The truth about breastfeeding
We all know that breastfeeding is highly encouraged by GPs, midwives, NCT classes and general society nowadays as it is said to be the best way to feed a newborn baby.
It helps to form an extra bond between mum and baby, and gives baby all of the nutrients they need. Providing the mother has a good diet, it is perfectly balanced in protein, carbohydrates, fat, and calcium – everything baby needs to grow and put on weight.
The benefits of breastfeeding
Mums want to breastfeed for a number of reasons.
Breast milk is considered to be the most nutritious option for baby, as it is rich in antibodies that can help them to fend off infections and bugs – especially in the production of colostrum in the first few days.
It is also easily digestible (so less stinky nappies), and can help to reduce colic if a baby is suffering.
Even more importantly, according to The Lullaby Trust, breastfeeding for at least 2 months halves the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but the longer you can continue, the more protection it will provide to baby.
As well as breast milk being great for baby, nursing can also benefit mum too. One plus point is that breastfeeding can help to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Feeding can also help with post-birth weight loss (although not always the case), and it can even delay the return of periods for a little longer.
Conveniently, providing it is going well, breastfeeding can mean one less job to do. Nursing means a constant and readily available supply of milk, so no washing or sterilising of bottles. Baby can have milk as soon as they want it!
So it’s really easy, right?
Breastfeeding can be really hard
Despite it being entirely natural, and our babies evolving to root for the boob, it’s not always the most straightforward part of motherhood.
In fact, in most groups of mummy friends, there is usually a real mix of experiences.
Typically, the same kind of issues crop up, and they are more common that you might think.
Mum’s can often experience problems with milk production, meaning that their baby isn’t getting enough. This can be stressful, which can further hamper the process, as a crying baby breeds more anxiety for mum. Babies can then pick up on the worry, combined with their own distress at being hungry, and the circle continues.
Babies can have a tongue-tie, which prevents them from latching on properly. If this is the case, they may struggle to take on enough milk and swallow wind, which can be painful.
Problems with latching and milk supply can lead to mastitis (where the woman’s breast tissue becomes painful and inflamed), blocked milk ducts and engorgement, or cracked nipples, which can be really sore for mum.
Other reasons that breastfeeding may not work out as planned include it being harder for mum as the sole feeder day and night, tiredness, feelings of self-consciousness, and returning to work.
Help and support for breastfeeding mums
For mums who are struggling to breastfeed, support is out there.
As the first port of call, health visitors and midwives are trained to help. There are also a wide range of helplines, clinics, drop-ins, cafes and centres in most areas with hands on help, the opportunity to make new friends and share the ups and downs of looking after a new baby.
For more information on breastfeeding help and support from the NHS website