“Breast milk is alive … Breast milk is dynamic”, states Dr. Harry Pellman, MD in Pediatrics for Parents. “Breast milk is different the first day of life than the seventh or hundredth day. It is different in the morning than at night. It is different in the beginning of a feeding than the end of the feeding. The milk even adapts and changes depending on the infant’s health.” Breast milk is completely adaptable to the needs of the infant. If a mother gives birth prematurely, the vitamin and mineral content of colostrum (the first milk that a woman produces after giving birth) will be different than the colostrum of a mother who gives birth to a full-term infant. Mother’s breast milk tastes differently at each feed which is a nice variety for the baby. The baby who is fed formula experiences the same taste 8-10 times per day for an average of 18 months … boring!
Colostrum is the wonder food of the world!
- Colostrum is the yellow/gold fluid that nourishes the infant’s first few days of life.
- Colostrum has high concentrations of nutrients and protection against infectious disease.
- It contains more protein, less sugar, and much less fat than mature breast milk. The baby receives teaspoons, not ounces, on purpose. Not feeling full encourages the baby to nurse frequently, which assures that the baby gets the colostrum he needs.
- Colostrum coats the intestines, protecting them for the rest of the child’s life.
- Colostrum is rich in vitamins and minerals that help ensure a healthy gastrointestinal tract as the child ages.
Nursing a baby is a learned art. Although it is the “natural” way to feed a baby, most women are not born with an innate knowledge of how to nurse. Babies are born with the natural need to suck, but can have difficulty nursing with medicated births and poor birthing positions. Once the nursing couple overcomes these difficulties, the benefits of breastfeeding are remarkable and definitely worth the extra effort. Just to name a few:
- Breastfed children are said to have fewer instances of diabetes mellitus and Crohn’s disease.
- Breast milk contains special mucins that make it difficult for intestinal bacteria to attach to the infant’s bowel; attachment is necessary for infection to occur.
- IQ scores appear to be higher in breastfed infants.
- Breast milk is always the right temperature for the baby.
- Breast milk saves you money.
- Breast milk is available and ready for the child 24 hours a day. And breastfeeding is good for the mother.
A study conducted by Romieu et al (American Journal of Epidemiology) found that “Duration of lactation, even short-term was associated with reduced risk of breast cancer.” The hormones secreted by the mother to make breast milk also benefit the mother in many ways. Prolactin and oxytocin are relaxing hormones that make the nursing mother feel calm and secure. After the mother has mastered the art of breastfeeding the mother will see how nursing the baby not only calms the baby, but also calms the mother.
Breast-feeding should never hurt! The breasts were created to feed from. If the baby is latched on properly and coordinating his suck correctly, the nipples will not hurt. Therefore breasts require no creams or lotions during the breastfeeding experience. The breasts have tiny bumps around the areola called Montgomery glands or Montgomery tubercles. These glands become enlarged or look like small pimples that secrete a substance that lubricates and protects the nipples and areola during pregnancy and lactation. A small amount of milk may also secrete from these glands. Creams and lotions could block these brilliant glands so it is best to stay away from creams. If there is pain and the baby is latching deeply onto the breast, the mother may have a yeast infection behind the nipple. Dr. Ruth Lawerence in her book, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, teaches that the incidence of fungal infections has increased dramatically in the past decade probably due to the widespread use of antibiotics. Anytime a woman is exposed to antibiotics during her last trimester of pregnancy or during delivery she is prone to develop yeast overgrowth. You cannot see yeast overgrowth on the nipple and you may not see thrush in the baby’s mouth. The mother may experience burning, biting, sharp, shooting or stinging pain while nursing. The pain is usually the only sign that the mother is experiencing a yeast infection. Your doctor can prescribe an antifungal cream for the mother and baby. An antifungal cream is the only cream that may ever be needed during lactation.
Breast-feeding is an art that needs to be learned and developed by each nursing couple. It is a learning experience for both the mother and the baby. Some women learn the art faster than others and some babies learn the art faster than other babies. But, with diligent effort, patience, and help from a knowledgeable nurse or Lactation Consultant all women can master breastfeeding and learn to enjoy the wonderful gift that women have been given: the ability to nourish and comfort their babies.
By Sara Chana Silverstein, IBCLC, BA, Herbalist and Student of Homeopathy. She is a licensed Lactation Consultant helping women and babies with breastfeeding problems. She also works with children and adults with chronic ear and strep infections, stomach problems and emotional issues. She can be reached at 718-467-1455.