Nature always has it’s ways. Breastfeeding is one of them. It helps mothers recover from the physical stress of birth, uncover the natural instincts of motherhood and most importantly fall in love with their babies. Breast milk nourishes, protects and helps in development of the baby. Educators, Doctors and Doulas across the world recommend at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Once the baby is introduced to other forms of semi-solid and/or solid food, it is recommended that breastfeeding is continued for a further year at least.

Breastfeeding is extremely important for your baby. It affects the new born physically and emotionally. A few reasons why breastfeeding is critical have been listed below:

  • Breastmilk is your baby’s normal food. It gives the baby all the nutrients it needs, protects him/her from infections and most importantly aids in development of his/her face and jaw.
  • Breastfeeding keeps you healthy. With breastfeeding, your uterus contracts and bleeding slows down. Breastfeeding helps quite a lot of women lose their pregnancy weight. It can act as a protection against cancer of the breast, uterus or cervix.
  • Breastfeeding deepens the mother-baby attachment. There is a surge of hormones in the woman’s body every time she breastfeeds. It makes a woman loving and nurturing. The hormones create a connection between the two as well as help the mother recover from the emotional and physical stress she went through during birth.

Every woman is created different. Do not worry if you don’t not look like the women you see in breastfeeding videos. Your baby will love your breasts no matter what size or shape it is. Breast size or nipple size is not related to how much milk your body will make. It just takes varying amounts of time for the baby and mother to get the perfect latch.

Breastfeeding is beneficial as long as both the mother and baby are comfortable with it. Ideally WHO recommends six months of only breastfeeding followed by breastfeeding plus solid food for two years. How long you will breastfeed will depend on your lifestyle, occupation, health etc. As a mother you will be able to identify when to stop.

Your body starts preparing itself for breastfeeding even before you get your first period! As you grow, conceive and deliver; your body internally prepares the breasts for the lactation period. Once you start breastfeeding your baby, milk will be produced on a demand and supply basis in a healthy woman. All you have to do is eat healthy and nutritious food, exercise regularly and stay fit. Try and refrain from smoking and alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Think about breastfeeding as something you can and will do. Do not fear it. You can also read acclaimed books on breastfeeding. If there is a breastfeeding support network or classes in your city, you can enrol yourself for them. It always helps to talk to people about your doubts, fears and opinions.

You can do the following:

  • Sleep in the same room with your baby.
  • Spend as much time as you can with the baby.
  • Try and respond to your baby’s needs before he/she cries.
  • Hold your baby often. Make eye contact. Talk to your baby
  • Be patient with your baby. It might take you longer to understand what your baby is trying to communicate as you are not being able to breastfeed.

It can be hard to take care of a new born baby and work at the same time. Try going back to office part-time initially and slowly make the transition to full time. However, the following tips might help you continue breastfeeding while you work:

  • Wake up early so that your morning breastfeeding before leaving for office is relaxed and peaceful. Give yourself and the baby some relaxed bonding time.
  • Nurse your baby in the evening once you get back from work and at night before you sleep.
  • Pump at work at least thrice in eight hours so that you have enough for the baby while you are at work the next day.
  • Spend as much time as you can with the baby during the weekends.
  • Store breastmilk in a clean and airtight container. Leave 1/4th of the container empty if you decide to freeze it.
  • Store it in the coldest part of the freezer.
  • Label the milk with the date so that you know which bottle to use first. If you are leaving the baby at a care centre, label his/her bottle with name and date both.
  • Expert opinions vary on time durations to store breastmilk but these can be taken as guidelines. Fresh breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for 4-6 hours, in a cooler for up to 24 hours, in the refrigerator for 3 to 8 days, in a freezer of 3 to 6 months.
  • Thaw it in the refrigerator: Let the frozen container thaw gradually in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
  • Quick Thaw: Place frozen container in a bowl of warm water. Use it right away or refrigerate.
  • Do not refreeze. Use thawed milk within 24 hours or discard.
  • Never microwave. Microwave destroys some of the infection fighting benefits of your breastmilk.

While transporting breastmilk, try and keep it as cold as possible. You can use insulated bottle carriers or reusable ice packs. Do not use ice cubes. Ice cubes do not maintain temperature and create a mess.

  • Warm it by holding it under lukewarm water for a few minutes.
  • Gently mix the milk as breastmilk components separate when thawing.
  • Discard leftover milk after feeding.

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