Nothing else in the field of Obstetrics seems to be as emotive as breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding should be encouraged as a routine; however some mothers may not be able to breastfeed or choose to bottlefeed, and they should certainly not feel ostracized as a result.
There are many benefits to breastfeeding:
- Prevention of infection from passage of antibodies from the mother
- Sterile food
- Causes uterine contractions and reduces blood loss Maternal-infant bonding
- Reduced obesity (controversial)
- Increased intelligence as adult (controversial)
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding:
- Be aware some drugs in labour can affect the baby especially with sucking e.g pethidine
- Correct positioning and attachment at the breast will ensure nipples will not damage, and also stimulate milk production and emptying of the breast
- Skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour will aid with bonding and help mothers to recognise when their babies are ready to breastfeed. This maintains baby’s temperature and allows the baby to sniff and smell around the breast
- Give newborn infants no other food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated
- Practice rooming-in – mothers and infants should stay together 24 hours a day if possible
- Breastfeeding on demand – the baby will demonstrate cues for feeding. Allow the baby to breastfeed when they demand – try to avoid fixed times that baby should feed. This will also stimulate the breast to for milk production, prevent engorgement and jaundice in the baby
- Give unrestricted time at the breast – don’t time feeds – babies know when they have had enough and this will also ensure that the breast is softened and prevents engorgement.
- Try to avoid artificial teats or pacifiers
- Attend antenatal and parenting classes
- Try to exclusively breastfeed until 6+ months of age
There are some conditions where breastfeeding is not recommended:
- Galactosaemia in the baby
- Severe cleft palate
- Neurological problems in the baby e.g severe prematurity
- Anatomical problems e.g pyloric stenosis
- HIV infection in the mother
- Medications taken by the mother
- Some anti-epileptic medications (not all)
The contraceptive effect of breastfeeding – fully breastfeeding women have 92% contraceptive efficacy at 1 year – however this does drop once the infant has any supplemental feeds or commences solids.