It’s not always easy

Breastfeeding is a skill that needs to be learned by both mother and baby. For some mothers it comes naturally, but for many others it is a challenging experience.

In the time after the birth of your baby, you will most likely be very tired. Many new mothers also find that they feel quite emotional from the dramatic drop off of the pregnancy and labour hormones. This can be a far cry from what you had imagined the early weeks of motherhood to be. For a lot of women this can mean that their ability to persevere and work through the challenges of early parenthood is compromised.

If breastfeeding isn’t the experience you had imagined, don’t be too concerned. It takes practice, education and support. Remember that you are doing a wonderful thing for your baby by providing the healthiest start to life. Breastfeeding difficulties can usually be overcome with correct information and assistance.

Preparing for breastfeeding

There are only two things you need to do to prepare for breastfeeding: learn as much as you can from a reliable source of information and ensure you have at least one person, preferably more, who supports your desire to breastfeed one hundred percent.

My advice is this:

  • Educate yourself and your partner as much as possible while you are pregnant and commit to the idea of breastfeeding and working through any challenges that might arise.
  • Plan for a learning phase when breastfeeding seems difficult and you feel tired and can expect nothing of yourself except for breastfeeding. Make sure your partner knows to expect this and try to set things up so that you have some helpers around to look after older children and to take care of essential household chores.
  • Consider joining the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). They have trained breastfeeding counselors at every meeting and on the end of a telephone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are a leading source of accurate information and you can be sure that any information you get from their booklets or counselors is based on the latest research. Going to ABA meetings is also a great way to meet a support network of mothers who are going through similar situations, as well as to talk to those who have been there and done that. Joining the ABA is the best preparation for successful breastfeeding that you can do.In other countries, La Leche League fulfils this same role.

What’s so good about breastfeeding?

The many benefits of breastfeeding are well known. This is a quote taken directly from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website, which outlines the recommendation for infant feeding.

” Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production.”

See here for more details: http://www.who.int/child-adolescent-health/NUTRITION/infant_exclusive.htm

Despite the evidence that has led to these recommendations, fewer than one third of babies worldwide are exclusively breastfed at the age of four months.

Benefits for your baby:

  • Breast milk provides all of the nutrients a baby needs for at least the first six months of life.
  • Breast milk helps develop resistance to disease by providing antibodies to fight bacterial and viral infections.
  • The proteins contained in breast milk are 100% compatible with human babies, so breast milk is easy to digest and is less likely to cause allergies or food sensitivities. This is not the case with infant milk substitutes.
  • Colostrum (the first breast milk a mother produces) is the most easily digested, nutritiously superior substance a newborn can receive; it contains antibodies against various bacteria and viruses and provides protection to the baby against anything that the mother has come into contact with or has been immunized against.
  • Colostrum has an enzymatic effect to break down the mucus in the baby’s digestive tract that is often present after the birth.
  • Colostrum has a laxative effect on meconium in the newborn’s bowels, helping it to move through the baby’s digestive tract more quickly.

Research has shown that breastfed babies have:

  • A lower risk of developing juvenile diabetes and childhood cancers, and possibly a reduced risk of heart disease later in life
  • Better eyesight, cognition, speech and jaw development

For the breastfeeding mother:

  • Breastfeeding helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnant state more quickly and can help with postnatal weight loss.
  • Breastfeeding usually delays the return of periods.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding can be a very effective method of contraception for the first six months after the birth of your baby (click here for full details of the lactational amenorrhoea method of natural fertility management).
  • Breastfeeding has long-term health-promoting benefits for the mother. Research has shown reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancers as well as of osteoporosis.
  • Breastfeeding is convenient and free; no sterilising or preparing bottles at 2am, and you don’t have to carry bottles, formula and boiled water.

For the wider community:

  • Breastfeeding saves world food resources.
  • You don’t burn fossil fuels to produce it.
  • Breastfed babies are generally healthier, placing less demand on health care services.
  • Mothers who breastfeed have reduced health care costs in the long term.
  • There is no waste and no chemicals are used to produce it. It comes with no packaging, which saves on land fill.