The Benefits of Breastfeeding: All You Need to Know About Nursing Your New Baby
8 August 2019 | Admin
Breastfeeding is probably one of the most discussed topics in modern motherhood. Whether or not to breastfeed and how long to breastfeed is a decision every mother and family needs to make for themselves. There is no right and wrong in determining what works best for you, your baby and your circumstances.
What is important, however, is education. Only when you’re fully equipped with all the facts are you able to make an informed decision that you won’t regret. Let’s look at all the official recommendations and benefits of breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding Benefits: What is recommended?
When it comes to your babies physical and emotional development, the first 1000 days from conception up until the age of 2 years is vital. During these months the groundwork for their future health is laid. As parents, we have the opportunity to make sure their bodies can rely on a stable and strong basis when it comes to their life-long health.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends to exclusively breastfeed your baby for at least six months and continue to do so in combination with solids until the age of 2 or beyond. These recommendations are based on many studies about the unique benefits of breastfeeding, not just for your little one but also for yourself as a mother. When considering this timeline of 2 years though, it is important that you keep an open mind. Nursing your little one for two years (or more) can be an amazing goal and achievement, but try and not put yourself under pressure, as that might work against you in the end. Instead, focus on every day – every single drop of human milk you can provide to your baby will have a positive effect!
Breastfeeding Benefits: For Baby
Breastmilk is a unique blend of nutrients tailor-made from your body for your baby. When we say unique, we truly mean unique. Breastmilk has the extraordinary ability to respond to your little one’s needs. When your baby is sick or even just when there are viruses in your environment, your breastmilk will respond by producing an extra amount of antibodies. When your baby is growing, your milk will be fattier and during the night your baby will be feeding on milk with higher levels of the “sleep hormone” melatonin. It really is quite magical!
In addition to meeting your child’s exact nutritional needs, research has shown that other breastfeeding benefits for your baby include:
- Helps to build up their immune system (Colostrum will supercharge a newborn’s immune system in the first few days)
- Lowers their risk of developing allergies, asthma or eczema
- Decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome
- Decreased number of infectious diseases like diarrhoea, ear infections, urinary tract infections, bacterial meningitis, and others
- Lowers their risk of developing diabetes (type 1 & type 2), leukemia, lymphoma and cardiovascular diseases as a child or in adulthood
- Less likely to suffer from obesity later on in life
Breastfeeding Benefits: For Mum
Breastfeeding doesn’t just have tons of benefits for your little one, but also for you:
- Decreased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and obesity.
- Lower risk of postnatal depression due to increased oxytocin levels.
- More sleep and a greater sense of well-being due to increased hormone activity.
- Helps to manage post-pregnancy weight loss due to a constant increase of calories burned every day.
- Helps to bond with baby
- Saves time, as breastmilk is always available in the perfect quantity and temperature
- Saves money
Breastfeeding Benefits: How to make the most of it
In order to make the most of all the above benefits for you and your baby, you should aim to breastfeed for as long as possible. Many women experience some hiccups and bumps along the way and especially at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey when it might be far from what you expect. But think of it as a skill that needs to be learned, not just by you, but also by your baby. Give yourself and your little one time, be patient and prepare yourself!
1. Educate Yourself
Knowing exactly what to expect will make a huge difference in the early days of breastfeeding. ‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ is an extensive and in-depth book about breastfeeding written by the La Leche League. Even if pregnancy and parenting books are not your thing, this one is worth it. It covers all different aspects of nursing from pregnancy up to weaning!
There are also many incredible online resources available. The breastfeeding section on Kellymom.com is probably one of the most extensive and up-to-date online resource available on the topic. You will also find a good bit of information on La Leche League Ireland and Cuidiú
2. Source Your Support Network
Once you know you would like to breastfeed your baby, have a look at your local breastfeeding support network. There are breastfeeding support groups in almost every town or village in Ireland. For more specific advice and support, you can avail of the help of a Lactation Consultant, either in the hospital right after baby is born (you are entitled to see one even though they are overstretched and under-resourced so be firm!) or over the phone and in your home for whenever you need it during your breastfeeding journey (it will be the best €50-€100 you ever spend if things are going wrong, it’s much easier to get back on track with their expert help).
When you know where to get support before you even start breastfeeding, you take a lot of pressure out of it right from the beginning. Think of it as a safety net: You know if you come across hurdles along the way that there are people who will help you over it and get you back on track!
3. Set Achievable Goals
As soon as you make it known that you are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed you will probably be asked how long you’re doing it for. The answer to that question is not always an easy one, as it can be attached to a lot of unnecessary pressure.
Try and keep your goals manageable and see how you get on. If you are setting out to initially nurse your baby for a few weeks and work your way up with a new milestone every few months, you will create a greater sense of achievement instead of undue pressure. This might lead to an easier and longer breastfeeding experience for you and your little one.
Breastfeeding Benefits: Every feed counts
Breastfeeding is the biological norm, the way babies were fed since the beginning of humankind, and whether you decide to breastfeed for two weeks or two years - the many benefits of feeding will have a positive effect on you as well as your child’s development and health.
Remember, once you know all the facts and once you look at yourself, your baby, your family, and your circumstances before making your decision to breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding, there is no wrong way, there is only YOUR way which will always be the right one for YOU!
We hope you enjoy every minute of your breastfeeding journey. Read here to find out about mine.