Every mother wants the best for her child, and the way you feed your baby can have a big impact on whether he or she grows up healthy and strong.
Luckily, your body produces the perfect food for your baby. Feeding your child from your breast will provide all the nutrition a healthy child needs for the first six months. In fact, it is strongly recommended that you should feed them nothing else, and exclusively breastfeed your child until they are at least six months old.
THE FIRST MEAL
Breastfeeding should begin within the first twenty four hours, and ideally within the first hour.
The first meal is very important. Immediately after birth your body produces a special type of milk, called colostrum, which is the perfect first food for every newborn.
WHAT IS COLOSTRUM?
Colostrum is the mother’s first milk. It is a sticky yellowish or orange substance which is produced by the breasts in the last few days of pregnancy, and the first few hours after birth.
Colostrum can look quite strange, but it is ideal for the newborn in composition and in quantity, and provides both all the nutrition they need and protection against disease.
CAN THIS REALLY BE ENOUGH FOOD FOR MY CHILD?
Colostrum is produced in quite small quantities – sometimes only a few teaspoons. Mothers often ask whether this can really be enough food for their child. The answer is yes – colostrum is high in carbohydrates, and is the only food that full term, healthy babies need.
The day-old newborn’s stomach walls are firm, and do not stretch to accommodate more food – so extra milk is often just spit up. Over the first week, small, frequent feedings ensure that the baby takes in all the milk they need, and that milk production meets the baby’s demands.
A one day old baby’s stomach is about the size of a grape, by day three it has grown to about the size of a large date fruit, and by day seven it is about the size of a small plum.
Colostrum also helps digestion. It has a laxative effect, and helps the baby to pass their early stools.
Finally, colostrum contains large amounts of IgA. IgA is a part of the body’s natural defensive mechanisms, which helps to protect the child from disease. The IgA in colostrum comes from the mother, so by feeding your child your colostrum you are giving them not only nutrition, but also protection from illness.
AFTER THE FIRST MEAL
Breastfeeding should begin ideally in the first hour.
In the first few days it is important to breastfeed the newborn at least 8-12 times every 24 hours. If the baby is breastfed early and often, the breasts will begin to produce mature milk around the third or fourth day after birth. This means that the milk will increase in volume, and appear whiter.
This milk is all the food your baby needs as it grows. For the first six months it is recommended that you exclusively breastfeed your child – that is, that the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water. Of course, some exceptions to this may have to be made, such as if your child needs Oral Rehydration Salts for diarrhoea. Thereafter, the baby should receive complementary foods with breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.
Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life. Colostrum, the mother’s first milk, is the perfect first food.
Exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months.
Breastfeeding on demand: as often as the child wants, day and night
No use of bottles or pacifiers. The baby sucking on your breast is what tells your body to produce more milk