Breastfeeding: All you need to know

Breastfeeding: All you need to know

How is breast milk made?

During the delivery of the baby, the removal of placenta initiates the production of milk in the mother. A woman’s breasts develop significantly during pregnancy and fatty tissues are deposited around the breasts. Hormones that help in breast development are called Oestrogen, Progesterone and Prolactin. Oestrogen helps in the development of milk ducts, whereas Progesterone and Prolactin help in the development of alveolar cells (milk producing cells) of the breasts.The hormone Prolactin causes the production of milk.

Benefits of breastfeeding

It is medically proven that breast milk is the ultimate nutrition for an infant for a number of reasons. Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include:

  • Breast milk provides complete nutrition to the newborn.
  • Breastfeeding creates an emotional attachment between mother and her baby
  • Breast milk provides disease-fighting substances called antibodies to the infant
  • Breastfeeding reduces the chances of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in lactating mothers.
  • Breast milk reduces the chances of childhood cancer in breastfed baby
  • Temperature of breast milk is neither too cold nor too hot, making it just right for the baby.
  • Prevents allergies (for example eczema)
  • Helps mother get back to her usual size and the uterus shrinks back to normal as well because of breastfeeding.


What initiates outflow of breast milk?

The suckling of the nipple by the baby initiates the release of breast milk which is stored in the alveoli of the breast.

How to breastfeed?

A proper technique may be implied upon for better breastfeeding. Accurate breastfeeding gives ease to the baby to fulfil its hunger and maintains lactation. This is how a lactating woman should practice breastfeeding:

  • Mother should stroke the infant’s mouth with her nipple so that the baby starts searching for the nipple.
  • Hold the nipple between her index finger and middle finger
  • Make available the areola part of the breast not only nipple which makes suckling more convenient for the baby

Prevention of breast sores or cracked nipples

Once feeding is completed, detach the baby without causing you pain by putting a little finger on the corner of the mouth of the baby and stop the suckling process. This technique may prevent a lactating woman from getting her nipples cracked or infected which can be very painful.

Best time to start breastfeeding

Breastfeeding may be immediately started after birth or within 4-5 hours of the birth of the baby. Normally breastfeeding is done after every 1-2 hours. Frequency of breastfeeding is adjusted by the mother according to her baby’s need. A woman may feed her baby 8-12 times in 24 hours.


Why is breast milk the best milk for the newborn?

Normal infants need two times more energy per kilogram of body weight. Breast milk is considered as the best food supplement for the infant up to a period of six months although weaning may be initiated after 2 months.

Breast milk contains all the essential vitamins, protective immunoglobulin, which protects the baby from possible infections and give the baby the strength to fight against viruses and germs. The water present in breast milk fulfils the water demand of the baby and prevents dehydration, as the baby can’t have as much water as needed by the body, on its own.

Energy requirements and Best Foods for the breastfeeding mother

The approximate energy required for lactation is around 2500kJ/day. A well nourished pregnant woman has good energy stores and fatty tissue deposits that are utilized for lactation.

Lactation may make women feel weak and fatigue. Lactating women are highly recommended to add carbohydrate foods to their diet to improve her health and provide her the energy she requires in her lactation period which is roughly up to 10000 KJ/day. However, this requirement may vary women to women. To learn more about what a breastfeeding mother should eat to ensure a sufficient milk supply and make the breastfeeding experience healthy, check out the list of best foods for the breastfeeding mother here.

Breast milk vs. cow milk

It is found that some women consider cow milk to be better than human milk for their baby. However it is proven that human milk contains all the essential nutrients for the proper growth of infant and provides all the protective effects.

The table below compares the nutritional value of human milk and cow milk:

  Content   Breast milk   Cow milk
Calories 25 cal/oz 25 cal/oz
Protein 1-2% 2-3%
Carbohydrate 6-7% Lactose 4-5%
Water 87.8% 86.3%
Fat High in best fatty acids High in medium fatty acids
Minerals High in iron Low in iron
Vitamins Low in vitamin K Low in vitamin C and D
Bacteria None Harmless bacteria
Digestion Faster Slower initially, faster after 30 days

What is formula milk?

Formula milk is a replacement of breast milk for those infants who are unable to tolerate human milk constituents. Formula milk is prepared under the same proportion of nutrients as breast milk but are basically cow milk based formula .

Formula milk has the same amount of calories but it lacks in iron which may result in Iron deficiency anemia. Few examples of formula milk are soy milk, lactose etc.

Read more on how to choose the right formula for your baby here.


Foods to avoid for infants

Citrus (Oranges, lemons etc.)

Addition of citrus fruits in mother’s diet or infant’s diet may cause diarrhea and rashes in baby.

Fish and egg whites

Your baby may not well tolerate the protein rich food and may lead to life threatening allergies. Additionally, feeding fish to the baby may result in choking.


Nuts may lead to choking to occur in the baby. It is therefore better to avoid nuts to avoid possible choking hazards.


Feeding too much sweet food (for example chocolates, candies etc.) to the baby may result in development of diabetes. Hence foods high in sugar should not be fed in excessive amounts.


The infant’s mother is highly advised to stop having honey altogether during the breastfeeding phase. Nor should she feed honey orally to the baby, especially in the first year of the baby’s life. Doing so may lead to “infant botulism”, a gut infection.

When is breastfeeding contraindicated?

Breastfeeding should be avoided when mother has any of the following infections. Breastfeeding under any of these conditions may be harmful for the mother, baby or both.

  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Breast cancers
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Substance abuse e.g cocaine
  • Medicines e.g. antineoplastics , lithium, chloramphenical

Sore breast is not a contraindication to breastfeeding. One of the most common reasons of sore breasts during the breastfeeding phase is engorgement.