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Updated 28 August 2013

Breastfeeding is best

With only one in three babies under the age of six months being exclusively breastfed in South Africa, the spotlight is on the benefits of breast milk for babies.

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With only one in three babies under the age of six months being exclusively breastfed in South Africa, the spotlight has been firmly placed on the benefits of breast milk for babies. Now, more than ever before, it is important to provide up-to-date breast feeding tips for modern moms, and share information that will improve on this startling statistic.

Between a Mother and her Child

“Breastfeeding has been recognised for most of human history to be crucial for infant survival, offering significant health and emotional benefits for both moms and their babies. In addition, this practice aids the process of bonding between a mother and her child. It goes without saying then that the benefits of breastfeeding are still relevant today,” explains midwifery consultant, Dr Diana du Plessis.

Why breast really is best

According to Dr du Plessis, breast milk alone is the ideal nourishment for infants for the first six months of their lives, because it contains all the nutrients, antibodies and hormones that a baby needs to thrive. “It is a proven fact that babies who are breastfed through the first year of life have fewer illnesses. A lower chance of death and serious illness has also been linked to breast milk because it protects your precious bundle from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections.”

“Furthermore, it stimulates your little one’s immune system and its response to diseases, as well as aiding baby’s response to vaccinations. Even in times and places where infants have been fed other first foods, breastfed babies were recognised as healthier and more likely to survive, adds Dr du Plessis.

Making Breastfeeding Work for You and Your Family

Dr du Plessis offers the following key insights to help moms successfully manage family life and give baby the very best start in life with breastmilk:

1.            Ensuring Partners and Family Members Feel Included: It goes without saying that feeding aside, babies need lots of attention and the activities of cuddling, bathing, nappy-changing and entertaining are indeed time consuming exercises. When your breastfeeding routine is well established, consider expressing and storing your milk so that another carer can give a bottle of breast milk if you want to go out alone, with another child or with your partner

2.            Keeping Baby Satisfied: If your baby is suckling well, feeding 8-12 times per 24 hours, emptying each breast, seems happy, healthy and content, is active and alert when awake and is content after a feed, he/she is almost certainly getting enough milk. Another good sign is around eight wet nappies every 24 hours. If you're worried, ask your midwife or health visitor to make sure all is well. You can also take him/her to the local clinic to be weighed

3.            Breastfeeding When the Return to Work Looms: The more you can be with your baby for the first four months, the better for both of you, as the early weeks at home are when your milk does the most good for your little one. The amazing range of breast pumps currently on the market mean that even when you return to work, you can continue to breastfeed your baby in the morning, in the evening and at weekends and in between he/she can enjoy bottles of your expressed milk administered by a career.

Single and twin electronic breast pumps take manual breast pumps to the next level. They help you express milk quickly, naturally, effectively – and effortlessly too.                                                                             

A Guide to Successfully Expressing Milk

There is a definite art to expressing milk and Dr du Plessis shares the following advice with mothers wishing to express milk effectively:

•             Always wash your hands thoroughly prior to expressing.

•             Express milk in a familiar and comfortable setting without distractions. Choose a time when you are not rushed and won’t be interrupted. A warm place with a comfortable chair is also recommended as a relaxed atmosphere will help the mother to relax so that the milk flows.

•             Apply heat to the breast first and follow with a gentle massage. Warmth encourages milk flow, so put a warm water bottle or wheat bag to the breast as this will speed-up the process.

•             The best time to express differs from person to person. There may be a time when your breasts feel fuller, perhaps in the early morning. Express frequently (sometimes 2-hourly during the day and at least once during the night) and as efficiently as possible.

•             Expect the volume of milk to fluctuate daily and from one expression to the other and remember you may only get a little milk at first. It can be beneficial to switch from side to side during the session.

The Best Start

“In South Africa the promotion and support of breastfeeding has emerged as a public health priority in recent years. And after decades of research on breastfeeding, new evidence points to an even greater effectiveness of breastfeeding for saving lives and improving health,” concludes Dr du Plessis.

 
 

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