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Breast is Best

03/07/2013 | Child Health, Nutrition, Parent Health, Room to Grow | by Catherine Godiva

Breast is definitely best for baby – after all that’s what breasts are for – to make milk for your baby so that you can be sure that he is getting the very best nutrition available in the first weeks and months of life.  Although formula milk was first introduced in the 1920’s it did not become widely adopted until the 1950’s and by the 1970’s most babies were being fed formula milk.  However, breast feeding started to make a comeback as more research was done on the effects of formula in infants and nowadays it’s widely agreed that ‘Breast is Best’.

The Benefits of Breast milk

·         It’s fit for purpose – breast milk is the natural food that is designed for babies

·         It’s free and available wherever you are and whatever the time and at the right temperature – no messy mixing, heating or cooling

·         Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for your baby and protects him from infections and diseases

·         Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for mothers – it promotes rapid shrinkage of the uterus to pre-pregnancy size and also naturally uses up to 500 calories per day

·         It helps to develop a strong physical and emotional bond between mum and baby and can offer mums a great sense of achievement

In this digital age it’s becoming easier for parents to make informed choices on all aspects of baby care and there is plenty of support available nowadays for mums who want to breastfeed.  Indeed, maternity units recommend breast milk and after a birth a breast feeding counsellor will visit the new parents to discuss breastfeeding, offering help and encouragement that is still available when the new family has left the hospital and settled at home.

Off to a Great Start and then it all goes Wrong

However, research suggests that, even though 81% of new mums start off breastfeeding, after one week only half of those are still breastfeeding exclusively.  This does suggest that something is going wrong somewhere within the first week or so; perhaps new mums are not getting the support they need.

The support is there at the hospital and with the visiting midwives who make regular calls on new mums to monitor the progress of both baby and mum.

Don’t Get Stressed by Lack of Weight Gain

However, when many new mums who have give up on breastfeeding are questioned about it, several have revealed that their baby failed to gain weight at a speed that was satisfactory to their GP.  Many (mostly male) GP immediately advise that these babies are switched to formula milk in order to help with weight gain.  While weight gain during the first few weeks is vital, it doesn’t always happen within the percentile that is recommended and many babies gain weight rather more slowly. 

However, a check of the baby very often reveals that baby is developing really well in many ways.  Alert and active babies are usually healthy babies.  Babies develop in so many ways during the first few months of life that sometimes weight gain takes the back seat somewhat.  Maybe that week baby developed strength in his neck, holding his head up for longer periods.  Maybe the development was in the amount of limb movement, or an improvement in eyesight.  Babies are all different and they all develop in different ways and at different speeds.

Persevere and Take all the Help you can Get

Of course, not all women are able to breastfeed and formula milk is a real godsend when this happens.  However, we must make sure that young mums are not giving up on breastfeeding attempts too quickly when all it takes is a little perseverance and the ability not to get obsessed with baby’s weight gain during the first few weeks.  Breast really is best in most cases and more young mums need to be made aware of just how much help is available to support them in their quest to give baby the best start in life.

National Childbirth Trust

The Breastfeeding Network

La Leche League GB

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