THE ADVANTAGES OF BREAST -FEEDING
Nursing stimulates uterine contractions that help prevent hemorrhaging and return the uterus to its normal size.
Breast milk is convenient and economical; it is sterile, portable, and always the right temperature.
Nursing promotes a special kind of mother-infant bonding.
Breast-fed babies have fewer infections. The benefits extend beyond childhood; studies
show that people who were breast-fed have a reduced incidence of obesity, diabetes,
asthma, heart disease, and some types of cancer.
Breast milk may protect infants with a strong family history of allergy from developing one.
Women who breast-feed have a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer and postmenopausal osteoporosis (loss of bone mass).
A baby who has regular stools and produces six or more wet diapers. A day is most likely getting plenty of food.. Experts promote “on demand” feeding, in other words, babies should be fed whenever they are hungry for the first 4 or 5 months. Some babies may be sleepy or disinterested in food; a baby who is not feeding at least six to eight times a day may need to be stimulated to consume more.
Growth is an important indicator of whether or not a baby is getting enough to eat. Remember, however, that babies tend to grow in spurts. During a growth spurt, an infant will want to breast milk. This will signal the mother’s body to increase milk production. But the mother should not be concerned if, a week or two later, her baby is less interested in eating.
Finally, hungry babies send out plenty of signals that they are hungry. Common cues are fussing, crying and irritability as well as a variety of lip and tongue movements- such as lip smacking and fists in mouths.
Generally, bottle-fed babies consume more than breast-fed infants do ; they may gain weight more rapidly, although the breast-fed babies will eventually catch up with them. On average, most babies double their birth weight in 4 to 5 months, and triple required more work than nursing; bottles, nipples, and other equipment must be sterilized. Some formulas are premixed; others are concentrated or powdered, and must be mixed with sterile water. Any formula should be discarded; if not, there is a possibility of its being contaminated by microorganisms entering through the nipple opening.
There is not specific age at which to start solid foods, but for most babies, 4 to 6 months is about right. Starting too early can be harmful because the digestive system may not be able to handle solid foods yet, also the early introduction of solid foods may increase the risk of developing food allergies. An infant who is thriving solely on breast milk can generally wait until he is 5 or 6 months old; after that, nursing alone may not provide adequate calories and the nutrients that a baby needs for normal growth.The first solid food must be easy to digest and unlikely to provoke an allergic reaction-infant rice cereal is a good choice. For the first few feedings, put a very small amount on the spoon, gently touch the baby’s lips to encourage him to open his mouth, and place the cereal at the back of the tongue. Don’t expect these feedings to go smoothly; a baby usually does a lot of spitting, sputtering, and protesting.
The baby should be hungry, but not ravenous. Some experts suggest starting the feeding with a few minutes of nursing or bottle-feeding, then offering a small amount of the moistened cereal-no more than a teaspoon or two-and finishing with the milk. After a few sessions, you can start with the cereal, then gradually increase the amount of solid foods as you reduce the amount of milk.
Beginning slowly, introducing only one or two new items a week. If you use home-cooked foods, make sure that they’re thoroughly pureed. In addition to rice cereal, try oatmeal and barely cereals; strained vegetables and fruits. At about 5 months, fruit juice can be added to the diet, starting with apple juice. Hold off on orange juice and other citrus products for at least 6 months; these may provoke until the baby is 6 to 9 months old, or even later if there is a family history of allergies. Withdraw any food that provokes a rash, runny nose, unusual fussiness, diarrhea, or any other sign of a possible allergic reaction or food intolerance.
When they are about 7 or 8 months old, most babies have developed enough eye-hand coordination to pick up finger food and maneuver it into their mouths. The teeth are also beginning to come in at this age; giving a baby a teething biscuit, or cracker to chew on can ease gum soreness as well as provide practice in self-feeding. Other good starters are finger foods, which could include bite-size dry cereals, bananas, slices of apples and pears, peas, and cooked carrots, and small pieces of soft-cooked boiled or roasted chicken. The pieces should be large enough to hold but small enough so that they don’t lodge in the throat and cause choking.
As soon as the baby can sit in a high chair, he should be included at family meals and start eating many of the same foods, even though they may need mashing or cutting into small pieces. Give the child a spoon, but don’t be disappointed if he prefers using his hands. At this stage it’s more important for the baby to become integrated into family activities and master self-feeding than to learn proper table manners. These will come eventually, especially if the parents and older sibling set a good example.
Giving up the breast or bottle is a major milestone in a baby’s development, but not one that should be rushed. When a woman stops nursing is largely a matter of personal preference. Some mothers wean their babies from the breast to a bottle after only a few weeks or months; others continue nursing for longer, even though the child is eating solid food. Similarly, some babies decide to give up their bottles themselves at 9 or 10 months; yet others will still want it- especially at nap or bedtime. If a baby under a year old drinks milk from a cup, it should still be a formula.