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Breastfeeding FAQs for the first-time mother
Shilpa Shet
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August 03, 2007

Holding your baby for the first time, they all say, is a very special moment. But, as a first-time mother, you might find yourself facing some anxious questions about your ability to nurture another human being.

Since the first week of August has been declared as Breastfeeding Awareness Week, we though we'd ask Dr Arun Gupta, from the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, some commonly asked questions:

When should I start breastfeeding my child?
Breastfeeding should be started immediately after the baby is born. The naked baby (after he is gently mopped and dried) should be held by the mother, close to her breast, for skin-to-skin contact. It stimulates the smooth flow of milk and keeps the baby warm. It also helps create an emotional bond between the mother and the child.

Why should I start breastfeeding early?
There are four primary reasons:

1. The baby is most active in first 30 to 60 minutes.

2. The sucking reflex is most active at that time.

3. An early start ensures a greater chance of success at breastfeeding. Colostrum, which is the first yellowish secretion from the breast, is full of substances that protect the baby from getting an infection; it's almost like a vaccine. 

4. It helps prevent breast swelling and pain and reduces post-delivery bleeding.

Can I breastfeed my baby successfully if I have a Caesarean section?
Yes. This operation does not affect your ability to successfully breastfeed your baby.

You can start breastfeeding four hours after the operation or when you are out of the effect of the anaesthesia.

You can tilt your body to one side in the lying-down position and start feeding, or you can put your baby on your abdomen and feed your child.

All mothers who have Caesarean section deliveries are successful in breastfeeding their babies with assistance for the first few days.

Can I feed my baby in lying down position?
Yes. You can feed your baby in any position comfortable to you and your baby. It may be lying down, sitting or reclining.

Does my baby need additional vitamins?
Usually not. A baby who is exclusively breastfed for first six months does not need tonics or vitamins. If the baby is not exclusively breastfed, then the answer is yes.

My milk looks thin and watery. Is that okay?
Yes. Milk at the start of breastfeed (fore milk) is thin and contains less fat.

Hind milk (which comes near the end of feed) is thicker and full of fats. A baby needs both. Feed the baby in an unrestricted fashion to ensure he receives both fore milk and hind milk.

Should I breastfeed from both the breasts each time I feed my baby?
One breast must be emptied out fully before the second is offered, so that the baby receives both fore milk and hind milk.

When the baby releases one breast, offer the other. If the baby is still hungry, he will feed from the other breast.

The alternate breast should be offered first at each feed.

How long can I continue to breastfeed?
You should breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months and continue breastfeeding well upto two years or beyond.

My milk leaks from the breast after feeding the baby. What should I do?
It is a temporary problem and quite normal.

If you notice the milk is leaking, press your elbows firmly against the outer margins of your breasts. This will slow down the flow.

Can I breastfeed my baby even when I am sick?
Yes. You can continue breastfeeding even if you are not well.

Most of the diseases do not affect the baby. Even typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, jaundice or leprosy don't call for stopping breastfeeding. It is, however, important to speak to your doctor if you have HIV.


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