Breast milk is the baby's primary food until they reach 1 year old. It's their exclusive source of nutrients until they're 6 months old, and the most important until their 12th month. There are more than 200 essential components to the little one's health.
Nutrition, however, is not the only function of breastfeeding. The act, although it fills the baby's tummy, provides him with other benefits that are equally essential.
The importance of breastfeeding
Besides satisfying their hunger, milk also helps to quench the baby's thirst. "The first milk that comes out is very watery and, therefore, many times babies want to suck not because they are hungry, but because they are thirsty," explains pediatrician Dr. Luciana Herrera, an expert in breastfeeding and educator.
Sleep is another reason why babies want to breastfeed. Suction, the temperature of the mother's skin and close contact with the sound of the heart are things that make babies more relaxed, consequently making it easier for them to get to sleep.
But in addition to physiological needs, breastfeeding is also emotional nourishment.
Babies spent a great deal of their lives, up until then, inside the uterus. A tight, dark and warm place close to the mother's heart. Adapting to external life, besides having to learn a lot in a short period, involves discoveries that, many times, cause fear and insecurity.
"Breastfeeding is the moment babies are very close to the mother, warm, feeling her skin and hearing the sound of her heartbeat, sensations that remind them of the safety of the uterus that they had until then," comments Dr. Luciana.
Other reasons the babies want to breastfeed:
- They miss the uterus
- They don't want to feel alone
- When they are scared.
- When they are feeling insecure.
"We say all this to show that the mother doesn't have to mark the time the baby breastfeeds and how long it takes. On each feeding, he needs something different and at a different time. So, breastfeeding has to be in free demand, the breast has to be offered whenever the baby asks", defends the pediatrician.
How often should the baby breastfeed?
Despite being an act of love, breastfeeding is also a difficult process, which requires patience and abdication of many things. But the first trimester is the most difficult. That is when the mother and baby create their routine. "The first three months are very intense. The baby is adapting, learning. As he grows, he improves his sucking ability and begins to take longer breaks," reassures the pediatrician.
It is precisely this need to breastfeed that often leads some women to think that breast milk may be weak: "The baby will not breastfeed every three hours. Some mothers expect this to happen from birth and it will not happen. He will ask in a much shorter interval and it is not because the milk is weak, but because he is still learning how to suck and needs much more than just food," Dr. Luciana says.
When, for some reason, the baby does not breastfeed, but takes the bottle, in addition to feeding at specific times due to the weight of the milk and the time it takes to digest it, it is still essential to find other alternatives to give emotional nourishment.