Breastfeeding: Frequently Asked Questions

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Some frequently asked questions on breastfeeding

Breastfeeding may sound challenging initially but once your baby latches successfully, it is fulfi lling and enjoyable. These are some common questions you may have:

What is “let-down reflex”?

When your baby starts suckling, a hormone called oxytocin releases milk into the breast ducts causing it to flow towards the nipple. This is called the “let-down reflex”, which has a tingling or tightening sensation on the breast. If you are stressed, the let-down reflex can be inhibited. So, relax!

If milk production comes later, will my baby “starve” in the first few days?

When you first start breastfeeding, your fi rst milk is colostrum which is:

  • Yellow, thick and sticky, very rich in protein, minerals and antibodies.
  • Small in quantity, but that is all your baby needs in the first few days. Breast milk changes to mature milk by about 7 - 10 days after birth. Mature breast milk consists of:
  • The initial foremilk which is watery, low in fat and serves to satisfy the baby’s thirst.
  • The later hindmilk, which contains more fat, nutrients and antibodies, will satisfy his hunger and ensure weight gain.

Will I have sufficient milk?

It is normal for mothers to worry that they may not have enough milk for their babies. Milk production occurs regardless of the mode of feeding. Frequent and effective milk removal is important to ensure a good supply. Hence,

  • Ensure that your baby latches on correctly.
  • Breastfeed regularly every 2- 3 hours and avoid supplementary feeding with formula milk.
  • Express regularly and store breast milk if your baby is not feeding well or is separated from you.
  • Rest, eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Reduce caffeine intake and completely avoid alcohol and tobacco products as these can inhibit the milk “let-down reflex”

How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

If your baby has had enough,

  • Your breasts will feel soft after nursing.
  • Your baby is contented and satisfied.
  • Your baby is passing clear urine and has bowel movements 2-5 times or more in a day.
  • Your baby’s weight is increasing after the initial drop in birth weight. Your baby will gain about 150 - 200 grams per week.

How long and how often do I feed my baby?

  • Allow your baby to suckle for as long as possible on one breast to ensure he gets the high caloric hindmilk. This takes about 20 - 30 minutes. Avoid looking at the clock; instead observe his suckling and swallowing. Offer the other breast if he wants more.
  • Alternate the breasts for subsequent feeds.
  • If you have to take your baby off your breast, insert a small finger at the side of your baby’s mouth between the gums to release the suction before removing the nipple from his mouth.
  • As breast milk is easier to digest, feed on demand (every 2-3 hours) round the clock.

If I latch my baby on as well as feed him expressed breast milk from a bottle, will it confuse him?

This is known as “nipple confusion”, which occurs when a baby is offered both the breast and a bottle. Suckling from the breast and drinking from a bottle require different techniques. Some babies who have been fed expressed milk from a bottle at the start may refuse to latch on. To prevent confusion, feed exclusively from the breast where possible. If you need to express milk for various reasons, give him expressed milk in a cup, a spoon or from a syringe.

My baby seems to be feeding all the time. Is it because I am not producing enough milk?

During growth spurts – around 2- 6 weeks, 3 and 6 months of age – there will be an increased demand for nursing. The increased frequency of feeding will help to increase the milk supply to meet the baby’s needs. Do not worry; it only lasts for a few days. Just feed on demand and get enough rest and food.

What about breastfeeding premature babies?

Premature babies often have medical problems that require close monitoring in the hospital. Mothers of premature babies can:

  • Initiate expressing of breast milk 6-8 times a day including at night and store the milk.
  • Learn how to express, collect, transport and store breast milk correctly.

Once your premature baby is able to feed, support will be given to you on how to latch him on directly before he is discharged.

What are the risks of not breastfeeding?

Babies who are not breastfed are at greater risk for:

  • Gastrointestinal infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Respiratory disease
  • Obesity and diabetes later in life

Mothers who do not breastfeed are at greater risk for:

  • Breast and ovarian cancers
  • Osteoporosis

Can I breastfeed after six months?

You can breastfeed up to one year and beyond. Although your baby may be getting nutrients from other sources of food, breast milk is still an important form of nutrition. Breastfeed as long as you and your baby desire. You can continue to breastfeed even if you are pregnant.

This article was originally published on the website of the Health Promotion Board. Reproduced with permission.

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