This section is for general information, but cannot replace your Doctor's help.
Please consult your doctor or other health professional if you have further queries
Breastfeeding may lower the risk of contracting allergies, but cannot stop them occuring, especially if the baby has a close relative with a severe allergy. However, breastfeeding can help reduce the severity of the allergy.
see Immune system
Breast milk lowers risk of baby developing asthma
Fresh breast milk is never contaminated with bacteria
Biological Nurturing is a new way of positioning. The basics are:
Make yourself comfortable with lots of pillows.
Skin to skin is best, or lightly clothed. Lay your baby on your stomach, face down and let your baby wriggle to your nipple.
Gently support your baby's feet.
This method has proved very successful and emphasises lots of kissing and cuddling your baby
Oxytocin is produced when breastfeeding, helping mother and baby bond. The closeness of breastfeeding also helps in the bonding process. This closeness is especially important with premature babies.
Human milk is especially designed for human babies, containing substances which are essential for brain growth and development and which act to protect babies from illness. Breast milk always has the right proportions of fat, carbohydrates and protein.
Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby, nothing comes close to it.
Breast Milk - is your baby getting enough?
Mums and their families often worry that the baby isn't getting enough milk. These signs show that the baby is getting enough milk:
- the baby wets six to eight nappies a day.
- the baby gains 100-200g each week (around 400-800g each month).
- the baby drinks as often as every two to three hours (around 8-12 times a day).
- the baby looks normal, has a nice colour and smooth skin, reacts normally, is strong and moves normally.
Your breast size makes no difference to the amount of milk you will produce as both small and large breasts contain almost the same amount of mammary glands, only the amount of fatty tissue varies. If your baby is producing the right amount of nappies every day and is gaining weight there is no need to worry. Don't worry if your baby wants to feed frequently, all babies are different and some have a greater need for feeding and contact.
Having the right support is important to breastfeeding, and it plays a big part in whether you will be successful breastfeeding or not.
Cancer - Breast
Breastfeeding helps lower the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer. Research published in the Lancet showed "that for every year that a woman breastfeeds, her risk of breast cancer goes down by 4.3 per cent, on top of the 7 per cent reduction for each child she has. If women breastfed each of their children for an extra six months, it could prevent over 1,000 cases of the disease in Britain each year."
The Lancet 360 (9328) pp.187-195
Cancer - Endometrial
A World Health Organization study has shown that the longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she is to get endometrial cancer.
Cancer - Leukemia
Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of developing childhood leukemia. Breastfeeding is linked to lower risks of both acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common of the childhood cancers, and acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML).
Colostrum is the first milk produced by the breasts before the milk flow is established. It helps rid the babies body of meconium and start the development of the intestine.
see also intestinal development
Babies who are at least partly breastfed are one-third less likely to die as a cot death than babies who were never breastfed
McVea KL, Turner PD, Peppler DK., The role of breastfeeding in sudden infant death syndrome., J Hum Lact., 2000; 16: 13-20
Cow's milk by itself is inappropriate for babies less than one year old. The baby may develop an allergy to dairy products if given cow's milk too early in life. Although cow's milk contains most of the same components as breast milk, these components are not in the same amounts. Cow's milk also lacks the immune factors (antibodies) that help protect infants until their own immune system fully develops.
Breastfeeding protects against Crohn's disease (intestinal disorder)
Dental and Jaw Development
Breastfeeding helps your baby develop strong teeth and jaws. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have speech problems, dental problems, or need braces later on.
Diabetes - Protection for babies
Babies who are breastfed for over six months are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes - Protection for mothers
Breastfeeding a baby helps decrease insulin requirements in diabetic Breastfeeding mothers. It also reduces the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes for non-diabetic mothers.
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of diarrhoea. Diarrhoeal infections are much more common in formula-fed babies throughout the world.
Babies who breastfeed less than three months are at increased risk of diarrhoea.
see Otitis media
Expressing is the art of sqeezing your breasts to produce breast milk. You can do this either by hand or with a breast pump.
First, wash your hands. Then, place your thumb 4-5cm away from your nipple and your fingers below so they form a "C" around the areola, and squeeze your finger and thumb together, pushing your hand back against the chest wall, continuing this process in a circular motion around your areola. If your finger and thumb are too close to the nipple, the "squeeze" will hurt and be ineffective. Use a sterile, wide-rimmed container to collect the milk.
Using a pump:
Electric and manual breast pumps may be faster and more efficient. To use an electric pump, you put a suction cup over your breast, turn the machine on, and let it do the work of extracting milk into an attached container. Manual pumps also use a suction cup, but you extract the milk by using a squeeze mechanism or operating some other device rather than relying on a motor powered by electricity. On average it takes 15 to 45 minutes to pump both breasts. Good breast pumps try to mimic the sucking action of a baby, stimulating your let down reflex, and don't cause pain. Knowing which breast pump is right for you depends on how often you plan to use one and how much time you can spare for expressing. If you work full-time and have to find time to pump during a busy day, you might want to choose an ultrafast hospital-grade electric pump, which are very expensive to buy, or can be hired. But if you only need to express the odd feed occasionally so your partner can feed the baby when you're out, a cheaper manual pump may be sufficient, and some women prefer them to electric pumps.
Fathers may not be able to breastfeed, but they can help in many other ways, and so don't need to feel left out at all.
Some of the many things that they can do is - the washing up, changing nappies, burping the baby, doing the laundry and giving the baby a bath. If you have a baby sling he could use it to feel closer to the baby when you are out.
A very useful thing for a working father to do is to make Mum some sandwiches before he goes to work, and to leave a jug of water handy for drinks.
Studies have shown that a Dad who knows about breastfeeding and supports his partner can help her start and continue to breastfeed.
Swanson & Power, 2005; Arora et al, 2000; Bromberg & Darby, 1997
Feeding - Positioning
New research shows that the best position for Mum is the position she feels most comfortable in. Lots of pillows for support are good. The baby should be chest to chest with Mum, with the babies feet supported.
Growth charts in the UK have been based on the growth of formula-fed babies. This has caused problems for breastfed babies who do not grow at the same rate. English growth charts were upated on 11 May 2009 and are now based on WHO charts. These charts were created after a 15 year study of 8,500 children. These new charts will reflect the way healthy breastfeed babies grow.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should be changing their growth charts soon.
Herbs have been traditionally used around the world to help produce breast milk. These types of herbs are called galactagogues. Although herbs are not commercially produced medicines they can contain potent ingredients.
Please consult a qualified herbalist or doctor before taking any herbs while you are breastfeeding
Here is a list of commonly used herbs:
The safety of using anise during pregnancy and breast-feeding is unknown, though it is very likely safe and has traditionally been used to support breast-feeding in some cultures.
In two preliminary trials, infants have been shown to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic than when their mothers took placebos. However, some infants may develop colic if they consume garlic in breast milk.
Goat's rue (Galega officinalis)
Has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat's rue tincture three times per day is considered by European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume. Studies are as yet lacking to support the use of goat's rue as a galactagogue.
Lavender in the bath can help with perineal pain after childbirth.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother's energy following childbirth.
Vitex (Vitex agnus castus)
One of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that fifteen drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. Vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.
Some healthcare practitioners may recommend a warm, moist poultice of herbs with demulcent (soothing) properties. Demulcents are traditionally used to aid healing and soothe any irritated tissue. Examples of herbs traditionally used as demulcents to relieve sore nipples are marigold (Calendula officinalis), comfrey (Symphytum officinalis), and chickweed (Stellaria media). To prepare a poultice, the dried herbs are moistened with boiling water and wrapped within two layers of gauze. The poultice is then applied to the breasts. Application of a hot water bottle over the poultice will keep the poultice warm longer. Any residue should be washed from the breast before the baby breast-feeds.
Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993, 177.
Mohr H. Clinical investigations of means to increase lactation. Dtsh Med Wschr 1954;79:1513-6 [in German].
Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1988, 318.
Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling's behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805-8.
Bingel AS, Farnsworth NR. Higher plants as potential sources of galactagogues. Econ Med Plant Res 1994;6:1-54 [review].
“Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses because human milk transfers to the infant a mother's antibodies to disease. About 80% of the cells in breast milk are macrophages, cells that kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Breastfed babies are protected in varying degrees from a number of illnesses including, pneumonia, botulism, bronchitis, staphylococcal infections, influenza, ear infections, and German measles. Furthermore, mothers produce antibodies to what ever disease is present in their environment, making their milk custom-designed to fight diseases their babies are exposed to as well.” - R D Williams, Breast-Feeding Best Betfor Babies
Studies show that babies who have been exculsively breastfed for a prolonged time have greater intelligence than those fed on formula. Although it is not known whether it is something in the breastmilk, the pysical contact between mother and child, or genetics the evidence shows that breastfeeding improves children's cognitive development.
Breast milk helps the baby's gut develop faster than formula-fed babies. If the baby recieves colostrum it matures even more raplidly.
Healthy babies have adequate iron stores to last until eight months of age.
Getting a proper latch is the key to successful breastfeeding. The great majority of problems can be solved by the right latch. Only very rare problems are not solved by a successful latch.
The first step to a proper latch on is getting baby to open WIDE! Brush baby's lips with your nipple to encourage him to open wide, as if yawning.
Once baby's mouth is open wide, quickly pull him onto the breast by pulling the baby toward you with the arm that is holding him. Make sure you move the baby towards you, and not move yourself towards the baby.
The baby's gums should completely bypass the nipple and cover approximately one inch of the areola behind the nipple. Make sure the baby's lips are everted (turned outward). Some babies will tighten or purse their lips, especially the lower one. If the lower lip is inverted (turned in), try simply pressing down on baby's chin to evert the inwardly turned lip.
If your baby is latched on and sucking correctly, you should not feel any pain. If you feel pain, or the baby does not seem to be sucking correctly, stop and start over again. Break the suction by putting your finger in the side of the baby's mouth between the gums. Do not let the baby continue to feed incorrectly, as you can develop painful and damaged nipples, and the baby may not be able to get enough milk.
See also: Biological Nuturing
Breastfeeding for at least four months enhances lung volume in children
Mastitis is when your breast becomes inflamed. It's usually caused by too much milk collecting in your breast. It's common in women who are breastfeeding and can be extremely painful. Mastitis usually clears up on its own. But occasionally it requires treatment with antibiotics.
Most women who get mastitis won't need any treatment. The best thing you can do is to carry on breastfeeding to remove the milk that has collected. Always start feeding with the affected breast first. If your baby has trouble latching on get some advice.
If your symptoms don't clear up after a day or two, or if they are severe, you may need treatment with antibiotics.
Meconium is the first stool that is passed by a baby. Breastfeeding and colostrum helps clear the baby's gut of meconium.
Breastfeeding is a strong protective factor against Haemophilus influenzae (HI) meningitis for five to ten years after breastfeeding stops.
Nipples - Cracked and Bleeding
Cracked nipples are caused by a poor latch. Breastfeeding should be pain free so please contact Breast Start or ring any of the other breastfeeding helplines to get help with your latch. In the meanwhile try putting some of your own milk on your nipples to aid healing. Only use water to wash your nipples - no soap or lotions.
Nipples - Sore while breastfeeding
The most common form of pain while breastfeeding comes from a poor latch. Consult a lactation specailist or your health vistor. If you live in Torfaen ring our helpline or come along to one of our groups for help.
A rare reason for nipple soreness is Raynaud's disease
Breast milk is the perfect source of nutrition for infants. Breast milk contains appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. It also provides the digestive proteins, minerals, vitamins, and hormones that infants need.
“ Human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding and is species-specific; all substitute feeding options differ markedly from it. The breastfed infant is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes.”
PEDIATRICS Vol. 100 No. 6 December 1997, pp. 1035-1039 AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk
Breastfed babies are less likely to obese adults.
Long term breastfeeding may help against osteoporosis.
Exclusive breastfeeding for at least four months protects against otitis media
Otitis media is the inflammation of the middle ear in which there is fluid in the middle ear accompanied by signs or symptoms of ear infection: a bulging eardrum usually accompanied by pain; or a perforated eardrum, often with drainage of purulent material (pus). Almost all children in the U.S. have at least one bout of otitis media before they are six years old.
Both the position of the baby when breastfeeding for eustachian tube function and the immunity passed on in the breast milk help to prevent otitis media. Bottlefeeding on the other hand is a risk factor in getting otitis media.
Oxytocin is “the hormone of love and bonding”. It is produced during sex and during giving birth. Oxytocin is often given to pregnant mothers to induce birth.
After birth oxytocin helps to proce milk by contracting the mother's mammary glands in the breast. The amount of milk produced depends on how often the baby suckles.
Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. If you are experiencing pain this maybe becuase your baby is not latched on properly. The best thing to do is to get advice on latching on.
See also - latch
A breastfed baby's poo is usually a mustard colour, seedy and watery and shouldn't smell too bad.
Pooing - frequency
Pooing frequency can vary, from every day to once a week. In rare cases a baby may not poo for up to three weeks. Breastmilk is very well absorbed by babies and they will often absorb all of the breastmilk and therefore not need to poo for some time. However they will still urinate frequently. A breastfed baby who hasn't pooed in a while is not necessarily constipated.
A recent study concluded that one of the results of feeding only from one breast at each feed was decreased stool frequency.
Positioning for feeding - see feeding
Breastfeeding, or at least skin-to skin contact with the newborn, helps control haemorrhage by causing the mother to produce natural oxytocin.
Chua S, et al. Influence of nipple stimulation and breastfeeding on postpartum uterine activity. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1994;101:804-805.
Although your baby may not be able to breastfeed it is important for your baby to be given breast milk. Your milk will have adapted for your premature baby and will have more fat, protein and sodium than it would have had if your baby had been born on time. Your baby can then get the antibodies, hormones, enzymes and growth factors contained in it. Breast milk is also easier to digest than formula and expressing the milk is something you can do for your baby.
See also - Expressing
Prolactin controls the amount of milk produced. The more the baby is fed, the more prolactin is released and the more milk produced.
Raynaud's disease is a condition which affects blood flow to the extremities in both men and women. In rare cases it can also affect blood flow to the nipple during pregnancy and after giving birth, causing pain while breastfeeding. It manifests itself by the blanching of the nipple not only during and after breastfeeding, but between feeds as well. The blanching of the nipples can also be noticible during pregnancy. Raynauds may occur in more than one pregnancy.
It is important to contact your doctor if you suspect you may be suffering from Raynaud's. Nifedipine can help reduce pain and is safe to give to breastfeeding mothers. Keep warm, especially keep your breasts warm.
Breastfeeding helps reduce the likelyhood of having a respiritory infection, and will shorten the duration if a respiritory infection is contracted. Bottle-fed infants are at almost twice the risk of developing respiratory illness at any time during the first seven years of life.
Latest research shows that women who breastfeed for thirteen months or more are half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis as those who never breastfeed. If you breastfeed for between one and twelve months you have a 25% decreased risk.
If you have Rheumatoid arthritis and are pregnant, or are breastfeeding now the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society Website has information to help you.
Breastfed babies are more likely to sleep better. Breastfeeding Mums and Dad get more sleep as they don't have any bottles to prepare in the night.
Recommended storage times for breastmilk are:
- Room Temperature (19ºC to 26ºC): 4 hours (ideal) up to 6 hours (acceptable)
- Fridge (up to 4ºC): 8 days (if collected in a very clean, careful way)
- Freezer (between -18ºC to -20ºC): up to 6 months (ideal) up to 12 months (acceptable)
The current advice for breastfeeding mothers is to continue breastfeeding if at all possible.
If you have contracted swine flu your milk will provide antibodies to protect your baby. If your baby has contracted swine flu your breast milk is the best food your baby can get.
See also Immune System
Teeth - Tooth decay
There is no link between tooth decay and breastfeeding, no matter how long breastfeeding continues.
Urinary Tract Infection
Studies suggest that breastfeeding may have a preventative effect on urinary tract infection in both mother and infant.
The Lancet 1990; 335:569-771
A suckling baby helps shrink mother's uterus after childbirth
Vegetarian and Vegan Mums
As with any diet, as long as you have a healthy diet you will remain healthy. Breastmilk is the ultimate food, and will not be affected by your diet.
A recent study has shown that young children who had been breastfed had better stereoscopic vision.
A Singhal et al, "Infant nutrition and stereoacuity at age 4-6 years, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85/1, 2007: 152-9
The optimum time to start to wean is at six months as your baby's gut has now matured and can cope with new foods.
Babies are experimenting with taste and texture at this age (as with everything) so if they don't want to eat food, but just play with it that's fine. Give your baby healthy options and try to avoid high sugar, salt and fat foods.
Gill Rapley of the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative has found that it is unnecessary to puree food once your baby is six months old and is instead recommending giving babies 'proper' food at six months as they are developmentally capable of eating it. If you are weaning earlier than six months then you will need to puree your babies food
If you have any worries about allergies consider not giving any cow's milk or food with gluten until your baby is one year old. Also do not give any nuts or nut products (such as groundnut oil) until your child is three years old or more.
Honey should not be given until your baby is one year old.
Whole nuts should be avoided until your child is three years old.
Although your baby is now eating other foods the recommendation is for your baby to be breastfed until two years old.
Weight - losing
Breastfeeding uses up an average of 500 calories a day. If you eat a normal diet while you are breastfeeding you should lose any extra weight you gained during pregnancy.
Work - Breastfeeding at
The Workplace Regulations require employers to provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The facilities should be suitably located (e.g. near to toilets) and where necessary should provide appropriate facilities for the new or expectant mother to lie down.
By law your employer has to provide a safe place in which to breastfeed or to express breast milk for as long as you want to breastfeed.
Any breech of health and safety legislation in relation to new and expectant mothers is considered automatic sex discrimination. There is no length of service qualification and the Act gives protective rights to a broad range of workers including the self-employed, agency workers, apprentices, and voluntary workers, depending on the nature of their contract.
See also - Expressing
The mothers shall give suck to their offsprings, for two complete years
Quran Surah II (Baqarah) Verse 233i