Breastfeeding: joys and sorrows

Recommended for at least six months from the birth of the baby in all cases where it is possible to implement it, breastfeeding has indisputable benefits. But also some inconveniences.

Breast milk is a unique and irreplaceable food. Its complex and balanced composition, still only partially known, evolves from week to week, remaining perfectly aligned with the needs of the growing newborn. That is why it is considered in all respects the best nourishment in the first months of life.

But it is not only for dietary reasons that when it comes to breastfeeding all experts and health institutions at international level, World Health Organization in the first place, agree in recommending it without any hesitation. Let’s see what the other advantages are.

All the beauty of breastfeeding

In addition to fundamental micro and macro nutrients, antibodies and other substances are transferred through breast milk that support the immune defenses of the newborn, not yet able to react spontaneously to external aggressions and not yet vaccinated, protecting him from infectious diseases of various types.

In addition, breast milk appears to have “immunomodulating” properties that help prevent the development of allergies in childhood and several “immune-mediated” diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which once onset persist throughout life.

There are, then, numerous and substantial psychoemotional advantages related to the modalities of breastfeeding. The close proximity and deep physical interaction between mother and newborn promotes the construction of the fundamental emotional bond, which will be maintained throughout life. The contact with the skin, the warmth and the smell of the mother reassure the child and calm him, while in the mother the stimulus to care is promoted.

Further proven benefits for breastfeeding women concern the easier recovery from birth traumas and the faster recovery of normal genitourinary anatomy and physical fitness, even without having to undergo excessively restrictive diets; as well as partial protection from the risk of developing breast cancer before menopause, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.

To these advantages, is added that of transient amenorrhea (interruption of the menstrual cycle) associated with breastfeeding, which allows to “save” iron, helping to avoid anemia conditions.

Main problems and possible solutions

In addition to the many benefits, breastfeeding can also involve some practical problems, but these are minor annoyances.

The main ones concern breast engorgements (which can cause breast tension and pain), spontaneous milk spills in the most disparate and often inappropriate situations, mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland) and fissures around the mammary areola (favored by individual predisposition and the wrong “attack” of the baby during feeding).

To avoid traffic jams, breastfeeding on demand is recommended, which facilitates the harmonization of milk production with the baby’s dietary needs, and breast pressure with the hands (called “manual squeezing”) or suction with the breast pump, to get out excess milk.

Even mastitis, which usually appears in the first 2-4 weeks postpartum, can be prevented or attenuated with frequent on-demand breastfeeding and / or mechanical withdrawal of excess milk; In addition, wet and lukewarm showers and / or compresses may be useful, as well as, possibly, the intake of painkillers / anti-inflammatory drugs (agreed with the doctor) to appease the discomfort, if excessive.

To avoid fissures it is, however, essential to make sure that the baby is well positioned, with mouth and nose in front of the areola when offering the breast, and that he can suck without sensitizing the skin around the nipple.

And when you can’t?

Although breastfeeding is generally recommended, there are situations in which it is not possible to implement it or it is even preferable to avoid it. For example, because the mother does not have enough milk or has pathologies that require the intake of drugs that could pass into the milk and create problems for the newborn.

In all these cases, you should not worry or feel guilty for not being able to offer your baby your milk. Over decades, in fact, countless artificial milk formulas have been developed that, even without faithfully reproducing human milk, allow to provide the baby with all the macro and micronutrients he needs to grow strong and healthy.

Finally, there is the possibility of “combining” breastfeeding with that with artificial milk in what is commonly called “mixed” breastfeeding.

Here are the main differences between these three types of breastfeeding.

Type of breastfeeding Features When
Exclusive breastfeeding Recommended for all women who have adequate milk production and no contraindications to breastfeeding. It is considered the optimal mode of nutrition of the newborn in the first months Recommended from birth to 6th month of age
Lactation with artificial formulas It is a valid alternative to breastfeeding. Includes meals with artificial milk formulas, offered with a bottle When mom doesn’t have enough milk or can’t breastfeed
Mixed breastfeeding It includes a part of breast feedings and a part of meals with artificial milk formulas, offered with the bottle When the mother does not have enough milk or cannot breastfeed throughout the day and from the 6th month of life, when the first foods are introduced

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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