Clinic Binder: Child Health: Nutrition

ᐋ ᓅᔖᓂᐦᐋᐅᓱᓈᓅᒡ

For the first 6 months of life, the only “food” an infant requires is breast milk

5.1.1 Breastfeeding: First Choice for Infants in the First 6 Months of Life (and continued as long as desired)

Consistent with the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) recommendations, the CBHSSJB has adopted a motion for employees to promote that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life.   Exclusively breastfed means that the infant receives only breast milk and no other liquids (with the exception of drops or syrups such as vitamins, mineral supplements, or medicines).  All health care workers are expected to encourage, protect, and support this breastfeeding initiative.

5.1.1.1    Benefits of Breastfeeding

Human milk is specific for human infants.  Breast milk is the standard for developing commercial feeding substitutes.  However, all infant feeding substitutes remain considerably different from human milk.  There are over 100 components in breast milk, including live anti-infective factors.  These constituents of breast milk cannot be duplicated in breast milk substitutes.

In addition to the advantages discussed above, breast milk is also:

  • Cheaper than substitutes (such as formula).
  • Always available, no mixing needed. 
  • Sterile.
  • At the right temperature.
  • Does not require any extra equipment to use.

Who benefits from breastfeeding?

The entire family benefits from breastfeeding, because collectively they support a natural and healthy way of feeding the new member of the family.  More directly, breastfeeding benefits both mother and infant in the following ways:

Breastfed infants have less:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lower respiratory infections
  • Meningitis
  • Diaper rash
  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Urinary tract infections

Benefits to mothers who breastfeed include:

  • Promotes mother-infant bond
  • Easier for night feeding
  • Faster shrinking of the uterus after birth
  • Less postpartum bleeding 
  • Greater loss of pregnancy weight gain

5.1.1.2   Discussing Breastfeeding

How can a health professional help a mother to breastfeed?

It is important for health practitioners to examine their own feelings and attitudes towards breastfeeding since subjective beliefs can influence how breastfeeding is discussed.  The level of support provided by the health professional can affect a woman’s attitude and comfort level towards breastfeeding.  This can be facilitated by providing the mother with accurate information, offering solutions to challenges experienced, and encouraging and building her confidence in her body’s ability to effectively nourish her baby.  

What discourages women from breastfeeding?

Studies have shown that there are many reasons a women may discontinue breastfeeding, including:  

  • Lack of confidence.
  • Misinformation.
  • Embarrassment.
  • Fear of discomfort.
  • Perception that diet and lifestyle has to be perfect in order to breastfeed properly.
  • Fear they cannot involve others in feeding the infant.

Women breastfeed when they feel supported by partners, family, friends, and

 health care providers.

5.1.1.3 Components of Breast Milk

A woman’s body produces breast milk to provide her infant with a nutritious food that promotes healthy growth and development.  Breast milk is dynamic, with nutrients changing to meet babies’ needs as they grow.  The composition of the milk also changes as the baby feeds.  It starts more watery to satisfy the baby’s fluid needs, and then become richer and higher in fat to help the baby feel fuller and satisfied (hunger needs).

The components of breast milk are numerous and include:

Colostrum:  The first milk (3-4 days) the body produces has a yellowish, thick milk appearance.  This nutritious “initial” milk has the immediate effect of stimulating the newborn’s bowel.  Colostrum also provides the infant with his first immunization due to its high content of immune factors.

Nutrients:  Mature breast milk has about 750 calories per litre (22 cal/oz) with a complete and well-balanced content of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.  Breast milk provides nutrients in a form that are easily digested and readily used (bio-available) to fuel an infant’s body, while promoting optimal growth and development.  This is important since a newborn’s digestive tract needs time to mature.  Overall, the nutrients in human milk are suited for an efficient function of the infant’s body.

Enzymes and antioxidants:  Breast milk contains several enzymes and antioxidants that assist with the digestion of nutrients as well as the overall health of infants.

Immunological factors: A variety of antibodies offer direct protection against infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites.  Anti-infective components promote the development of beneficial bacteria while discouraging unwanted bacteria.  A breastfed infant that does become ill usually has a less severe infection that lasts for a shorter time. 

5.1.1.4 Proper Latch and Breastfeeding Positions

The most important factor to successful breastfeeding is a proper latch.  Most breastfeeding problems occur because of a poor latch.  The reservoir holding the milk in the breast is under the areola behind the nipple, and not within the nipple itself.  An infant who is “nipple feeding” will not get much milk and will cause much pain for his mother.  To latch effectively, the infant must open their mouth nice and wide, which helps to get a lot of the breast deep into the mouth.  When latched on correctly, the infant compresses the milk reservoirs under the areola and gets lots of milk out of the breast.

The baby should be brought to the breast to feed as soon as possible after birth.  Feeding on demand rather than on a schedule is the best way to ensure a good milk supply.

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