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The benefits of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is best for babies. Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mum and baby. Breastmilk contains all the nutrients your growing baby needs to thrive, especially in the first 6 months of life. Breastmilk also contains antibodies to help your baby fight infections.

Using a combination of breast and bottle-feeding for an extended period may reduce your milk supply. Reversing your decision not to breastfeed may be difficult.

When using infant formula, follow the feeding guide and preparation directions correctly. Improper use or incorrect preparation of infant formula can make your baby ill.

Consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby if you have any concerns. Parents should consider any social or financial implications before deciding to use infant formula.

Breastfeeding for mum and bub

Feeding a baby is a very special moment: whether breast or bottle-fed, this provides an opportunity for parents and caregivers to bond closely with their new wonderment. It is truly a marvel of nature!

Most new mothers opt to breastfeed because it is clearly recognised as the most ideal food for babies. Most Australian hospitals actively encourage commencing breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery (normally while mother and baby are still in the delivery suite). Usually healthy newborn infants are placed onto the mother (directly onto her skin) until the first feed is accomplished.

The health benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers have been known for many decades. It’s strongly supported worldwide, and is globally recommended that breast milk be the sole source of nutrients for the first four to six months, continuing with solids and breast milk up to at least 12 months of age (and onwards for as long as mother and baby feel comfortable). 

Breast milk is a complete food and a balanced meal, providing exactly what baby needs in order to grow and develop. Those babies allowed to feed on a ‘self-demand’ basis will generally take the amount that is right for their needs and growth. Interestingly, research suggests that little ones up to around two can self-regulate intake very well and honouring this innate ability has some positives later in terms of eating habits.

Immunity and development are two of the big benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk protects baby against infection and develops their immune system through the antibodies provided in the first milk, or colostrum. From a nutritional standpoint, breast milk is prime for brain and cognitive development, containing omega-3 fatty acids including the all-important DHA.

It’s common for new mums to feel anxious when starting out with breastfeeding, some find it a doddle and others it can take up to six weeks before they and baby have mastered the habit. Importantly, perseverance and support are two keys to success, as well as staying relaxed. A mother’s body has an amazing ability to meet the changing demand of baby, and there are wonderful natural teas to help boost supply when baby is going through those growth spurts.

Of course breastfeeding is very economical and extremely convenient in terms of preparation, it’s always at the perfect temperature and ready to go.

Benefits for Bub

  • Lowered rates of reflux
  • Improved respiratory immunity
  • Lowered risk of asthma and eczema
  • Protection against a number of infections
  • Improved gastrointestinal immunity, reducing diarrhoea and other gastric illnesses.
  • Reduced rates of cow’s milk allergy (due to improved gastrointestinal immunity) and coeliac disease
  • Reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Reduced risk of auto-immune disease such as Type I diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lowered rates of obesity
  • Improved visual acuity and development
  • Enhanced cognitive development and function
  • Higher IQ scores and reportedly greater confidence and self-esteem
 

Benefits for Mum

Clearly there are many benefits for baby in being breastfed, but in addition to this there are also an increasing number of benefits for breastfeeding mothers.

  • Stimulation of uterine contractions, assisting in returning the uterus to almost pre-pregnancy size
  • Potentially breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
  • Reduced risk of haemorrhage after giving birth (which has the added benefit of reducing the risk of lowered iron levels)
  • Ease and convenience for mother with a ready-to-go meal always at hand
  • Improved bonding between mother and baby

The realities of breastfeeding, even for nutritionists... 

As a nutritionist I knew well before I was pregnant that I would breastfeed my baby. During my pregnancy I marvelled at breastfeeding mums and envied their bond, it looked so natural and beautiful. Of course my friends and family around me tried to open my eyes: it doesn’t always come as naturally as it seems and it can be very painful, but still I persisted with my romance. I found those first few weeks of breastfeeding intensely painful, at times I was fearful of my son waking up and dreaded the next fed. The two to three-hourly cycle we discussed in antenatal classes was actually less than an hour at times when you take into account the time it takes to feed in those early days. I have never been so acutely aware of my nipples or so protective of them in all my life. Without the support and reassurance of my partner, family and close friends, and gentle reminders of what a great job I was doing, I may not have persevered and experienced the truly wonderful joy it is. Both my partner and I often comment on how amazing it was that our son up until six months was solely nourished by me – amazing! In the end I breastfed for 12 months and was sad that it had to end.

            ~ Nutritionist mum – writing about her own experience of breastfeeding

 Enjoy the moments, they will pass faster than you can imagine, no matter how often people say this to you. And, remember the best advice… do what works best for you and baby, because a happy mum is generally a happy baby.

Written by Bubs Nutritionist Leanne Cooper, and Iydi Willis from Cadence Health.

The Infant Food Co. Pty Limited is a member of The Infant Nutrition Council.

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