- The Importance of Breast Feeding
- Advantages to Breastfeeding
- Disadvantages to Breastfeeding
- Bottle Feeding
- Support Systems
The Importance of Breast Feeding
August first through the seventh is National Breastfeeding Week. This is celebrated across the world to raise awareness about the advantages of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an important role for every parent and their children. While we strive to educate about the positive effects of breastfeeding, we must also keep in mind that breastfeeding is a personal choice. Breastfeeding is a personal matter and varies with every child, parent, and family. Read further to learn more about breastfeeding and ways in which we can show our support to those who need it.
Advantages to Breastfeeding
There are several advantages to breastfeeding both for the mother and child. We have broken them down so you can easily tell if breastfeeding is the right choice for you.
Health Advantages for Children:
There are several health benefits for babies being breastfed. The most important one is that the baby gets all the nutrients it needs to grow and stay healthy. Breast milk is filled with antibodies such as colostrum and other fatty acids that are important for their development. It strengthens the baby’s immune system and helps them develop a healthy digestive system. It also helps prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It is especially helpful for premature babies and can shorten the length they are in the NICU. Lastly, breast milk can help prevent other health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and allergies.
Health Advantages for Women:
Breastfeeding your baby can help with recovery. It lowers your risk for postpartum depression, especially if you breastfeed for over 4 months. It also reduces your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease, and obesity. After you give birth, breastfeeding can help your period from coming back too quickly, and this helps retain the iron that you need. Lastly, breast milk changes depending on your baby’s nutritional needs, which means that your body changes to meet your baby’s needs to keep them and yourself healthy.
There are long-term benefits for the child and parent. Breastfeeding your baby can help reduce its chances of developing diabetes and high cholesterol. It also lowers their chances of developing certain cancers, heart disease, and obesity. As for the parent, it reduces their risk of developing breast cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Disadvantages to Breastfeeding
While there are many reasons to breastfeed, there are also reasons which can place barriers that make it hard, dangerous, and even impossible to breastfeed. That is why breastfeeding should always be a personal choice for each and everyone’s body and situation.
When beginning to breastfeed, there is usually pain and a period of adjustment. Women can experience issues regarding their milk supplies, which can be too high or too low, and some develop a breast infection called mastitis. Breastfeeding also requires you to plan your schedule around your baby’s feeding time, which can be very hard for working women. All of this happens while also trying to take care of your body from giving birth and caring for a newborn all in one. Breastfeeding also means women can lose their bodily autonomy, especially if they are exclusively breastfeeding. The loss of bodily autonomy can affect women in their sex life, self-esteem, and body image. While pumping can help this issue, some women may find this uncomfortable to do as well. Also, you have to carefully watch what you are putting into your body, such as caffeine, alcohol, and even medications because some substances can pass onto your baby through breast milk.
Bottle feeding your baby can mean pumping and feeding them breastmilk or it can also be feeding them formula. It is said that breastmilk through the bottle can reduce its nutrients, but it is not significant. Formula is FDA approved and has several nutrients that babies need, but it is not the same as breast milk. However, bottle feeding is a great alternative to breastfeeding your baby depending on your body and lifestyle. It gives you more flexibility in your schedule with a newborn and it allows others in your family to bond with the baby during their feeding time. You can also measure how much your baby is eating every time you feed them. Also, babies consuming formula don’t need to be fed as often as babies who drink just breast milk. Lastly, there are special formulas for babies who could be allergic to certain compounds in breast milk which is not uncommon.
While many organizations support breastfeeding, there is a huge lack of support for women in this area. The lack of support can feel lonely and difficult, all very hard for new mothers to face on their own. There is also a stigma around mothers who decide not to breastfeed their children even though it is a personal choice. There are several reasons women should not breastfeed and it can be a safety reason for the baby, as well. This National Breastfeeding Week we need to show support to new mothers everywhere to own their bodies and do what is right for them.
If you are looking for support, a midwife or health visitor is a good way to get 1-on-1 care. A lactation consultant can also help women who are trying to breastfeed to see what works best for them. Some centers also offer breastfeeding sessions, which you can even attend with a partner so you can both learn more. Surrounding yourself with family and friends who accept your personal decision of breastfeeding or not is also important since you will need all the support you can entering this new stage in your life. There are also helplines you can contact for further help:
• National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300-100-0212
• Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: 0300-330-5453
• La Leche League: 0345-120-2918