Breastfeeding is an extraordinary and natural process that plays a fundamental role in promoting the health and well-being of both infants and mothers. As compassionate caregivers, nurses are at the forefront of supporting and educating new mothers on the benefits and techniques of breastfeeding.
This nursing note will discuss the significance of breastfeeding as the optimal source of nutrition for newborns, exploring the numerous advantages it offers in terms of immunological protection, postpartum recovery, emotional bonding, and cognitive development.
Table of Contents
- What is Breastfeeding?
- Physiology of breastfeeding
- Advantages of Breastfeeding
- Common Concerns in Breastfeeding
What is Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding refers to the act of providing breast milk as the primary source of nutrition and nourishment to an infant directly from the mother’s breast. This natural process involves the baby latching onto the mother’s nipple and suckling, allowing the baby to receive essential nutrients, antibodies, and immune factors present in breast milk.
Physiology of breastfeeding
- Acinar cells or alveolar cells are responsible for the formation of breast milk.
- Progesterone levels fall after the placenta is delivered, leading to the stimulation of prolactin.
- Prolactin stimulates the production of milk.
- On the fourth month of pregnancy, the acinar cells start producing colostrums, which is full of nutrients for the newborn.
- Colostrum production continues for the first 3 to 4 days after birth.
- Transitional breast milk replaces colostrums on the 2nd to 4th
- True or mature breast milk is produced on the 10th
- Milk flows through its reservoirs, the lactiferous sinuses, which are located behind the nipple.
- Foremilk is the constantly forming milk.
- When the infant sucks at the breast, oxytocin is released and the collecting sinuses of the mammary glands contract.
- Milk is forced forward through the nipples, and this action is called the letdown reflex.
- Let down reflex can be triggered by thinking about the baby or whenever the mother hears a baby crying.
- After the letdown reflex, new milk or hind milk is formed, and it has higher fat than foremilk.
- Hind milk makes the infant grow more rapidly than foremilk.
- Oxytocin also helps in the contraction of the uterus so that the woman will feel a small tugging or cramping in the lower pelvis on the first few days of breastfeeding.
Advantages of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding must also depend on the preference of both the woman and her baby, so both of them could enjoy the experience and gain benefits as well.
Advantages for the Infant
- Breast milk contains immunoglobulin A which binds viruses and bacteria so they will not be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the infant.
- Lactoferrin, which is from the breast milk, also interferes with the growth of pathogens.
- An enzyme from the breast milk, the lysozyme, destroys bacteria by lysing their cell membranes.
- Leukocytes in the breast milk provide protection against common respiratory infections.
- Macrophages that produce interferons protects against common viruses.
- Lactobacillus bifidus in breast milk prevents colonization of pathogenic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, reducing the incidence of diarrhea.
- Breast milk contains the ideal composition of electrolytes and minerals for infant growth.
- Rapid brain growth in the infants is achieved because breast milk is high in lactose which provides ready glucose.
- Breast milk also contains linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid for skin integrity.
- The levels of nutrients are enough to supply the infant’s needs and also spare the infant’s kidneys from processing a high renal solute load of unused nutrients.
- Breast milk is free from allergens, unlike cow’s milk.
- Calcium is regulated better in newborns that are breastfed.
- Breastfeeding prevents excessive weight gain in infants.
Advantages for the Mother
- Breastfeeding helps prevents breast cancer.
- Oxytocin aids in uterine involution as it helps the uterus contract.
- Breastfeeding empowers women because only women can master it.
- Feeding and preparation time is greatly reduced.
- The bond between the mother and the baby is strengthened.
Common Concerns in Breastfeeding
Some mothers may love breastfeeding their babies, but there are others who are quite hesitant to do so. These are mainly due to some of their concerns during breastfeeding, and examples of these concerns are as follows.
|The mother worries about the amount of milk taken by the baby because she cannot see it.||The nurse should assure the mother that to be certain that an adequate amount is taken by the baby; she must observe whether the baby appears content between feedings and is wetting the diapers.|
|The infant does not suck well because of the possible effect of analgesia during birth.||The nurse should guide the mother in adjusting the feeding pattern of the infant to meet its needs, and assure her that the effect of analgesia is temporary.|
|The infant also cannot suck well when it is not hungry or was exhausted by crying from hunger.|
|The mother is worried because the infant’s stools are loose and thin, but these are normal because stools are normally lighter and looser for breastfed babies.||Explain the normal stool pattern and transitions to the mother and also examine the infant’s stools.|
|The father feels shut out of the mother-baby relationship, so he does not participate in infant feeding.||Advise the father to look for other ways to bond with the infant aside from feeding.|
|The mother has sore nipples because the nipples were kept wet, so the infant cannot grip the entire areola properly.||Assist the mother by helping the infant grasp the nipple correctly and advise the mother to expose the nipple to air between feedings.|
|Advise the mother that she can apply aloe vera or vitamin E to help heal the tissue.|
|The engorgement of the mother’s breasts causes a lymphatic filling as milk production begins.||Encourage the infant to suck and advise the mother to apply warm packs to breasts.|
|Instruct the mother to take a warm shower before breastfeeding the infant to soften the breast tissue.|
|The mother does not want to breastfeed in public because some people make them uncomfortable.||Encourage the woman to use discretion to avoid confrontation.|
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things that a mother could give to her children. As breastfeeding provides so many benefits, nurses should promote this action to ensure that every newborn is given the care that it deserves.