Breast milk is the only human food uniquely designed by nature to meet your baby’s changing needs, and it can benefit both you and your baby in many different ways. It is widely accepted that breast milk provides babies with the ideal nutritional start that no formula or substitute milk can replace. Breastfeeding can present some difficulties though so it is not always the right decision for everyone. Here is an overview of the facts about breast feeding to help you decide whether it is the right decision for you.
The Difference Between Breast Milk and Baby Milk Formula
One of the common myths surrounding breastfeeding is that infant formula is the same as breast milk. This is untrue and although formula milk does provide your baby with the nutrients it requires to grow and develop it is widely recommended that where possible mothers should breast feed for at least 6 months to give their babies the best start in life. This is because breast milk is a living produce, therefore it contains antibodies and enzymes that can dramatically boost your baby’s immune system to fight infections. Milk formula is not a living product, and therefore contains none of these benefits. Formula can also be harder for your baby to digest, leading to uncomfortable gas and firmer bowel movements.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding For You and Your Baby
Research shows breast fed babies are less susceptible to a host of diseases including eczema, gastroenteritis, pneumonia and bronchiolitis. Studies have also shown that adults who were fed breast milk as a baby were also less likely to become obese and had a reduced chance of developing type two diabetes.
Not all of the benefits of breastfeeding are reserved for your baby. You receive quite a few perks of your own. Choosing to breast feed means you can expect a lower chance of contracting brittle bone disease, breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Breast feeding also burns about 500 calories a day which means getting back to that pre-pregnancy shape is made much easier. Financially, you will also be better off. Baby milk formula can be very expensive when compared to breast milk which is free and readily available. On top of all this, breast feeding is an intimate way of bonding with your baby.
The Concerns and Problems of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding, despite its many benefits, can often be a frustrating experience for a first time mother. Some of the issues facing new mothers include the positioning of the baby whilst feeding and issues of getting the baby to latch onto the mother’s nipple. Breastfeeding can also be painful, especially over prolonged periods as the baby continuously feeds. This can deter a lot of mothers from breastfeeding. However, there are aids such as nipple creams and nipple guards which can dull unpleasant sensations. These concerns should all be raised with your doctor or health visitor.
Breastfeeding will take up large chunks of your day. New-borns can feed up to 2-3 hours a day and may awaken at night. Producing the milk to feed your baby also requires a lot of energy which can make you feel drained and because breast milk is digested so easily, you will find your baby needs feeding more frequently.
There are ways to extract breast milk to make feeding times manageable through the use of breast pumps. However, you will also need to pump the breast milk out, which requires energy and time that you may not have.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding has become stigmatised, largely due to media objectification of breasts as sexual objects, so it is frowned upon in public places. On occasion you may find there are breastfeeding facilities available in select establishments but these are scarce.
What is Mastitis?
1 in 10 new mothers suffer from mastitis, which is a painful condition caused by milk stasis. Milk stasis is a build-up of milk in the breasts that can happen due to a number of reasons. Most commonly it is caused by the baby not emptying the breast fully of milk. This could be due to the baby’s inability to latch onto the mother’s nipple. Mastitis causes breast inflammation which can quickly progress into an infection. Symptoms of mastitis are flu-like such as chills, exhaustion and a raised temperature. It can occur at any time during breastfeeding but is most commonly contracted in the first month while the mother is learning to feed her baby. Although this sounds unpleasant, the chances of contracting mastitis are low and it is important to point out that even bottle feeding mothers can develop mastitis.
Is Breast Best?
You may feel ambiguous about breastfeeding after reading this brief exploration. Should you do it? It really is dependent on you and your lifestyle, whether you feel you are able to breastfeed. Although breast milk has additional nutritional benefits than baby milk formula, both advantages and disadvantages should be addressed before considering your feeding options. Ultimately, your decision should be based on what is ideal for both yourself and your new addition.