There are several benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby.
Find out which ones and also tips from a midwife for successful breastfeeding.
Six benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
The composition of breast milk perfectly adapts to your baby's needs. The first milk, colostrum, is full of antibodies, high in proteins and designed to colonise your baby's gut with friendly bacteria aiding healthy digestion.
Breastmilk offers excellent protection against allergies and helps strengthen your baby’s immune system.
Breastmilk is ready for your baby, at the right temperature, whenever you need it!
Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from infections, tummy upsets or constipation (1).
Sucking at the breast is good for the development of baby’s jaw, teeth and the facial muscles used later for speech.
- Sucking on a bottle is much easier but does not promote optimal muscle and tongue strength (2).
Six benefits of breastfeeding for you as a mum
Breastfeeding helps the uterus to contract after delivery.
Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and osteoporosis later in life (3).
Breastfeeding provides mum and baby with a natural high due to the endorphins in breast milk.
Breastfeeding mums usually find it easier to lose unwanted pounds they may have gained as a natural course during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding mums are less likely to suffer from postnatal illnesses (4).
Breast milk is free and it's eco-friendly too!
Tips from the midwife for successful breastfeeding
Good breastfeeding starts with a good latch. If you can achieve this you're less likely to suffer from sore nipples. Try to get early help with attachment and feed your baby as soon as possible after birth, while you are both alert. It is important to make sure that most of the areola is in baby's mouth, not just the nipple. Feeding can be frequent in the early days but it's important to just feed on demand.
RelaxBreastfeeding induces a hormone called oxytocin which stimulates the milk to be let down. There is a direct link between relaxation and the release of oxytocin. The calmer you are, the faster the hormone will be released. While feeding you will also get a rush endorphins which is nature's way to de-stress you both!
Milk boostLong before prescription drugs were available women used natural herbs (also known as herbal galactagogues) and changed the way they ate to help boost their own milk supply. Nursing teas can support milk production and have a calming effect. Aim for between one and three cups a day, while breastfeeding.
Adjust your diet tooIf you are breastfeeding then generally speaking it is not a good time to go on a diet, but you will naturally use more calories. Try to eat small nutritious meals, with healthy snacks in between. This will keep your hunger at bay and your energy level high. Always have a drink handy as you will often feel thirsty when you start feeding. What you eat affects the milk you produce, so avoid caffeine (often hidden in fizzy drinks), alcohol and do not smoke. Try to eat at least five portions of fresh fruit or vegetables a day as part of a balanced diet.
Boost your natural defencesDuring the postnatal period, especially if you are breastfeeding, it is wise to take a dietary supplement. A supplement based on blackthorn juice gives the body strength and energy to help you recover from the birth.
Follow the needs of your babyDuring the first weeks, it is important to breastfeed on demand in order for the delicate balance of supply and demand to be maintained. Night feeds are vital as hormone levels are higher, so just respond to the cues of your baby. It is quite usual, during the first few weeks of life, for babies to feed every two to three hours or it could be as often as every hour (cluster feeds). Your baby needs to develop his or her own routine, so don’t worry if this doesn’t happen right away. Frequent closeness at the breast or just skin-to-skin cuddles helps to stimulate your hormones. It can take up to two months for breastfeeding to become fully established.
Growth spurtsBaby will often demand extra feeds every few days or weeks, this is known as a 'growth spurt'. Just respond to your babies cues and within 24-48 hours things will settle down again and your milk supply will have stepped up to the next level. This does not mean that you do not have enough milk but that your baby is going through a growth spurt so your baby knows he/she needs to demand more so that your milk supply can keep up.
Sore nipplesAlthough not a serious condition, sore nipples are painful and can make breastfeeding difficult. Prevention is better than cure. After each feed, apply a little Weleda Nipple Balm onto the nipple. This does not need to be removed before the next feed.
Two golden tips to avoid sore nipples
- Sore nipples usually occur because baby is poorly attached to the breast. Let your midwife or lactation consultant guide you with positioning and attachment.
- Moist healing works twice as quickly so use a nipple balm after every feed and avoid using nipple shields. You can gently express from the sorest side to give it a rest then re-introduce feeds once healing is complete.
Oddy W H (2001). Breastfeeding protects against illness and infection in infants and children: A review of the evidence. Breastfeeding Review. 9 (2): 11-8. Palmer B (1998). The influence of breastfeeding on the development of the oral cavity: A commentary. Journal of Human Lactation 14:93-8. https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/news-and-research/baby-friendly-research/maternal-health-research/ Hanak, Elaine (2015). Another Twinkle in the Eye: Contemplating Another Pregnancy After Perinatal Mental Illness (p156).