It’s World Breastfeeding Week! A time to celebrate the wonderful thing that is breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a natural, beautiful thing. At first, it can be hard work. Many women suffer from sore nipples, poor attachment, leaking breasts and a baby that feeds frequently. At times, I can understand Daddy giving a bottle if formula may seem very appealing. But it does get better. After 2 weeks, things are starting to settle and become easier. After 6 weeks, your supply has matched your baby’s appetite and they have learned the best way to latch. Your breasts don’t feel as full and uncomfortable before a feed and your baby can almost attach themselves. By 3 months, your baby can completely attach themselves, your breasts feel ‘normal’ again and breastfeeding is second nature. It is at this point most breastfeeding Mum’s feel sorry for Mum’s that have to wake up, get out of bed, go to the kitchen, turn on the light, make up a bottle, warm it, test it, feed it to their baby and then try to get themselves and their babies back to sleep. Snuggling your baby to your breast and dosing off again seems far easier and everyone gets more sleep. Breastfeeding may take more effort at the beginning, but in the long term is far easier.
So apart from the convenience of pre-prepared, pre-packaged, pre-warmed, portable and perfect food for your baby, why else would parents choose to breastfeed?
For Baby -
▪Breastfed babies are less likely to get sick, need trips to the Doctor’s, antibiotics and admissions to hospital.
▪Provides individual nutrients and antibodies (that change each feed depending on the needs of your baby) to give baby the best possible start to life.
▪Can decrease incidence of asthma and allergies developing later in life.
▪Decreases incidence of obesity later in life.
▪Decreases risk of SIDS
For Mum -
▪Assists with returning your body to your pre-pregnancy state (helps to contact your uterus, minimise blood loss and decrease weight).
▪Decreases risk of Osteoporosis, Type 2 Diabetes, Breast Cancer and Ovarian Cancer later in life.
For Dad -
▪Healthy and happy Baby and Mum.
▪Cheaper – no buying formula, sterilisers or bottles.
▪Means you get more time to bond with Baby with skin-to-skin time, bathing Baby, showering together and cuddles.
▪Healthy baby/child means less sick days off work and less pharmacy bills.
▪Trips out are easier as breastfeeding comes in a very convenient package.
The current Australian recommendations for feeding babies are:
▪Exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age.
▪Introduction of solids at a minimum of 6 months of age with continuation of breastfeeding for at least 1-2 years (depending on which guideline you look at).
Statistics from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey show us that 96% of babies have their first feed after birth as breastmilk but this rapidly decreases and baby gets older. About 39% of babies were exclusively breastfed at 3 months of age, with 69% receiving some breastmilk. Only 15% were exclusively breastfed to 6 months of age, with 21% receiving ‘predominantly’ breastmilk and 60% receiving some breastmilk. In the 24 hours before the survey, 40% of 1 month olds and 55% of 6 month olds received infant formula (or non-human milk).
Remember that every drop of breastmilk is beneficial and any amount of breastfeeding should be encouraged. If breastfeeding is not an option, the next best option is the mothers expressed breastmilk, then donated breastmilk and then artificial infant formula.
I need to say that I am a passionate breastfeeding advocate, but I am also a passionate advocate for women’s choices. If parents are aware of the risks and choose to formula feed then I will do everything in my power to help them. Where I think we fall short as a community, is with lack of education and support for parents. New parents are bombarded with conflicting advice from every angle: health care professionals, family, friends, the media, books and the internet. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the information being shared was accurate and parents were nurtured and supported, regardless of their choices?
Do your research and make a choice that is right for you, your baby and your family.