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> The Breastfeeding Basics

With the advent of formula milk, breastfeeding has become more of a choice than a necessity. Formula milk contains ‘scientific’ proportions of nutrients that are purported to promote ideal development in babies; however, medical professionals still trust in the early health benefits of mothers’ milk.

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and babies who are weaned on breast milk have been identified with a higher IQ and stronger immune system against pathogens. Among other health benefits, such as reduced stress, these are the reasons that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.

Breast milk is as natural a food source for your baby as it can get, containing hormones such as Leptin (the ‘Satiety’ hormone) and Adiponectin (the Glucose regulator), which helps your baby regulate his appetite and energy levels. It’s therefore important to establish a steady production of milk expression, as well as a standard breastfeeding routine. Find out what breastfeeding mums do to get it right the first time.

Establishing your milk supply: Starting out Right

Breastfeed early

Babies are born with several natural instincts, and one of them is to latch on and suckle a breast. Put your baby to the breast as soon as possible after birth. Provision of mother’s milk to infants within the first hour of birth is referred to as “early initiation of breastfeeding”, and ensures that the infant receives the colostrum, or “first milk”, that is infused with protective antibodies.

Early skin-to-skin contact also increases the chances of exclusive breastfeeding for the next six months. The smell of the breast will provide a stimulus for the newborn to naturally find his way to mother’s nipple. This early initiation of breastfeeding also serves to calm both mother and baby directly after the strenuous activity of labor.

Amy Tan, 33, and a mother of two, recounts: "I had a pretty fast labor with Carmen. However, 15 to 20 minutes after our little angel arrived, I realised I had not breastfed her yet. The first few drops of my breastmilk were yellowish in color and very thick. It should be the colostrum which would give Carmen the antibodies she needed". In fact, UNICEF recommends all mothers to initiate breastfeeding within half an hour after birth.

Nurse often

It’s a good idea to room in with your baby, especially for the first few months, where you’ll learn to recognize feeding cues, such as wriggling around, rapid eye movements, and putting his hands in his mouth. Newborns will usually need to be nursed 10 – 12 times or more per day, and the more they nurse, they more your body reacts to produce a larger amount of milk.

It’s advisable to offer the breast at least 2 – 3 hours during the day, with nothing longer than a 4 hour stretch during the night. You’ll want to avoid the situation where your breasts become too full, reducing the milk production rate. Depending on how often you breastfeed, it may be necessary to offer both breasts during a single feeding to stimulate milk production and maintain a steady milk supply.

Shirley Koh, a working professional and mother of one, recounted that during her first few days, her breastmilk was very thick and creamy. “In the first two days postpartum, I didn't produce a whole lot of milk. Then I remembered the lessons in pre-natal class about colustrum. My breasts began to feel heavier and larger after day four, and I had to express my milk more often to relieve the pressure. In the subsequent days, I generally followed my baby's lead and breastfed whenever it was needed".

Observe your Diet

What you eat is directly transferred into your baby’s food source, so stay hydrated, and select nutritious, lactogenic foods over sugar-rich or oily foods. Avoid habits which can affect the quality of breastmilk, such as alcoholic drinks and smoking. Drink 6 – 8 glasses of fluids, from plain water, to juice, and milk, in order to replenish your milk supply. Breastfeeding mums need to consume 400 – 500 additional calories per day, so make sure those calories are from wholesome, nutrient rich foods.

Understand proper positioning

Proper positioning is key to breastfeeding success. If your baby is not able to latch on to your breast properly, feedings can become uncomfortable and ineffective. When a good position and latch is achieved, breastfeeding becomes a wonderful, even pleasurable bonding experience for both mother and baby. There are several recommended breastfeeding positions that mothers can experiment with, to find the most suitable and comfortable arrangement.


  • Cradle Hold: Baby is held in the crook or elbow area of the arm, on the same side as the breast to be used for feeding; mother supports her breast with her opposite hand. Baby's body is rolled in toward mother's body so they are belly-to-belly.

  • Cross-cradle Hold: Baby's head is supported by the hand opposite the breast to be used for feeding; mother supports breast with the same-side hand; baby is rolled in toward mother's body belly-to-belly.

  • Football Hold: Baby's head is supported by the hand on the same side as breast to be used for feeding; baby's body is supported on a pillow and tucked under the arm on the same side as breast to be used for feeding.

  • Side-lying: In this position, the baby lies next to the mother with their bodies facing each other. If a pillow under your arm is uncomfortable, try placing your baby in the crook of your arm. This way, you will not be likely to roll over the baby should you doze off

Recognize the signs of effective nursing

Effective nursing comes about from successful positioning and latching of your baby, If you aren’t sure whether your baby has latched effectively, be sure to consult your lactation specialist. Here are several telltale signs:

  • Lower portion of the areola (the area around the nipple) is in the baby’s mouth

  • Wiggling ears

  • Chin indenting the breast

  • Rounded cheeks

  • Initial rapid sucks that turn into slow and deep sucks with swallows

  • No clicking or smacking noises

  • Contented baby who stays on the breast and no pain for the mother

Delay formula feeding

Avoid artificial nipples and supplemental feeding during the first few weeks of nursing. While some babies can switch back and forth from breast to bottle easily, some babies will have nipple confusion if you introduce artificial nipples before they’ve got used to breastfeeding. Additionally, formula milk takes a longer time to digest than breastmilk, so your baby stays full longer and is less likely to nurse as often as required to stimulate milk supply. Some babies are unable to effectively digest formula milk, increasing the chance of allergies or digestive problems. The longer you wait to introduce formula milk, if at all, the better for breastfeeding success.


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