Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 11:04 am

In previous articles it has been mentioned about the importance of baby-led feeding when making the decision to breastfeed. Baby-led feeding is essentially the concept of allowing your baby to feed whenever and for as long as they desire. Cutting a feed short by pulling your baby away from the breast means that they may not acquire all the necessary nutrients to satisfy thirst and hunger. This can lead to all sorts of complications for both mother and baby in terms of milk production, irregular feeding patterns, poor growth and breast complications.

To understand the importance of baby-led feeding it is necessary to know about the different types of milk that are produced.

Colostrum

This first milk that the body produces is a thick, yellowish fluid that is present for up to a week after delivery. The colour of the milk is due to the high concentration of vitamins and protein as well as anti-bodies which protect the baby from infection and illness. Colostrum is important in stimulating the bowel movement of a newborn and assists in the passing of the meconium (first stool). This milk provides all the nourishment a baby needs in the first few days.

Transitional milk

Up to four days after delivery, mothers may notice their breastmilk begin to change as it becomes more watery and white. This milk is higher in;

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  •  Fat
  • Calories
  • Protein
  • Lactose
  • Vitamins

Mature milk

This can be broken down into two types of milk, namely Foremilk and Hindmilk. This milk generally starts to come through around 10 to 15 days after delivery or may be earlier depending on frequency and duration of feeds.

Mature milk will change during a feed from a watery bluish colour to white as the fat content increases. This is because the first milk (Foremilk) is important for satisfying the baby’s thirst while as the fat content increases (Hindmilk), the baby’s hunger is being satisfied.

This is why baby-led feeding is so important, pulling a baby away from the breast often means that they have had their thirst quenched but have not yet received any Hindmilk so will remain hungry.

My experience: What I find in practice is that mothers often find the expression of Colostrum really difficult. Due to the nature of the milk in its thickness and high nutrient density, mothers often feel like they are not giving their babies enough. However, the amount of Colostrum produced is directly proportional to the size of the baby’s stomach and this means that your baby will not go hungry on such a small amount of milk which can sometimes be only around a tablespoon measure.

The success in the first week of breastfeeding determines a mother’s attitude in the desire to continue breastfeeding, so ensuring confidence is so important. Perseverance in the initial stages is essential.