New mothers will often be advised that breastfeeding will give their new born baby the best start in life, but sometimes they will not be given any more information than this. Whether or not you want to breastfeed your baby is a very personal decision that should only be made once you have enough knowledge to make that choice. So, why should you consider breastfeeding? These are some of the reasons that you should think about before you decide.
Reasons to give breastfeeding a try
- Breastfeeding provides your baby with a completely natural food source that is intended for consumption only by a new born baby.
- There are a number of important health benefits for the baby if you do choose to breastfeed. It helps to boost the baby’s immune system, protecting them from a number of infections and illnesses. As a result, breastfed babies tend to be healthier than those who are fed on formula milk.
- Breastfeeding helps to encourage a bond between mother and baby, both physically and emotionally.
- You don’t need to worry about heating formula milk to the right temperature and sterilising all of the equipment – breast milk is readily available at the correct temperature, whenever you need to feed your baby.
Health benefits for your child
The main benefits for your baby, if you choose to breastfeed, are related to health. Breastfeeding has a range of health benefits for your baby, and you may be surprised to find that some of these will continue to benefit your child all the way into adulthood.
- Firstly, breast milk contains antibodies that will boost the immune system during these important first few weeks.
- Breastfed babies tend to experience far fewer infections, and therefore are less likely to need hospital treatment or doctor’s appointments. Chest and ear infections in particular are greatly reduced.
- Diarrhoea and constipation are less common in babies who are breastfed than those who are fed on formula. Vomiting is also much less frequent.
- There is a lower risk of your child developing eczema, which affects many young children.
- Later in life, your child is much less likely to become obese, which also reduces the risk of associated diseases such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Health benefits for the mother
You may think that the health benefits of breastfeeding are purely for the baby, but there are also some important benefits for you as the mother.
- Breastfeeding helps to lower your risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.
- It helps to build the bond between you and your baby, which is something that a surprisingly large proportion of new mothers struggle with, particularly if the pregnancy was unplanned.
- If you are worried about losing any extra weight that you may have gained during the pregnancy, then breastfeeding can help you with this, as it uses up approximately five hundred calories every day.
- This is not a health benefit, but it is worth noting that breastfeeding is a lot cheaper than using formula, as the sterilising equipment and the formula can both be expensive. Breastfeeding can therefore help to reduce worry and stress by eliminating these costs, if money is a concern, which it often is after the birth of a new baby.
What are the common myths about breastfeeding?
There are many myths surrounding breastfeeding, and these can often discourage many women from trying, even if they already know about the benefits it offers.
- One of the most common myths is that choosing to breastfeed is something that only happens rarely. In fact, the majority of new mothers now choose to breastfeed, at least initially.
- Infant formula is not the same as breast milk, even though they may have the same nutritional value. The formula does not contain the antibodies that help to protect your baby from infection during the initial few weeks and months of their life.
- Some women will find breastfeeding easier than others, but it is something which needs to be learned and practised. It does not come naturally to all women, despite what you may have heard, so don’t be discouraged if you have difficulty with it initially.
What is exclusive breastfeeding?
Exclusive breastfeeding involves feeding your baby on breast milk only for the first six months, after which you should begin to introduce solid foods. This helps to ensure that your child receives all of the nutrients that he or she needs in order to grow and develop.