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Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding
Summary
  • Infants who are breastfed experience fewer cases of infectious and noninfectious diseases than do formula-fed infants.
  • The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively (without adding other foods) until their infant reaches the age of 6 months.
  • After the infant reaches the age of 6 months, it is recommended that complimentary foods be introduced along with breastfeeding, which should continue up until the age of 2 years and beyond.
Description

Breastfeeding is feeding a baby with milk from the mother's breast.

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and baby, including:1

  • Infants who are breastfed experience fewer cases of infectious and noninfectious diseases than do formula-fed infants.
  • Infants who are breastfed experience fewer cases of diarrhoea, respiratory infections and ear infections than do formula-fed infants.
  • There is less incidence of overweight or obesity in children who were breastfed as infants.
  • Breasfeeding may reduce the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, childhood cancer and asthma.
  • Women who breastfeed experience less bleeding after the birthing process, an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight and a reduced risk of ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer.
  • Breasfeeding is cost-beneficial to families.

The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively (without adding other foods) until their infant reaches the age of 6 months. After the infant reaches the age of 6 months, it is recommended that complimentary foods be introduced along with breastfeeding, which should continue up until the age of 2 years and beyond.2

Women can begin breastfeeding their infant soon after delivery. In the first few days after delivery of the baby, the mother's breastmilk contains colostrum, which is a high-caloric, high-protein, thin yellow fluid that contains nutrients and antibodies that protect against infection.3

When NOT to breastfeed:4

  • Women with HIV should not breastfeed or express milk because of the risk of transmitting the disease to the infant.
  • Women with human T-cell leukaemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) should not breastfeed because of the risk of transmitting the disease to the infant.
  • If you have hepatitis C, if you are taking any illicit or pharmaceutical drugs, ask your Doctor for advice before you breastfeed.
  • Some infants who have been born with metabolic disorders cannot metabolize lactose and cannot be breastfed.  


Method

  • Support your breast with your hand. Your thumb should be on top of your breast and your fingers below. Your fingers should not touch the areola.
  • Using your nipple, tickle your baby's lip until s/he opens wide. Then pull your baby on to the breast quickly.
  • Your baby should be on your nipple and most of the areola. The tip of your baby's nose should be touching the breast.
  • If the latch on is painful, your baby is probably on the nipple. Pull your baby off by inserting your little finger between your baby's lips and your breast to break the suction.
  • Next time you breastfeed your baby, start on the other breast.
  • Don't breastfeed your baby for more than 20 minutes on a side. The baby should empty your breast in the first 10-15 minutes.5 
  • Management

    In no way is this information intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. Always consult your Doctor for diagnosis and advice.

    Most problems with Breastfeeding are easily resolved with time and practise. Such problems include:6

    • Cracked or bleeding nipples usually result from poor attachment. Ensure the baby has the entire areola (the dark area surrounding the nipple) in its mouth, not just the nipple itself. Your Child Health Nurse or Midwife can help you with positioning and attachment. Some creams may provide relief. After each feed, expressing a few drops of milk and rubbing them into your nipples may help.

    • Engorgement occurs when your breasts become too full with milk. It usually occurs in the first few days after birth, when your milk comes in. A little engorgement is normal, but excessive engorgement can be very painful. Cold compresses or ice packs between feedings can relieve your discomfort and reduce swelling. Cold cabbage leaves placed on the breasts can also help. Prior to feeding, place warm compresses on the breasts and gently massage from under the arm down toward the nipple. This will help reduce soreness and ease milk flow. Most importantly, keep breastfeeding. Engorgement is a temporary condition and will be most quickly relieved by effective milk removal.

    • Mastitis is an infection of the breast that occurs when a milk duct gets blocked and bacteria infect a portion of the breast. Signs and symptoms of mastitis include swelling, burning, redness and pain - usually in just one breast. You may also feel feverish and generally unwell. See your Doctor if you experience these symptoms. Do not stop breastfeeding while you have mastitis since the infection will not spread to your milk. Keep the milk flowing in the infected breast. Expressing extra milk from the affected side may also be necessary.

    • Low milk supply is usually a result of infrequent feeding or inadequate nutrition. Often feeding or expressing more frequently will help to increase supply. Offer alternate breasts at each feed so both are drained equally. Drink plenty of fluids; water is best. A nutritious diet with adequate protein intake ensures sufficient 'building blocks' to facilitate milk production. See the Breastfeeding Diet topic on the Healthpoint.
  • Pharmacist's Advice

    Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

    1. Some Pharmacies have a registered Nurse available who will help with any queries you may have.
    2. See the Breastfeeding Diet on the Healthpoint.
    3. Breast milk should be stored at refrigerator temperatures for no longer than two days. Storage for longer periods or at colder temperatures causes the milk to lose antioxidant activity7.
    4. Before taking any medication ask your Pharmacist whether your milk will be affected.
    5. Ask your Pharmacist about nursing pads that can be placed inside your bra to catch milk if the nipples leak.
    6. See the other Breastfeeding topics on the Healthpoint, including Breast Pumps and Breastmilk - Expressing/Storing.
  • Notes

    Organisations & Support Groups

    Australian Breastfeeding Association - http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/


    References

    1. US Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding.Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health; 2000.
    2. World Health Organization. Child and Adolescent Health and Development. Exclusive Breastfeeding. [cited 2002 Sept 4]. Available from: URL: http://www.who.int/child-adolescent-health/NUTRITION/infant_exclusive.htm.
    3. Beers M H and Berkow R (eds). The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 17th ed. Whitehouse Station (N.J.): Merck Research laboratories; 1999.
    4. US Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding.Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health; 2000. 
    5. Nursing Moms. How to Breastfeed. [cited 2002 Sept 4]. Available from: URL: http://www.geocities.com/nursingmoms/how.html.
    6. American Academy of paediatrics. A Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding. [cited 2002 Sept 4]. Available from: URL: http://www.aap.org/family/brstguid.htm.
    7. Barclay L. Breast Milk Should Be Stored in Refrigerator No Longer Than 2 Days. Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Fetal and Neonatal Edition Oct 2004. http://www.medscape.com.
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