News / South Africa / Health

Tshepiso Makhele
5 minute read
10 Sep 2018
1:00 pm

The A to Z of breastfeeding

Tshepiso Makhele

Data suggests breast milk has numerous diverse immunoglobulins that help protect against allergies by providing a protective layer in a baby’s intestinal track.

Picture: iStock

When you become pregnant, you might think that most of the major decisions that will affect your child’s future will typically be made once they’re born, but this is not really the case.

When it comes to the decision of whether or not to breastfeed, a mother needs to know her facts way before her bundle of joy is welcomed on earth.

For me, the decision was made before I fell pregnant. I always knew that I wanted to be someone’s mom, being the mother hen in my family made it obvious to me that I needed to be called mommy.

There I was after giving birth, holding my little girl and attempting to make her latch on to the breast, trying to remember all I read about the various breastfeeding positions and having a hard time at doing the job well.

Finally, her little mouth worked with me and she started gradually sucking the nipple, but the milk just didn’t seem to be enough, and her cry got louder and louder, forcing me to ask the nurses for help and available milk, disappointed and feeling like I was failing as a mother.

It is a difficulty most first-time mommy’s face after giving birth; a challenge that sometimes results in many choosing not to breastfeed, but rather use formula milk.

It should be stressed that regardless of which method of feeding a mother chooses or goes for, the decision is up to her as both feeding methods have their own benefits and disadvantages.

Baby milk formula.

Have a conversation with your doctor to discuss feeding options during your pregnancy, as this will provide you with a controlled, relaxed environment for you to weigh your options and discuss your worries.

During the first year of your baby’s life, they will triple their body weight primarily owing to the milk consumed. It is vital to know the procedure of how nursing your child, be it through breast-milk or formula, affects their growth and development.

Besides breastfeeding for me being an emotionally satisfying experience, allowing me close physical contact with my baby, my gynaecologist explained that it also helped reduce my stress level, as being a mother can be emotionally demanding.

He also pointed out that it lowered my risk of postpartum depression by releasing the hormone oxytocin, which is said to encourage a nurturing and soothing experience for any mother.

Also, I was just happy to not ovulate for several months, because thanks to breastfeeding I stopped creating the hormone necessary for releasing an egg from my ovaries.

While I was benefitting from this kind of feeding, my little one too was getting the best, as the breast milk was fuelling her immune system by providing immunities that fight against germs she was being unintentionally exposed to. This assisted in the promotion of a healthy digestive system because it is easier for new-borns to digest breast milk than formula.

I read a lot of pregnancy books that revealed that babies are protected from experiencing gas and colic, and have a less irritated bum and a less smelly bowel movement when breast fed.

Apart from breastfeeding being convenient, and a free source of food, I felt that it was easier to breastfeed once I got the hang of different feeding positions.

My little one had a consistent source of readily available baby food, at the right temperature, any time of the day.

Because the milk wasn’t cow or soy milk-based formulas, she rarely had allergy-related problems such as eczema, diarrhoea and respiratory infections.

Graphic: Costa Mokola

Data suggests breast milk has numerous diverse immunoglobulins that help protect against allergies by providing a protective layer in a baby’s intestinal track.

While burning calories was also a major thing for me, my doctor explained that because breastfeeding releases oxytocin, a hormone that encourages uterine reductions and supports the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size, I would recover from childbirth faster if I continue to nurse my baby.

This was a big plus to me, provided that I could pump the milk every now and then, allowing myself more freedom to spend time doing the things I enjoy.

While breastfeeding appeared to have a lot advantages, I came to realise that there is always a flip side to it; disadvantages that are unavoidable if you decide on this option.

My sexual desire died. To tell you the truth, it was buried; gone. Nursing reduces the levels of estrogenic created in a woman’s body. Oestrogen stimulates vaginal lubrication, so this reduction could result in breastfeeding mothers being less concerned about sexual intercourse.

The rest of the family also kind of felt left out on the baby’s growth and development, as breastfeeding is a 24-hour job, leaving you with little time for family bonding, as the baby feeds more often than bottle-fed babies.

Being a bit of a fussy person, measuring the amount of milk that she was drinking was also a problem. I had no idea how much she was having.

Besides having no freedom as I constantly had to be ready to feed the baby, some of my diet plans were also a big no no, thanks to breast-feeding.

Mothers on certain medications cannot breastfeed in order to avoid passing that particular medication to the baby.

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