Mother's guide to breastfeeding

Published Aug 6, 2019, 3:21 pm IST
Updated Aug 6, 2019, 3:23 pm IST
Here is a comprehensive guide on breastfeeding for mothers.
Breast milk is the complete and best source of nutrition for the baby’s growth and development and should not be substituted with formula milk. (Photo: Representational/Pexels)
 Breast milk is the complete and best source of nutrition for the baby’s growth and development and should not be substituted with formula milk. (Photo: Representational/Pexels)

Breastfeeding week is celebrated every year from 1-7 August to encourage breastfeeding and help in improving the health of babies and their mothers. On the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, Dr Gayatri Uma Maheshwari, Chirayu nutrition and wellness studio share a comprehensive guide on breastfeeding for mothers.

What are the basic dietary requirements of a lactating mother?


A well-balanced diet is very important for a new mother. Lactating mothers need to take 550 calories and 25g protein extra per day from the pre-pregnancy diet. But heavy foods should be avoided.

Apart from milk, other kinds of liquids should also be preferred. This will keep feeding mothers well-hydrated. Slow and timely eating is advised to avoid acidity problems. New mothers should abstain from too much coffee intake.

Why are some mothers not able to produce enough milk required by the baby?

It's a myth that mothers don't produce enough milk. Situations like this are rare, for instance, if she is suffering from the glandular problem. If a mother complains of insufficient milk, it is due to lack of motivation, stress or right guidance. Stress is the primary cause of the lowering of milk production.

Whatever milk comes in the first two days is sufficient. The sooner the baby is put on the mother's breast, the earlier the milk flows.

What are the effective positions to breastfeed?

Proper positioning is very important for the correct latch on. She can place the pillows behind her back and shoulders, one in the lap to bring the baby to the level of breast, and another one underarm for support.

The baby's mouth should be wide open with the lower lip turning outside and chin touching the breast. Not just the nipple but also the areola needs to be inside the baby's mouth.

The best position is when there is eye contact between mother and baby with his whole body close and turned towards mother. Improper positioning can lead to sore or cracked nipples.

How many times a day and for how long should a child be breastfed?

First of all, the feeding should be on-a demand basis, meaning whenever the child shows signs like restlessness, sucking, hand-to-mouth and rapid eye movements. Also, it should be done 8-10 times a day, after a gap of 3-4 hours.

Night feeding is important because, in the night, milk-producing hormones are secreted more and this helps to increase the milk production.

Frequent feeding, after every hour, is not advised. Crying is a sign of delayed breastfeeding and may interfere with effective breastfeeding.

Till what age a child should be breastfed?                                                                                          

Earlier, the recommendations were that an infant should be breastfed for at least 4 months. But it was realized that babies who were given supplements at an early age were more prone to infections. Considering this, WHO in 2001, stated that mothers should continue exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months.

After this period, supplements like baby food, yoghurt, bananas, etc.can be introduced, but feeding should not be stopped abruptly. In fact, the longer the breastfeeding continues, the more are the benefits derived. Ideally should be continued till two years of age

What are the possible situations where a new mother is unable to feed the child?

Factually, there are very few problems severe enough to prevent a mother from breastfeeding her baby. An estimate is that between 1-5 per cent of mothers who give birth are unable to produce ‘enough’ milk. If we precisely talk about the number of women who aren’t able to lactate and produce little or no breast milk, the numbers are much lower.

However, there are situations where mothers might stop breastfeeding their kids after an initial three to four months in order to resume their work-life balance or if they encounter problems like sore or cracked nipples. But today there are ample products in the market that empower working women with breastfeeding solutions.

What are these alternatives for working women looking to feed their children with breast milk while managing to balance their professional life?

Working mothers or mothers who due to a medical condition are unable to pursue breastfeeding can take the aid of breast pumps that enable pumping, collecting and feeding the child with breast milk. The market is replete with breast pumps which imitate the child’s breastfeeding style and stimulate breasts effectively; thus, helps in generating milk and thereby reducing post-pregnancy weight.

Breast pumps are comfortable, adjustable and help in achieving faster milk ejection and faster milk flow. For instance, a double electric pump that uses double pumping technology (simultaneous breast expression) has been found to yield breast milk with higher energy content which is especially beneficial for preterm infants.

Double pumping also facilitates increased drainage of excess milk, thereby regulating lactation.

Even in situations where it becomes painful for the mother to directly breastfeed the child, they can opt for breast pumps to administer breast milk to the child.

Breast milk is the complete and best source of nutrition for the baby’s growth and development and should not be substituted with formula milk.