Breastfeeding is the natural, physiologic way of feeding infants and
young children milk, and human milk is the milk made specifically for human
infants. Formulas made from cow’s milk or soybeans (most formulas) are only
superficially similar, and advertising which states otherwise is misleading.
Breastfeeding should be easy and trouble free for most mothers. A good start
helps to assure breastfeeding is a happy experience for both mother and baby.
majority of mothers are perfectly capable of breastfeeding their babies
exclusively for four to six months. In fact, most mothers produce more
than enough milk. Unfortunately, outdated hospital routines based on bottle
feeding still predominate in too many health care institutions and make
breastfeeding difficult, even impossible, for some mothers and babies. For
breastfeeding to be well and properly established, a good early few days can be
crucial. Admittedly, even with a terrible start, many mothers and babies manage.
to breastfeeding is getting the baby
to latch on well. A baby who latches on well, gets milk well. A baby
who latches on poorly has difficulty getting milk, especially if the supply is
low. A poor latch is similar to giving a baby a bottle with a nipple hole which
is too small—the bottle is full of milk, but the baby will not get much. When a
baby is latching on poorly, he may also cause the mother nipple pain. And if he
does not get milk well, he will usually stay on the breast for long periods,
thus aggravating the pain. Unfortunately anyone can say that the baby is latched
on well, even if he isn’t. Too many people who should know better just don’t
know what a good latch is. Here are a few ways breastfeeding can be made easy:
The baby should
be at the breast immediately after birth. The vast majority of
newborns can be at the breast within minutes of birth. Indeed, research
has shown that, given the chance, many babies only minutes old will
crawl up to the breast from the mother’s abdomen, latch on and start
breastfeeding all by themselves. This process may take up to an hour or
longer, but the mother and baby should be given this time together to
start learning about each other. Babies who "self-attach" run into far
fewer breastfeeding problems. This process does not take any
effort on the mother’s part, and the excuse that it cannot be
done because the mother is tired after labor is nonsense, pure and
simple. Incidentally, studies have also shown that skin to skin contact
between mothers and babies keeps the baby as warm as an incubator.
The mother and
baby should room in together. There is absolutely no medical
reason for healthy mothers and babies to be separated from each
other, even for short periods. Health facilities which have routine
separations of mothers and babies after birth are years behind the
times, and the reasons for the separation often have to do with letting
parents know who is in control (the hospital) and who is not (the
parents). Often, bogus reasons are given for separations. One example is
the baby passed meconium before birth. A baby who passes meconium and is
fine a few minutes after birth will be fine and does not need to be in
an incubator for several hours’ "observation".
There is no evidence that mothers who are separated from their babies
are better rested. On the contrary, they are more rested and less
stressed when they are with their babies. Mothers and babies learn how
to sleep in the same rhythm. Thus, when the baby starts waking for a
feed, the mother is also starting to wake up naturally. This is not as
tiring for the mother as being awakened from deep sleep, as she often is
if the baby is elsewhere when he wakes up.
The baby shows long before he starts crying that he is ready to feed.
His breathing may change, for example. Or he may start to stretch. The
mother, being in light sleep, will awaken, her milk will start to flow
and the calm baby will be content to nurse. A baby who has been crying
for some time before being tried on the breast may refuse to take the
breast even if he is ravenous. Mothers and babies should be encouraged
to sleep side by side in hospital. This is a great way for mothers to
rest while the baby nurses. Breastfeeding should be relaxing, not
nipples should not be given to the baby. There seems to be some
controversy about whether "nipple confusion" exists. Babies will take
whatever gives them a rapid flow of fluid and may refuse others that do
not. Thus, in the first few days, when the mother is producing only a
little milk (as nature intended), and the baby gets a bottle (as nature
intended?) from which he gets rapid flow, he will tend to prefer the
rapid flow method. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure
that one out, though many health professionals, who are supposed to be
helping you, don’t seem to be able to manage it. Nipple confusion
includes a range of problems, including the baby not taking the breast
as well as he could and thus not getting milk well and/or the mother
getting sore nipples. Just because a baby will "take both" does not mean
that the bottle is not having a negative effect. Since there are now
alternatives available if the baby needs to be supplemented (Using a Lactation Aid,
Feeding) why use an artificial nipple?
on length or frequency of breastfeedings. A baby who drinks well
will not be on the breast for hours at a time. Thus, if he is, it is
usually because he is not latching on well and not getting the milk that
is available. Get help to fix the baby’s latch, and use compression to
get the baby more milk (Breast
Compression). This, not a pacifier, not a bottle,
not taking the baby to the nursery, will help.
water, sugar water, or formula are rarely needed. Most supplements
could be avoided by getting the baby to take the breast properly and get
the milk that is available. If you are being told you need to supplement
without someone having observed you breastfeeding, ask for someone to
help who knows what they are doing. There are rare indications
for supplementation, but usually supplements are suggested for the
convenience of the hospital staff. If supplements are required, they
should be given by
not cup, finger feeding, syringe or bottle. The best supplement is your
own colostrum. It can be mixed with sugar water if you are not able to
express much at first. Formula is hardly ever necessary in the first few
A proper latch
is crucial to success. This is the key to successful breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, too many mothers are being "helped" by people who don’t
know what a proper latch is. If you are being told your two day olds
latch is good despite your having very sore nipples, be skeptical, and
ask for help from someone who knows. Before you leave the hospital, you
should be shown that your baby is latched on properly, and that he is
actually getting milk from the breast and that you know how to know he
is getting milk from the breast (open—pause—close type of suck). If you
and the baby are leaving hospital not knowing this, get
experienced help quickly.
samples and formula company literature are not gifts. There is only
one purpose for these "gifts" and that is to get you to use formula. It
is very effective, and very unethical, marketing. If you get any from
any health professional, you should be wondering about his/her knowledge
of breastfeeding and his/her commitment to breastfeeding. "But I need
formula because the baby is not getting enough!". Maybe, but, more
likely, you weren’t given good help and the baby is simply not getting
the milk that is available. Even if you need formula, nobody
should be suggesting a particular brand and giving you free samples. Get
good help. Formula samples are not help.
some circumstances, it may be impossible to start breastfeeding early. However,
most medical reasons (maternal medication, for example) are not true
reasons for stopping or delaying breastfeeding, and you are getting misinformation.
Get good help. Premature babies can start breastfeeding much, much
earlier than they do in many health facilities. In fact, studies are now quite
definite that it is less stressful for a premature baby to breastfeed
than to bottle feed. Unfortunately, too many health professionals dealing with
premature babies do not seem to be aware of this.
About The Author: Dr. Jack Newman is a Toronto
pediatrician who has practiced medicine since 1970. In 1984 he established the
first hospital based breastfeeding clinic in Canada, at the Hospital for Sick
Children in Toronto. He now holds breastfeeding clinics in several Toronto area
hospitals. Jack has been a consultant with UNICEF's Baby Friendly Hospital
Initiative and has spoken at conferences around the world. He is the father of
three children, all breastfed.
Dr. Newman is the author of
"The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers"
NOTE: The article above titled "Breastfeeding
- Starting Out Right" was
written by Dr. Jack Newman and is the opinion of its author. "The New Parents Guide" does not guarantee the information to
be factual. Always use the guidance of your personal
doctor or your child's doctor over information you read on this site or elsewhere; your doctors know what is
best for you and your baby.