One of the best things a mother can do for her new-born is to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is considered the best nutritional source for babies and it also helps fight infections.
Can breastfeeding become harmful?
Though a mother may wish to breastfeed, there are circumstances when it is not advisable. There are also some cases where what you eat or drink has an effect on the child and it is best to avoid those things while breastfeeding.
• If a woman is HIV positive, it is best to avoid breastfeeding as the virus may pass through the milk to the child.
• Some babies may be born with a condition called galactosemia, which means that they are unable to tolerate breast, or any animal, milk because they cannot digest the sugar galactose. A special diet free of lactose and galactose is recommended.
• Using drugs such as cocaine can pass into breast milk and cause serious damage to a baby. Other drugs, such as marijuana, may disrupt sleep, make the child irritable and induce vomiting.
• Though most medications, such as ibuprofen, antihistamines, insulin and thyroid medications are okay to take while breastfeeding, some medicines can be harmful to the baby's immune system.
Medications you should never take while breastfeeding include radioactive drugs, antimetabollites and cyclophosphamide. Please consult your doctor before taking any medications while you are breastfeeding.
• Some babies may get reactions or allergies to something you eat, such as spicy food or dairy products. The problem may go away as soon as you stop eating the offending food.
• Nursing mothers should not smoke, as nicotine may reduce the supply of milk and increase the chances of sudden infant death syndrome.
•Alcohol may lead to low weight gain, interrupted motor development in the child and intake should be limited to very occasional, light drinking, if at all.
Breast feeding problems
There are some common breastfeeding problems and challenges felt by almost all mums, such as breastfeeding in public. Modern conveniences and avoiding shyness are more than helpful in these circumstances.
Returning to work — Working mothers may find it a bit inconvenient to return to work after the baby is born, especially if they are breastfeeding.
Since breast milk helps the baby to grow stronger, in the long run breastfeeding can allow you to work regularly with fewer leaves of absence for the baby's sicknesses, or doctor appointments.
Breast pumps are available, and can help you to express and store your milk while you are away from your baby.
Before you plan to go back to work, it is good to introduce your baby to bottle-feeding as early as four week so that he will not reject it later.
Your partner, or another caregiver can then give it to him while you are away.
Breastfeeding in public — Though some women find it a bit embarrassing to feed in public, there are some simple tricks that can help you.
Try to wear loose fitting, button front clothing, which can be opened easily. Drape a blanket over your breast and the baby and most people will not realise that you are nursing.
Sore nipples — This can be caused by poor positioning of the baby when he is only sucking the nipples and not the areola, the dark part around the nipple.
If you have this problem do not avoid breastfeeding, as it will lead to overfilling of the breast.
Try to get the baby in the correct position each time he feeds. If your nipples are very sore, try changing the position every time the baby nurses, as this will put pressure on different parts.
After the feeding is done, you can apply a little milk to the nipples, as it will help heal them faster. Air-drying is also a good way to heal sore nipples. Wear loose fitting clothes, do not use soap, change your nursing bras often and eat healthy.
Sore breasts — This condition is also known as engorgement and occurs mainly when feeding is irregular, leading to overly full breasts. Some causes of sore breast are:
• Poor positioning
• Infrequent or limited feeding times
• Giving water, juice or formula instead of breast milk (causing child to not be hungry)
• Changed breastfeeding schedule
• Baby having weak suction
• Nipple damage
• Over abundant milk supply
• Fatigue stress, anaemia
• Breast infection
The best ways to cope with the problem are:
• Regulate feeding times and correct the positioning
• Hand pumping a little milk before feeding to soften the breast
• Wearing a well fitted nursing bra
• Cold compressing with a cabbage leaf may relieve pain
• At work, pump milk at the same time as you would have fed your baby
• Get enough rest and nutritious food
Weaning is the process of gradually introducing solid food, water and juices to the baby. For the first six months of an infant's life, breastmilk is ideally the only food he takes, but gradually you can withdraw milk from his diet and introduce other semi-solid foods, or juices.
The stage where he relies entirely on adult food and no longer breastfeeds is known as fully weaned.
Most mammals become lactose intolerant after weaning, meaning that they can no longer digest milk, but many people continue to produce the enzyme lactase and can continue to consume the milk that we get from domestic animals.