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Feeding The 'Just Born'

When should the baby be breastfed for the first time

Breastfeeding should ideally begin not later than one hour after delivery. If a caesarean section was performed, the baby is usually put to the breast after about 4 hours, even if the mother is on an intravenous drip. Breastfeeding immediately after birth stimulates the production of hormones and breast milk. When the baby suckles at the mother's breast, it triggers off the production of hormones that stimulate the production of milk and helps to bring the milk down to the milk ducts.

When does the mother's milk 'come in'

The mother's milk 'comes in' (i.e. the milk flows down to the milk ducts) around the 3rd or 4th day after childbirth.  When the milk 'comes in', breasts become engorged (or filled to the limit) with milk.  Engorged breasts can often be painful to the mother.  It is important that you take good care of engorged breasts, or they can result in very painful lumps. Your breasts will produce a yellowish milk called colostrum until your milk 'comes in.'

What should be given to the newborn until the mother's milk 'comes in'

A newborn does not need anything other than colostrum - the yellowish milk that the mother produces in the first few days after delivery.  Colostrum is essential for the baby.  Though it is secreted in a small amount, it is enough to meet all the needs of the newborn.  Some people from the older generation feel that colostrum is harmful to the newborn.  They should be taken into confidence and told that it is not so. 

What is colostrum and what are its benefits

Colostrum is the yellowish milk that the mother produces in the first few days after delivery.  Although small in quantity, colostrum is rich in vitamins A and K.  It contains many antibodies and other factors that protect the child against life-threatening infections.  It also has an immunoglobulin that covers the lining of the baby's immature intestine and protects the baby from getting allergic disorders like asthma and eczema later in life.

Is there any harm in giving water or artificial milk in the first days

Giving water, honey, or artificial milk to the newborn before the mother's milk 'comes in' can be dangerous for the baby as well as the mother.  The baby may not suckle from the breast if his stomach is already full with other feeds.  He may then not get the vitamin-rich colostrum.  External feeds may also be contaminated; they could cause serious infections in the baby.  It is even worse if these feeds are given in a bottle because the baby may get accustomed to it and not suckle at the mother's breast. This could lead to breastfeeding failure, or engorgement and infection of the breast.

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