Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding a baby nothing but breast milk.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of a baby’s life.
Breastfeeding with some solid food is recommended until at least one year, with continued breastfeeding as long as mother and baby would like to continue.
Breast milk is the only food your baby needs until six months of age.
Breast milk is perfectly suited to meet ALL of your baby’s nutritional needs. Babies who are exclusively breastfed do not need any additional vitamins, supplements or water – only breast milk!
Breast milk automatically changes in composition to adjust to baby’s changing needs. For example, during hot summer months breast milk will become thinner to meet baby’s extra hydration needs. During teething, the analgesic (pain relieving) properties of breast milk will increase to help soothe baby.
For most babies, it is best to feed only breast milk and avoid using any infant formula or cereals at all for the first six months.
Breast milk is created by the mother’s body on a supply and demand basis. This means that whatever baby demands, the mother’s body will supply.
Supplementing with infant formula will interfere with this supply and demand process because the baby will demand less from the mother so her body will supply less. Therefore, supplementing with infant formula will reduce the mother’s supply of breast milk.
Some people recommend using infant cereal to get babies to sleep longer at night. However, cereal does not contain the same nutrients as breast milk, may help the baby get into a deeper sleep than is safely recommended, and will decrease the mother’s milk supply.
Feeding on Demand means feeding a baby whenever he shows signs of wanting to eat.
Feeding on demand will ensure proper nourishment and sufficient milk supply.
All breastfed babies should be fed on demand.
Breastfed babies need to be fed about every two hours or more, but it is important to follow your baby’s cues instead of a clock.
Watch your baby’s cues to determine when he is hungry. Hunger cues include rooting (turning head toward breast and moving around, searching for the breast), smacking lips, sucking on hands or fingers, and finally crying.
Try to begin feeding before your baby cries. A calm baby will more easily latch.
2D – Basics of a Good Latch
Initiate feeding when you think your baby should be starting to get hungry before your baby shows signs of hunger. Starting before the baby is too hungry will give you plenty of time to work on getting a good latch while the baby is still calm and not overly hungry.
A good beginning position is the “cradle hold,” where the mom sits upright in a chair or bed and holds her baby straight across her chest.
Begin by getting yourself situated into a comfortable position, with lots of pillows to support your back, neck and arms and the baby. Once you get your baby latched, you may be in this position for a long time, so take the time to get yourself comfortable.
After you are situated, lay your baby on a regular or nursing pillow on your lap. Be sure the pillows lift your baby up to the level of your breast – you will want to bring your baby to your breast, not your breast to your baby. Make sure your baby looks comfortable. Her head should be even with her body.
Baby should begin lying across the mother’s lap, tummy to tummy, with his nose aligned with the mother’s nipple.
Mother should hold the breast with her hand in a “C” position (fingers well back from the areola) and tickle the baby’s lip with the nipple to encourage the baby to open her mouth – wide. Baby’s mouth should ideally “gape” open at around a 140-160 degree angle (from the corner of the mouth).
As the baby’s mouth opens wide, bring the baby to your breast (NOT breast to baby), with the chin touching first and the baby’s mouth covering as much of the areola as possible. Baby’s lips should always be flanged out and more of the areola should be covered by the baby’s lower lip than the upper lip.
Assess the Latch
If you are comfortable and your baby is sucking and swallowing, then you probably have a good latch! If you do not have a good latch, remove the baby from the breast and start over. Unlatch baby by inserting your pinky finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth and sweep your finger along the baby’s lips until the “seal” is undone. Then remove your baby from the breast.
Some tenderness may be expected during initial breastfeeding, but any actual discomfort should immediately be brought to the attention of a Lactation Counselor.
Hector Cruz is the Founder of the global campaign “Project: BreastFeeding”. He is passionate about helping to educate men of the importance of their roles in breastfeeding support. He is married and has a beautiful daughter and two dogs.