During this time, the child’s diet consists of either breast milk or formula.
It is recommended that infants are breastfed for at least 4 to 6 months. The duration of the breastfeeding depends on the child’s, the mother’s and the family’s needs and options.
Breastfeeding is a second to none method of nurturing an infant. The composition and amount of breast milk is adapted to the child’s needs. If the child needs an extra amount of nourishment, more breast milk is automatically produced.
Colostrum milk is the first milk produced after birth. It contains less fat and more protein than the breast milk produced later on. In colostrum milk there is a high content of hormones, which are important for the development of the child’s intestines. At the same time the colostrum milk contains substances that protects from infections. In the course of a few days, there is a change in the composition of the milk and it increases in amount.
Breast milk contains energy in the form of fat, carbohydrates and protein in the exactly correct amount and distribution. The content of minerals is low but covers the child’s needs. It even contains bioactive substances that protect from infections. Except for vitamin D the amount of vitamins are sufficient to cover the child’s needs
The mother’s state of nutrition and eating habits has basically no effect on the quality of the breast milk. If the mother eats a regular, healthy and varied diet, there are no reasons for a special diet.
Besides from the fact that breast milk covers the child’s need for energy, vitamins and minerals there are the following benefits from breastfeeding:
Protects from airway infections, inflammation of the middle ear and infections of the intestinesReduces the risk for developing allergy of dairy and infantile eczemaBetters the development of the child’s faculty of visionStimulates the child’s development
In some cases, if the mother suffers from certain illnesses, breastfeeding should be abandoned. HIV-positive mothers should not breastfeed their children. Special precautions must be taken with mothers with hepatitis (type B). If breastfeeding becomes a particularly negative experience for the mother or the child, breastfeeding should be abandoned.
All medicaments are secreted in the milk, however, in different amounts. Generally, the intake of medication for breastfeeding mothers is advised against. If medication for the mother is necessary a doctor should be consulted.
Smoking has a negative influence on the duration of breastfeeding and the amount of breast milk produced. Smokers cannot breastfeed for as long as non-smokers. Smoking during breastfeeding is furthermore connected to harmful effects on the child with increased predisposition to airway infections and asthma. Nicotine is secreted through the breast milk and is transferred to the child. It is therefore advised against that women smoke during the duration of breastfeeding, and especially near the child.
Alcohol is secreted in the breast milk. It is still unknown how harmful alcohol is to an infant but it is recommended that women breastfeeding limit their consumption of alcohol.
When pumping breast milk, to be saved for later, good hygiene is important. The first few millilitres are discarded. Immediately after pumping, the milk is cooled under cold running water. Pumped breast milk can keep in a refrigerator for a maximum of 72 hours at 5 degrees above zero. When the milk is to be consumed it is heated to room temperature. Pumped breast milk can be frozen at a minimum of 18 degrees below zero and can keep frozen for 3 months. Defrosted milk should be used within 24 hours.
Formula is a nutritional product that can be used as an alternative for breast milk from birth. A complete duplicate of breast milk is impossible to produce. Formula, however, contains the nutrients (energy, minerals and vitamins) the infant needs, and it can therefore cover the child’s need from birth and the first 5 to 6 months. Some of the products contain iron so the child only needs drops of vitamin D.
Formula is either based on cow’s milk or soy. For healthy children the products are equally good.
As with the child breastfeeding, there is big variation in the meal pattern with the child feeding from a bottle. The amounts printed on the packaging are therefore only guidelines concerning the child’s daily needs. The child should not be pressured into finishing the bottle and children who empties the bottle and still seem hungry should be given more. The meal pattern should not be schematic, not with regard to how many bottles the child is given, how long time before the next bottle is given or the amounts given. A child feeding by bottle should have the same liberties with meals that breastfeeding children have. In that way you can avoid the child being overfed and bringing up the food again and the child being hungry followed by crying and the child being uneasy.