the nipple. Unlike the nipple on a bottle, the human nipple has several ducts from which the milk is expressed into the baby’s mouth. Most of the milk is formed as the baby sucks. The size of your breasts has nothing to do with how well you feed your baby, because the milk is actually produced as the baby sucks.
Care of your breasts and nipples is part of preparing for your baby. Nipples have their own natural oils which keep them soft and supple. If you wash them with soap you will only remove the oils. Just use water. The nipples can also be pulled out to encourage them to expand. Do not try to harden them with methylated spirits, whisky or a scrubbing brush. This will only make them sore and cracked. Creams and lotions are also unnecessary. Because the baby recognises the milky smell of the breast, it is best to avoid artificial smells.
The newborn baby wants warmth, comfort, and love in a quiet surrounding. Most important is love. As soon as possible after birth, cuddle your baby and put her to your breast. This helps the womb return to its normal size. You will get your figure back more quickly if you breastfeed. The sooner breastfeeding starts, the easier it becomes and the longer it continues. As the weeks go by, breastfed babies laugh more and their speech is more advanced.
Put a finger to the baby’s lips and she will start sucking. She is born with a reflex to seek out a nipple and draw it into her mouth. To encourage this, stroke her cheek so she opens her mouth widely and takes all of the nipple and much of the areola into her mouth. She must not only suck from the nipple. If your nipples get sore from breastfeeding, it’s probably because the baby is not lying at the breast properly. Experiment until you find the most comfortable position. When a baby is feeding correctly there is a special sound to the feeding, and mothers feel a distinctive pleasurable sensation. The mother is relaxed and comfortable and the baby is well supported at the breasts with the lips at the areola. Don’t worry about the baby not being able to breathe. The nostrils are flared out for this reason.
If you are confident and relaxed, the baby will be relaxed and the milk supply assured. A worried, tense mother creates a worried, tense baby. The milk is reduced and a vicious circle begins.
Breasts are not bags of milk. It is important to realize that milk is made while the baby is on the breast. The more the baby sucks the more milk is produced. On the other hand, if milk is left in the breast, less will be produced for the next feed. The baby gets most of the milk in the first few minutes at the breast, but let her suckle as long as she likes. When she has had enough she usually lets go. Don’t pull her off the breast. That will hurt your nipples. Put a finger in the corner of the baby’s mouth and the reduced suction will allow the nipple to come out of the mouth. Then put her on the other breast.
Babies don’t respect the clock. They sleep when they’re content and cry when they’re hungry. Forget feeding to a strict timetable. In the first week the baby will want to feed about every two hours. By the sixth week she will be feeding about every four hours and possibly sleeping through the night. A reasonable rule is to feed the baby as long as she likes, every two to five hours.
Breastfeeding should continue for at least four months. Some mothers happily go on longer, even two or three years. But even four months gives a baby a good start in life and protects her from allergies. Introduce solids slowly when the baby is about five months old. Use a spoon, never a bottle. When the baby gets used to solid food, the mother breastfeeds fewer times, so less and less milk is formed. There should never be a need for tablets to reduce the milk.
Remember that a crying baby is not necessarily a hungry baby. She may be uncomfortable or want to be cuddled. Some babies need extra attention before they settle into a good routine. A mother may never have breastfed before and her baby has to learn too.
Drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, laxatives, and sleeping tablets can pass through your milk and affect the baby. If you are taking prescribed medicines, ask if they can affect your child.
Nature has shown that breastmilk is the perfect food for new babies, providing balanced nutrition and protection against infection and allergies. Breastfeeding creates a contented partnership between mothers and their infants. And compared with artificial milk, breastmilk is economical and always in supply at the right temperature.
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This is one of 12 radio scripts produced by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and the International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU). The scripts were designed to generate ideas and proposals for radio programs.
P.O. Box 1045
Other information sources about breastfeeding
- International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Africa, P. O. Box 34308, Nairobi, Kenya.
- Helping mothers to breast feed (1985, 151 pages), published by the African Medical and Research Foundation, Health Learning Materials Unit, AMREF, P.O. Box 30125, Nairobi, Kenya.
- Mother’s milk is best for your baby (1993), fact sheet published by Asian Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU), Tokyo. The address is ACCU, No. 6, Fukuromachi, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 162, Japan.
- Health basics: breastfeeding (1989, 6 pages), supplement in Dialogue on Diarrhoea, No. 37, June 1989, published by Appropriate Health Resources and Technologies Action Group, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG, United Kingdom. Also published in French and Spanish.
- Friendly Hospital (Boletin Hospital Amigo), quarterly newsletter published in English and Spanish by the Ministry of Health, General Office for Maternal and Child Health in Mexico. The address is Bolet¡n Hospital Amigo, Direcci¢n General de Salud Materno Infantil, San Pablo, No. 13, Col. Centro, 06090 Mexico, D.F., Mexico.