Having a newborn is usually a miraculous experience for her/his parents. Getting to know a new human being is rewarding, but it also takes time.

Great changes take place in your body after you have given birth: the womb starts to return to its normal size, the stitches (if you have any) heal, and muscles strained by delivery begin to strengthen. Breastfeeding helps your body to get back to normal more quickly.The delivery and the new- born affect the mothers emotions. Some women may feel depressed and tearful. Giving birth may have exhausted you completely; yet the baby needs care 24 hours a day.

The supportive role of the father is even more essential if your relatives and friends are not close at hand. It is good if your husband can help with the housework and taking care of the baby. It is in the interest of the babys well-being that mother can have enough time to recover from the delivery and need not take care of the baby all the time.

Breastfeeding

Breast milk is the best food for your baby. Breastfed babies feel happy and safe. Breast milk contains all the essential nutrients the baby needs. Breast milk is clean and always available, and contains antibodies which will protect your baby from illnesses. In Finland, mothers usually breastfeed their babies for 6 to 12 months but one can continue until the baby is one, even two-years-old. Because of the Finnish climate, vitamin D in breast milk is not enough, and one must give the baby vitamin D drops.

The Secretion of Milk

The secretion of milk starts when a baby sucks at her/his mothers breast. Usually the baby begins breastfeeding in the labour ward. It would be ideal if the baby and the mother could be in the same room in the hospital so that the mother could breastfeed her baby at any time.

During the first days after labour, the secretion of milk is scanty but usu- ally there is no need for extra milk because a newborn has nutrients in sto- rage. For the first few days after birth your breasts produce creamy, yello- wish milk which is important to your baby because it contains many impor- tant antibodies and nutrients.

Feed When Your Baby Wants to Be Fed

Breastfeeding is a new skill, which demands patient practising. Breastfeed- ing is time consuming, and you need to find a comfortable position. Feed when your baby seems hungry.

Most babies want to feed 8-12 times a day.The more often you feed, the more your body produces milk. Gradually the mother will get used to feeding and the baby will also become quicker and is able to get nutrition with fewer feeds.

Babies wake up to feed at night. Feeding at night also increases milk se- cretion. Baby will go back to sleep sooner if you just feed instead of doing other things with her/him. Nappies do not have to be changed all the time.

The Sufficiency of Breast Milk

Breast milk satisfies the babys need for liquids; so water or juice is unnec- essary. Do not offer the dummy all the time.The dummy is useful if the baby cries a lot or is restless.The dummy may make it more difficult for the baby to learn to take to the breast.The more baby suckles, the less she/he needs a dummy.

Sometimes you may feel that your breasts do not produce enough milk but do not worry, the secretion of milk never stops abruptly. Feeding at shorter intervals usually stimulates milk secretion in a matter of days. Emo- tional stress and fatigue play a role in milk secretion, and therefore you should reserve time for rest and relaxation. Breast milk is enough for twins, too. If the baby does not gain weight, you should feed the baby more often. Do not hesitate to talk about feeding problems with your public-health nurse. Also, other mothers can give you support and advice.

Sometimes milk supplies exceeds the need of baby. One may express milk either by hand or by using a breast pump.You can freeze expressed milk for later use.

Breastfeeding While Ill

Very rarely does the medication or mothers illness prevent her from feed- ing her baby.You should not, however, start taking any medication without consulting a doctor or a nurse. Ask the health centre for safe medicine. If the baby falls ill, do not stop breastfeeding. Ill babies want to be near to their mothers and suckle even more than normally.

Eat well while you are breastfeeding.This will help you to recover from giving birth sooner and makes you feel good.Your nutrient demand is great- er when you breastfeed, and therefore your diet should be well-balanced. Remember to drink enough.

Bottle feeding

It may turn out that breasfeeding is impossible, or, eventhough everything has been checked, your body cannot generate enough milk for your baby. Then you can give your baby infant formula (baby milk). Should you de- cide to bottle feed infant formula, discuss it with your public-health nurse first. Every baby is different regarding their need for infant formula.

There are two kinds of bottle formulae in the market: infant formula which can be used as such and infant formula which comes in powder form, and is then dissolved in water. Boil water, let it cool for 5 minutes and then mix the powder. One spoonful is enough for one decilitre of water. Once prepared and if not used, powdered milk should be thrown away within 24 hours because it goes sour.

Infant formula should be lukewarm when given to a baby. It can be heat- ed either in water (steaming) or in a microwave oven. Always taste and check the temperature before you give the milk to your baby. Do no reheat milk which has been been left over. Store prepared milk in the fridge. Keep bottles clean. During the first three months sterilise bottles by boiling them in water for at least 10 minutes.