This is the process when a woman who has given birth feeds the baby the milk from her breast as the baby suckles. Women are advised to breastfeed for at least 2 years or more. It is advisable that the baby starts to suckle 1 hour or less after birth. In some cases, the mother milks herself then stores the breastmilk in a clean closed container so that the baby can feed on it later. This could be because of having to go to work in the case of a teen school or having some medical complications. The best however, is when the baby breastfeeds directly.
According to WHO, exclusive breastfeeding means the infant receives only breast milk and no other liquids or solids are given (not even water) with the exception of oral dehydration solutions, drops of vitamins, minerals, medicines, vaccines for 6 months. Breastmilk contains all the nutrients an infant need for the first 6 months of life.
Importance of exclusive breastfeeding
- Protects against gastro intestinal infections which mostly causes diarrhoea in infants.
- Protects against common childhood illnesses like pneumonia
- Reduce health costs since the child will rarely or never get sick.
- Reduces the risk of obesity or being overweight in childhood.
- Improves the child’s IQ.
Breastfeeding is also important for the mother because it promotes her wellbeing and health. It especially reduces her risk of getting ovarian or breast cancer, it also reduces the pain that one feels if she has not breastfed for long.
So in as much as we have discussed the importance of breastfeeding, and even as you attend the antenatal clinics when is informed, some people still do not breastfeed, these are some of the answers from young mothers on why they do not:
- No milk. Some complain that they do not generate enough breast milk for the infant. So whenever the he/she wants to breastfeed, especially as he/she continues to grow, the milk is not sufficient.
- Breast feeding is a hard job: it is work in itself because it is both physically plus emotionally binding and of course exhausting. It is the time to connect to the child. A times one is tired, the day has been long, then the baby still wants to breastfeed and play around. It gets hard.
- Inability to accept: some have not even come to reality with the fact that it happened, they got pregnant and now they have a baby to look after and raise. It gets had when the bay is a constant reminder of the mistake one made or the tragic experience that on went through (if it was rape). Staying away from the child, not breastfeeding, allows them to hide from the reality for a while.
- Depression: if even grown up mothers undergo post mterm depression after giving birth, what about teens? It could get worse. The lar thing a depressed person wants to think about is breastfeeding.
It is not going to be an easy job but when you chose keeping the baby to abortion, it showed your bravery. You choosing to keep the baby to adoption or giving him/her out it had to take a lot of courage. So what should you do to keep the courage as a teen mum even when you do not now want to breastfeed?
When there is low or no breast milk, it is often a sign of stress, depression, sicknesses, insufficient eating. It is important that as a teen mum you avoid getting stressed or worked up or upset about things. This will increase the milk production. It is also important to eat well, eat healthy sufficient meals. Remember you are feeding two people, you and your baby. If you’re sick, seek medical interventions, adhere to the drugs and eat well. So what do you need to eat to increase the milk supply?
Legumes: these are rich in iron.
Fruits: different fruits have different minerals, especially vitamin C.
Whole grains like brown rice provide calories.
Eggs: not too much, they boost the level of fatty acids.
Leafy greens: a great source of vitamin A. Most have antioxidants.
Water: take as much water as you can. Fluids with no or very low caffeine content are also recommended. This reduces your risk of dehydration while keeping your breast milk production up.
- In as much as breastfeeding is a hard exhausting job, it is necessary, so however tired you are, try to just get a hang of it. Be positive about it. Keep reminding yourself why you are doing it especially on days you do not want to.
- Sadly, however much you regret it or feel sorry for yourself, regardless of how much you are disappointed or angry at the world around you, your life will never move smoothly without you accepting it happened. You might not want the baby but it happened, so if out of the options you had you opted to keep him/her then work on accepting the fact that you are now a mother.
- Seek counselling, from an experienced person, professional counsellor, your church leaders, talk to someone, talk it all out. Share your fears, how you feel about your situation. Get someone you trust and let them walk with you through this tough time.
What should you avoid during breastfeeding?
- Drug and substance abuse: for a teen mum who has had drug issues before or who is thinking of starting drug abuse to deal with the stress of being a teen mum should stop. It reduces the milk supply. Again these substances are diffused into breastmilk, the baby during breastfeeding, takes in the drug too.
- Too much caffeine: by the end of someone’s day, they would have come in contact with something containing caffeine from tea to coffee to sodas or even some of the over the counter drugs. A breastfeeding teen must avoid too much caffeine intake not only because it reduces the level of the milk produced but also makes the baby fussy or unable to sleep because just like alcohol or other drugs, it is absorbed into breastmilk.
- Food stuffs that your baby is allergic to: it is hard to know if your baby is allergic to somethings or not but if you notice signs like fussiness, gassiness, restlessness, stiffness, some skin rashes, nasal discharge, wheezing, eczema, frequent vomiting, loose watery stools after breastfeeding 2-6 hours after you ate a particular food and the pattern is consistent every time you eat that food before breastfeeding then maybe it is time you tossed it away, even if it is one of your favourites. Consult your specialist especially if your family has a history of allergies. These signs could as well be signs of some neonatal diseases so it is important to consult your specialist as soon as you see something unusual about the baby.
What should you do when exclusively breastfeeding?
- Remember it is exclusive breastfeeding on demand (whenever the baby wants to). If you cannot supplement it with anything else yet then it means you will need a lot of milk, that will need a lot of work.
- Heavy fluid intake: especially water and anything else that does not have caffeine or has low caffeine content. Remember water is the major constituent of breast milk so the more you take the lesser your risk of rehydration or milk shortage.
- Regular healthy meals: most teen mums have the desire to lose the baby weight so fast they can start skipping meals to do so, then when eating they go for tiny unhealthy portions. It is okay to want to regain your body back, you can do that but at the moment avoid putting yourself and your baby at risk. Eat as much as you need to, keeping it healthy always.
- Snack on healthy food stuffs: as teens it’s hard enough to maintain a healthy diet, someone telling you to ensure you snack regularly but only on healthy food stuffs is just insane, right? But as a teen mum you will have no choice but to do so, avoid the over sugary over fatty snacks, eat something that can make part of the breast milk while supplying your own body.
- Especially when you have someone helping you out, get enough rest. Even if you have no one to help out, rest. Having a baby is a hard thing because most mums complain that once you give birth you kiss sleep goodbye. This is not entirely true. Do not get yourself so worked up about everything that even when the baby is asleep or just playing around you cannot sleep because you want to start worrying about stuff. Resting improves your milk production level, it also keeps you healthy.