-THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST FEW SUCKS
Every woman's journey to motherhood is different, but one of the earliest decision every new mom has to make is how to feed her child. If you want to breast feed your child, It is important to decide early while pregnant because the breast milk from birth till the first few months of life remains the best food for your baby necessary to ensure a perfect healthy start in life and required for the proper growth and development of your baby. Similarly, when you breast feed, there are lots of immense benefits for you as the mother. But these benefits are only maximized if you attempt breast feeding immediately after birth. This action is what we described here as the “THE FIRST FEW SUCKS”. So if you decide to breast feed, the earliest moment immediately after delivery is the most important moment to start breast feeding especially before cleaning and bathing your child.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST FEW SUCKS
1. PROMOTES BONDING BETWEEN MOTHER AND BABY
The mere attempt to breast feed immediately after birth promotes the bonding process that occurs between a mother and her baby starting from the moment their skin come in contact. This is because your baby needs to feel safe, secure and warm as soon as it is delivered. Merely cuddling your baby while naked (and covered with a blanket or towel) for as long as possible immediately after birth, is very important immediately after birth even if you opt not to breast feed. But further putting your baby to breast for a feed immediately after delivery stimulates the release of the hormone, oxytocin from your brain. Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, has been shown to increase the bond between the mother and the baby. It is the hormone responsible for labour and is probably found highest during labour and just after birth. Because breast feeding immediately after delivery increases the amount of the already high level of the oxytocin hormone already present at birth, the first few sucks immediately after delivery is important in ensuring a very strong bond between the mother and the baby.
2. INITIATES MILK PRODUCTION AND SECRETION
Beyond ensuring bonding between the mother and the baby, breast feeding immediately after delivery begins the initiation of some very strong reflexes. Breast feeding stimulates the release of two main hormones, Prolactin and Oxytocin. The oxytocin hormone is responsible for the contraction of some cells with muscular properties that are found around the areola, which inturn squeeze out milk from the nipples during breast feeding. The prolactin on the other hand, stimulate the production of the breast milk by milk secreting cells in the breast tissue ensuring adequate supply of breast milk. Since the release of both hormones are triggered by the stimulation of the nipples during breast feeding, the early nipple stimulation elicited by the first few sucks immediately after birth triggers the beginning of the various process that ensure the release of both hormones and lay down the foundation necessary for adequate production and secretion of milk.
3. REDUCES VAGINAL BLEEDING AFTER BIRTH
Immediately after delivery, it is quite normal for women to have some bleeding from their vagina. Occasionally some may bleed quite heavily and may require medical attention. Because breast feeding causes the secretion of oxytocin from the brain, the oxytocin in turn results in the contraction of your womb/uterus, thereby reducing the amout of vaginal bleeding you may experience if you breast feed immediately after delivery. Although this may be felt subsequently as a lower adominal pain each time you breast feed especially in the first few days after delivery, these pains, known as uterine colic or after birth pains, are entirely normal and are of no cause for alarm in newly delivered breast feeding mothers. Hence the first few sucks help to reduce the amount of blood loss immediately after birth.
4. PROTECTS THE BABY FROM COMMON INFECTION
The earliest milk produced by a breast feeding mother soon after birth or just before delivery is called colostrum. Although it may vary from dark yellow to clear fluid, it is usually thick and sticky in nature. It is the first milk a newly delivered baby suck in the first few days of life. It is important in that it is very rich in antibodies, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Even one feed of colostrum is valuable for your baby’s health. This is because, these antibodies help protect your newly delivered baby from common infections existing in your environment to which your baby is at risk of contacting soon after birth. This is an important mechanism necessary to ensure the survival of your baby, because at this stage, your baby is normally too young and too weak to mount any attack against these common infections.
5. BEST SOURCE OF NUTRITION FOR THE BABY
Although easily perceived as being small in quantity and probably inadequate for the baby, as a matter of fact, the colostrum in the earliest days after delivery is actually enough for baby’s nutritional requirement. This is because it contains a very high concentration of nutrients. Similalry, the baby’s stomach at this stage is usually tiny hardly holding about a teaspoonful of milk, hence making colustrum the ideal milk for the baby at this early stage. In order to compensate for the small size of the stomach though and the small quantity of colustrum produced at each time, a baby may be required to be breastfed quite often in the first few days after birth. But as baby’s stomach enlarges, so also the amount of mature milk produced by the mother increases to compensate for the increased size of the baby’s stomach.
6. PREVENTS CONSTIPATION AND JAUNDICE
The colustrum is also easily digested and represents the ideal first food for your baby. In particular, it helps loosen your baby's intestinal mucus, therefore serving as a form of laxative for your new born baby, helping it with the passage of its first poo (stool). These earliest stools are also referred to as the meconium. They are sticky, black and tarry in nature and are important in the removal of bilirubin, the yellow pigment responsible for the cause of jaundice in babies. Therefore, the colustrum taken immediately after birth, helps in the prevention of jaundice (yellow skin color) and constipation in the newborn.
Knowing therefore the importance of the first few sucks after birth, getting the process right is crucial to a newly delivered mother. This can make a whole huge difference in determining how successful a mother’s decision to breast feed turn out after giving birth. It can also help prevent common breast feeding problems such as sore nipples, breast pain and poor or inadequate milk supply. Latching, which is the process of getting your baby attached to your breast for feeding, is therefore the most important thing to get right when starting to breast-feed. For more information on how to achieve a proper latch, please read BREAST FEEDING: STEPS TO ACHIEVING A PROPER LATCH or CHAT WITH OUR CONSULTANTS.
NEXT ARTICLE: BREAST FEEDING: STEPS TO ACHIEVING A PROPER LATCH
Reference and further reading:
1. La Leche League, www.lalecheleague.org.