Breastmilk is the perfect food for babies. It’s easily digestible and provides everything your baby needs for the first six months of life.
Breastmilk contains important antibodies which help fight infection, and it also helps protect babies against middle ear infections, gastroenteritis, asthma and eczema. Mums who breastfeed are less likely develop breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis later in life – and breastfeeding helps mother and baby to get to know each other and build a loving relationship.
The Ministry of Health recommends women breastfeed for 12 months, but if you’re doing well and want to carry on, you might like to know that the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond.
The first milk mothers produce after the birth is colostrum, which is full of disease-fighting antibodies called immunogloblins that strengthen the body’s immune system. Colostrum also acts as a laxative which helps clear out meconium (the first dark-green motions) from baby’s bowels.
After about three days, colostrum has done its job and full milk comes in. At each feed, baby gets foremilk first, which is thin and satisfies baby’s thirst. Then comes hindmilk, richer in fat content and high in calories.
Baby’s suckling stimulates the breast to produce milk – the more baby feeds, the more milk your body will produce. This is known as supply-and-demand. It usually takes one to two weeks to get your milk supply going and it can take six weeks or longer for the supply-and-demand mechanism to become well-established. If baby is not feeding well or you start using formula, your baby will take less from you and your milk supply will decrease.
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