A few days after the birth, the milk supply in the breasts increases, and due to the fact that the baby cannot suck all the milk, it accumulates in the alveoli in the breasts. This may show itself in red patches on the breasts, hard knots, pain and a general feverish state. The hardening of the breasts causes the tightening of the nipples, which prevents the baby latching onto the nipple to nurse and even though the milk supply increases the baby cannot feed from it and goes hungry. To prevent the milk accumulated in the alveoli from turning into an abscess and the mother having to have antibiotics, the mother must take a warm shower or apply a not-too-hot compress on the breasts immediately after becoming aware of the signs. After relaxing some time, the compress must be followed by massaging of the breasts in circular motions applied clockwise, and the accumulation must be pushed down in between the palms of both hands in a milking motion. At this time, a nominal amount of fluid will start to be released from the nipples. This process should soften the nipples and facilitate sucking by the baby. The remaining milk is pumped to eliminate the hardness and pain in the breasts and cure the fever. This must be followed by cold compresses in between nursing the baby, applied over the clothing of the mother to prevent accumulation of milk and reduce oedema. Use of a supportive and form fitting nursing bra by the mother will also help.
COMPOSITION AND IMPORTANCE OF BREAST MILK
The colostrum discharged from the breasts in the first three days immediately after delivery might be small in volume but is essential for your baby as its content includes more than thirty substances. Colostrum is very rich in zinc, sodium, potassium, proteins, growth factors, antibodies that protect against infections (100 times more than the blood content) and is easy to digest. As such, it is important to ensure the baby is given it. Due to the fact that the development of the central nervous system, lungs and eyes is not completed in prematurely born babies, the pumping of the colostrum and in its wake the transition milk and mature breast milk (if the digestive system is sufficiently developed) from the mother to be given to the baby carries great importance. This also makes it easier for the sticky, green coloured stool (meconium) that accumulates in the bowels of the baby when he/she is yet in the womb to be discharged. The composition of colostrum changes with each passing day and transitions into normal human milk after 7 to 15 days.
The fats in the mother’s milk are directly proportionate and make up 50% of the calorie content of the milk. The long chain multi-unsaturated fatty acids available in mother’s milk are essential for the development of the brain and vision functionality. Fats make up the structure of the external surfaces of the cells and they function as the carriers of vitamins and hormones soluble in fat.
The main carbohydrate is lactose (milk sugar). Lactose provides 40% of the milk calories and in addition to supplying energy; it also creates an acidic medium that prevents the production of bad bacteria in the intestines. It also facilitates the production of good bacteria, again in the intestines. Lactose, moreover, aids the development of the central nervous system, facilitates the absorption of calcium and supports the bone development.
Mature milk contains less proteins than colostrum. However, due to a very high biologic value, breast milk meets the baby’s requirements fully until the 6th month. The proteins in the mother’s milk are pure and of the type that can only be found in breast milk. They ensure the healthy growth of the baby. The germ killing quality of the breast milk protects the baby against diseases. The absorption of the proteins in mother’s milk into the intestines of the baby is easy due to the fact that the protein in mother’s milk is compatible with the digestive system of the baby. It does not cause discomfort, gas or digestive problems in the baby. On the other hand, regardless of how compatible the protein in formula milk is with the digestion of the baby, it is derived from cow’s milk, and as such, hard to absorb and causes gas pain and indigestion in the baby’s intestines. Moreover, the change in the taste of mother’s milk based on his/her food intake can create an awareness of tastes in the baby. Babies with allergies in their family history carry less of a risk of allergies and are probably protected against diabetes. Breastfed babies are less prone to the risk of obesity in later life and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol values. Breast milk is also known to protect against type 2 diabetes.