Breastfeeding: Are you giving your baby the best start in life?

by Dinethri Ramasundara APD AN
It is the world breastfeeding week (1st – 7th August 2014). Nutrisense would like to take time to promote, encourage and support breastfeeding to build a stronger and healthy younger generation.
Why breastfeeding is so important?
According to Australian dietary guidelines 2013, breast fed infant are less likely to be overweight, suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure in later life. Breast feeding also helps mothers to recover from childbirth, assist with quicker weight loss to pre-pregnancy body weight and decreases the risk for pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and improved bone mineralisation.
Breast milk is deemed the ideal first food for your baby. It is a living tissue that contains many antibodies, immune cells, nutrients and water to give your baby the best chance in life. It helps your baby with nourishment required for growth, development and protects against diseases.
Colostrum also known as the first breast milk; is yellow to orange in colour, contains higher levels of Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin B 12 and less fat than matured breast milk. It also contains Lactoferrin, Immunoglobulin A, enzymes and maternal antibodies.
Breast milk constantly changes in composition, which is why no infant formula can compete with its position. The composition changes with the lactation cycle and vary from one mother to another. The Energy content usually varies from 270 and 315 kilojoules per 100ml, mainly due to changes in the fat content. It also consists of Omega 3, Omega 6, fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K. The fat helps to better absorb the nutrients in your baby’s gut.
Maternal diet largely contributes to the nutrient composition of the breast milk, so it is important that mothers consume a well balanced diet from all five-core food groups; fruits, vegetables, grains and cereals, protein and dairy.
UNICEF and WHO recommendations
Breastfeeding is to be “initiated within the first hour after the birth; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for two years or more, together with safe, nutritionally adequate, age appropriate, responsive complementary feeding starting in the sixth month”.
Even though breastfeeding techniques and tactics may largely vary with the individuals, some of the general tips to increase chances of breastfeeding successfully are
• Ensure early skin to skin contact between mothers and babies
• Frequent and unrestricted breast feeding to ensure continuous milk production
• Help with positioning and attaching the baby correctly.
Breastfeeding is best but it may not always be possible for all individuals. Make sure you seek support from lactation consultants, midwives, maternal and child health nurses to determine the best approach for your baby.
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