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There is strong research support that breast milk is the most appropriate nourishment for most infants. The benefits of breastfeeding are physical, emotional, and economic. Infants who are breastfed have lower rates of hospital admissions, ear infections, diarrhea, rashes, allergies, and other health problems than babies who receive infant formulas. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother by stimulating release of oxytocin, which causes involution of the uterus following pregnancy. It can also be a very satisfying experience for the mother-baby pair and encourage bonding. Nevertheless, breastfeeding is a personal decision to be made by the mother with the support of health care providers. Mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed, but they should not be made to feel guilty or inadequate if circumstances interfere with their ability to do so. Certain harmful agents and substances, such as the human immunodeficiency virus, are transmitted through breast milk.
Breast milk is easily digested and of unique benefit to the baby, for whom it is perfectly formulated. It is sterile and contains nutrients needed by the infant in ideal proportions. It also contains immunoglobulins. Breast milk is the standard against which all other infant formulas should be compared. The national institute of allergy and infectious diseases notes that there is no conclusive research evidence that breastfeeding helps prevent the development of food allergies as the child grows older. However, keeping an infant on exclusive breastfeeding does delay the onset of allergies by delaying the infant's exposure to foods that might prompt allergies. Based on research sponsored by the agency for healthcare research and quality, Vitamin D supplementation is recommended for dark-skinned infants and children who are fed only breast milk, beginning by two months of age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, after an extensive review of the research, recommends that breast milk be almost the only food that a healthy infant receives for the first four to six months after birth. The Surgeon General of the United States and Healthy People 2010 Goals for the Nation have reviewed the research and set national goals related to increasing the number of mothers who breastfeed their infants. Moreover, in the underdeveloped countries where sanitation is poor and community water, milk, and food supplies are likely to be contaminated, breastfed babies have a significantly lower mortality rate.
When an infant suckles the breast, prolactin is released into the bloodstream. This hormone stimulates production of breast milk. It also acts on the pituitary gland, interfering with the action of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, thus reducing the production of estrogen. The low level of estrogen during full breastfeeding interferes with ovulation and menstruation, resulting in lactation amenorrhea.
As a rule, the baby nurses at both breasts during each feeding. The breast used to initiate the feeding should be alternated. Some babies nurse rapidly and others do it slowly. An infant should nurse 10 to 12 times a day initially. The intervals between the feedings will grow longer as the infant grows. Typically, a full-term infant will nurse every 2 to 3 hours.
Researchers and clinicians categorize breastfeeding as either full or partial.Full breastfeeding is either exclusive or almost exclusive (the latter allowing for water, juice, and infrequently given food). Partial breastfeeding is defined as either high (over 80 per cent breast milk), medium, or low (under 20 per cent breast milk). Occasional, irregular breastfeeding (“token” or “comfort feeding”) is a category set apart from breastfeeding.
The la leche league is a voluntary organization that encourages breastfeeding and offers excellent support and guidance to nursing mothers. Local chapters may be listed in the telephone book, or their national office can be contacted by calling 1-800-LALECHE in the USA or 1-800-665-4324 in Canada. The web site for La Leche League International is http://www.lalecheleague.org. Lactation consultants can also offer assistance to mothers and health care providers.
Patient discussion about breastfeeding
Q. I gave birth 2 weeks ago and I am having real difficulties breast feeding it hurts really bad, and I am constantly worried that my baby isn't eating enough. What can I do?
Just make sure you have enough drink, be relaxed while breastfeeding, and have enough & healthy nutrition also!
Stay healthy always..
Q. My baby is grunting and groaning while I breastfeed him. Is this normal? It only happens from time to time, but he makes these weird noises while nursing and I would like to know if it's standard behavior.