This month we have celebrated World Breastfeeding Week which aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding across the world. In the UK, the NHS recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives, as in line with the World Health Organisation(WHO).
The benefits of breastfeeding:
There are a number of benefits to breastfeeding your baby, including:
- Protecting your baby from infection – breastmilk contains natural antibodies to help your baby fight infection like tummy bugs, colds and chest infections.
- Full of vital vitamins and minerals – its also easier for your baby to digest compared to formula milk.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of certain illnesses – including childhood leukaemia and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Protects long term health – breastfed babies are less likely to develop diabetes or become overweight later in life.
- Reduces the risk of allergies – breastfeeding reduces the risk of your baby developing allergies, if your family has a history of allergies.
- Better for your too – breastfeeding can lower the risk of you developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Getting help and support:
We are often told that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but this may seem furthest from the truth when you try and breastfeed your own child. For some, it can be very natural and both you and your baby adapt very quickly. For others it can seem impossible and nothing is worse than a hungry baby and a tired and emotional mother. Breastfeeding is a skill and it can take a long time to perfect and for some they may not be able to breastfeed for a number of different reasons. If you do want to breastfeed your child and you are experiencing difficulties, then it is important to seek help ASAP. The longer it is left, the more stressful it can get. You should first reach out to your midwife or health visitor who should be able to offer you some advice as well as different positions to try to see if this can help. If you have sore or cracked nipples, changing positions can offer you a little bit of relief, allowing you to relax more which will hopefully help your baby relax too. If you are still struggling and your midwife or health visitor is not offering enough advice then there are specialist websites and helplines - www.nationalbreastfeedinghelpline.org.uk/ or www.laleche.org.uk. If you joined a local NCT group or other antenatal group, then you may be able to talk to other new mums who may have similar experiences or your group leader may be able to put you in touch with someone who can visit you at home and talk you through some different techniques. There is help out there if you need it, so do reach out – do not go through this alone.
Although breastfeeding is the recommended method to feed your baby, it is not the only way. Some mothers cannot feed their baby this way and other choose not to. The Royal College of Midwives have now changed their statement on infant feeding and confirm that, “the decision of whether or not to breastfeed is a woman’s choice and must be respected.” This change is a great relief to many as the pressure to breastfeed can be overwhelming and can cause more distress. Ultimately the important thing is that your baby is fed, whether breast or bottle, and your wellbeing is also very important, so do what is right for you as a family and know there is help out there if you need it.
Did you have difficulties when it came to breastfeeding your baby? We’d love to hear your tips and where you got support – just post your comments on our blog here or our Facebook Page.
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