Everyone knows that breastfeeding is biologically normal, however babies are expected to latch on with ease but in reality this is not the case! It can be a difficult choice for mums too as they can feel pressured into feeling they have to, so we've listed the benefits and discouraging aspects that may not always be discussed.
Benefits of breastfeeding:
- No cost / easy availability – Breastfeeding is free, doesn't need to be heated and is readily available whenever the baby needs to feed.
- Bonding – A strong physical bond can be formed between mother and baby, as well as emotional bonds.
- Nutrition – Colostrum (milk produced at the end of pregnancy/early breastfeeding) is high in concentrated nutrition for newborns and has a laxative effect on baby.
- Protection in childhood – As well as containing all the nutrients your baby needs in the first 6 months of life, breast milk is packed with antibodies that protect from illnesses.
- Protection into adulthood – Breastfeeding’s protection lasts beyond the breastfeeding stage; antibodies in breast milk can give a baby’s immune system a boost, protecting from childhood and adult illnesses including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There is also evidence that people who were breastfed perform better in intelligence tests.
- Weight loss – There are also health benefits for the mum as well, including up to 500 calories being used per day which helps get back to pre-pregnancy weight and breast and ovarian cancer risks being reduced.
Discouraging aspects of breastfeeding:
- Pain – Breastfeeding can be painful for mums and lead to sore or bleeding nipples.
- Latching on/Attaching – New mums sometimes find that their baby doesn’t ‘latch on’ or attach as easily as they would expect; this can lead to feelings of failure or rejection for the mum.
The World Health Organization recommend the following tips for breastfeeding:
- exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months
- breastfeeding should begin within an hour of birth
- breastfeeding should be on demand as often as the baby wants (day and night)
- bottles and pacifiers/dummies should be avoided
However in a recent report by the Independent, few mothers succeed in breastfeeding for the full 6 months. In the UK, 82% of mothers start breastfeeding however two-thirds stop within six months with only 1% of babies being exclusively breastfed at 6 months. Its benefits are well established and understood. Breastfeeding is being pushed on an “all or nothing” basis, which fails to take account of the wider needs of families and of the women themselves, therefore it is clear that more support and information is needed.
For more tips, you can view Babycentre's “What I wish I'd known about breastfeeding” article where from real mums give their advice about breastfeeding.
If you’re still unsure of whether breastfeeding is for you, speak to your midwife or health visitor for more information and support, or call the National Breastfeeding helpline on 0300 100 0212.