Now the decision to breastfeed lies with you, as it depends on your health and that of your baby. However, consult your health care provider if you choose not to, for proper guidance on best practice.
Breastfeeding and its benefits cannot be over emphasized as it continues to be the best and safest source of nutriment for our babies. The breastmilk comprises nutrients that not only feed babies, but also protects them from infectious diseases. The composition of breastmilk is not static, as it varies over time and this shows how it adapts to the baby’s changing needs.
Composition of Breastmilk
Basic nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, enzymes, growth factors, hormones, immunoglobulins, prebiotics, probiotics can all be obtained in breastmilk during breastfeeding.
Types of Breastmilk
Breastmilk tends to change in composition depending on the age of your baby and three types have been identified here.
Premilk produced in first three days after birth. It is particularly rich in antibodies and other protective factors. The colostrum contains more minerals than the mature milk to support healthy growth of the new born, and readily digested by the immature organs.
Milk produced after the colostrum. This is usually from the third to the tenth day after baby is born.
From the tenth day onward, breast milk is mature.
Benefits of Breastfeeding to the Mother:
Here are some reasons why you should breastfeed your baby:
- Breastfeeding helps to facilitate placental separation
- The hormones released during breastfeeding curbs blood loss post-delivery and helps your uterus shrink back to size
- Breastfeeding your baby reduces anaemia because your menses starts later.
- Breastfeeding strengthens the relationship between a mother and her baby.
- Breastfeeding saves you a lot of money.
- It reduces the risk of premenopausal breast cancer
- The risk for ovarian cancer is reduced as well when you breastfeed.
- For some mothers, breastfeeding helps burn calories fast thus helping to maintain pre-gravid stature. That sounds nice.
Benefits of Breastfeeding to the Baby
- Breastmilk contains the right balance of nutrients to help the infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler.
- Some of the nutrients in breast milk also help protect the infant against some common childhood illnesses and infections such as ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea.
- Breast milk is a clean source of food.
- Breastmilk is your baby’s first immunization.
- Breastmilk reduces the risk for allergies and some childhood cancers.
- Breast milk contains vitamin A. Babies low in vitamin A, have poor appetite, eye problems, and more infections.
- During time of illnesses, breastmilk helps your baby get better faster
- Breast milk helps low birth weight babies, especially those who are premature.
- Breastfeeding improves sucking reflex in babies, by helping your baby’s mouth, teeth, and jaw develop properly
It is extremely important that you consume a balanced, nourishing diet throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, to provide the nutrients your baby requires to support growth and development, without depriving yourself nutrients needed to maintain your own nutrition and health.
Tips to Help Mothers Breastfeed Properly
Water and Other Fluids
- During breastfeeding, extra fluid is expended with every feeding
- Lactating women need extra 1000ml (about a litre) of fluid per day to facilitate milk production and reduce risk for dehydration.
- Sources of fluids are water, soups, pure fruit juices (water melon)
- Timing and initiation of breastfeeding very important
- Positioning and attachment of the baby should be appropriate
- Good personal and utensils hygiene must be practiced
Myths About Breastfeeding
- Breast milk alone cannot meet the need of the baby
- Baby needs water after each feed to prevent heartburn
- Do not have sex while breast feeding as the sperm can contaminate breast milk
- Size of your breast determines the amount of milk
- Colostrum is not good for baby as it is ‘dirty’
Do you know more myths about breastfeeding? Hit the comment section to share…
How Long Should I breastfeed
Breastfeeding should commence immediately after your baby is born, and exclusively for the first 6months of life, after which complementary feeding should begin. It is worthy of note, that breastfeeding should continue even whilst your baby has begun taking other foods. Breastfeeding can continue till 2years of age if you so wish.
All regulatory body including WHO, AAP, ESPGHAN, Codex Committee recommend that an age appropriate infant formula is best when breastfeeding is not possible.
Types of Infant Formulas
There are different types of infant formulas, and the choice for your baby is dependent on his/her need per time. Of course, the health status of your baby is also crucial in making this decision.
These are formulas designed to meet the needs of your baby in the first 6months of life. Their nutritional composition is tailored to follow after the composition of breastmilk. All nutrients babies require to thrive in the first months of life can be obtained from the starter formula. The starter formula can be divided into four categories, which are:
Whey Predominant Formulas:
These are the most advanced forms of formulas as they are adapted to follow the composition of the human breastmilk by the addition of whey to cow’s milk protein.
Casein Predominant Formulas:
These formulas are gotten from cow’s milk protein without the addition of whey, as such the casein levels are higher and would take longer time to digest when consumed. They are suitable for hungrier babies because of the satiety they give.
These formulas have been biologically acidified by microorganisms to achieve finer and more digestible feed options for babies. They are suitable where hygiene levels are poor.
Here proteins in this formula have been partially hydrolyzed and processed by a protease enzyme to reduce the allergenicity of the milk to reduce symptoms of allergic reactions. It is suitable for babies with parents who have a history of allergies.
Follow Up Formulas
These are formulas designed to form the liquid portion of the weaning diet intended for babies above 6months of life. They contain high amounts of nutrients to support growth at this phase of life. WHO recommends 500mls of milk for babies during weaning to provide Calcium, Iron and Linoleic acid.
Growing Up Milks
Their design follows after the follow up milks, as a substitute for regular cow’s milk in the toddler’s diet, in order to provide babies with more balanced source of nutrient. They provide the toddler with key nutrients not obtainable from the cow’s milk.
Best Infant Formula for My Baby
The choice for an appropriate infant formula can be quite hectic, as there are numerous options to pick from. You could start your baby on one and then realize he/she does not even want it some days after.
Other times, it may be accepted but your baby stools after feeding, or develops some form of allergic reaction or is not gaining weight as expected for age. Now here’s the secret, look for a baby formula that contains the nutritional profile closest to that of breastmilk as much as possible. In doing so, you should consider the following below.
Best Formula Protein
The optimal growth, development and functional maturation of your baby clearly depend on the provision of an appropriate intake and balance of more than 50 essential macro and micro nutrients. Of all these nutrients, protein is by far the most important determinant.
Protein plays a role in brain development, build up and repair of worn out tissues, transport of materials, functions as enzymes and hormones, and even supplies energy. As important as protein might be, it is important to give a baby formula that has a protein quantity closest to that of breastmilk. Reason being that too much or too little of protein can be detrimental to your bay’s health.
There is quite a large range of evidence now that shows that too much protein intake in early childhood leads to overweight and obesity. So please take the time to look at the nutritional profile of an infant formula before purchase.
Check the protein content per 100ml and choose a baby formula that has the lowest protein content per 100ml. Sounds like a lot of work already? Well, maybe but you would be glad you did this little exercise.
As far as protein is concerned, ‘less is more’. Exposing your little one to a formula with too much protein in the early years of a child’s life can lead to the development of obesity. Thus, if your baby is not fully breastfed, you should get an infant formula with reduced protein contents but high protein quality.
Breastmilk contains about 1.2g/100ml of protein and that should be the guide when making your choice of a breastmilk substitute. You cannot imagine that as little as 0.1g/100ml extra in an infant formula can bring about weight gain in just 4months.
Now when a baby is exposed to excessive protein intake during infancy, the risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, stroke in later life also increases. This shows that we can no longer limit these health challenges to genetic factors or lifestyle in adulthood.
Do not bother so much about having a very heavy baby. If your health care provider thinks your baby’s weight is appropriate for age, then you are doing just fine.
Probiotics in a nut shell are the good microorganisms that help to fight off the bad ones in our system that can destroy our immunity, and babies are not left out. When you breastfeed, your baby has access to the beneficial microorganisms to protect them from infections.
However, in the decision for the best formula when not breastfeeding, look out for brands that contain probiotics.
The most abundant strains of probiotics in breastmilk are Bifidus longum and Bifidus lactis. These strains can be found in some formulas. Your baby can also have access to probiotics when given yogurt during complementary feeding.
Baby Probiotics Can:
- Increase the proportion of beneficial microorganisms in the gut of your baby, and hence protecting it against harmful bacteria
- Boost immunity by improving secretion of fecal sIgA, which plays an important role in the elimination of pathogens.
- Help reduce the incidence of antibiotic associated diarrhea
- Reduce the incidence of rotavirus infection
- Reduce the duration and frequency of diarrhea episodes
The efficacy of probiotics in strengthening your baby’s immune system is reinforced by immuno-nutrients.
Immuno-nutrients and their Benefits to Babies
An adequate intake of specific micronutrients, such as Vitamin A, C, iron and zinc, is important for the proper functioning of the immune system.
- Iron plays a key role in the modulation of the immune response. Its deficiency leads to increased susceptibility to infection.
- Zinc is a cofactor of many enzymes required by the cells of the immune system. Zinc is necessary for the activity of some immune mediators.
- Vitamin A promotes the development of a healthy skin and gut barrier for strong natural protection. Vitamin A is essential for normal immune cell growth.
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the body’s cells and is needed as part of the body’s natural defenses. Vitamin C facilitates iron absorption.
Brain Development In Babies:
The early years of a child’s life are very important for brain development. This process starts in-utero and through the first few years of life. A lot of factors come into play when considering brain development, such as hereditary factors, environmental factors which includes nutrition and the social development. To support brain development, maternal diet is key, as well as appropriate feeding practices in the first years of life, as damage can not be reversed. Here are some important elements that can impact positively on brain development.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
DHA is a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid found in breast milk that plays a role in brain development. It also ensures clear vision and builds resistance against allergies in babies. Formulas with DHA are best for your babies.
Iron Fortified Formula
Iron is important for normal psychomotor and cognitive development. Your baby’s immune system is dependent on Iron for its normal functioning. Iron plays essential role in many metabolic processes. Example: Oxygen transport, oxidative metabolism and cellular growth.
Taurine is an important factor in the development of the brain and central nervous system. Baby formula of choice should have an adequate amount for your baby. It is also essential for visual functions in the development process.
Choline also plays a critical role in brain development during the neonatal period of your baby’s development. It is important for normal function of all cells. For rapid organ growth to occur, large amounts of Choline must be present in a formula for membrane biosynthesis.
So we have looked at a number of factors that are very key when deciding the best baby formula to purchase for your baby, and am hoping this write up would have helped in some way. You can share your feedbacks here with me as we journey to have healthy happy babies. Looking forward to hearing from you all soonest. Cheers!