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Top 5 Reasons to Breastfeed

Given current media attention to the subject of breastfeeding, now is an ideal time to reflect on why breastfeeding is so important and why we as a society should encourage this practice. Here is a slightly more light-hearted approach to a serious matter, written by former Mead Medical GP Dr Rebecca Hunt-Davies…..

Top 5 reasons to Breastfeed

Written by Dr Rebecca Hunt-Davies(MBBS (UWA), FRACGP, DCH)

1. Breast milk is the most amazing super food EVER!!!!

Forget your Kale and Goji berries, this stuff is the real deal!! It balances nutrition with immune fighting chemicals which adjust according to whether your baby needs more or less of them, it supplies the perfect balance of nutrients for a growing baby and it contains special hormones which help influence the baby’s metabolism, neurobiology and behaviour. Countless numbers of studies have shown that it helps reduce risks of breast cancers. And to top it all off Breast milk is the greenest food in the world. Can you imagine if some one told you about a food you could consume now that would do all those amazing things that you wouldn’t think – gee I want me some of that!!!!

2. Breast milk is the perfect balanced meal that is great for at home or on the go.

Breast milk is perfectly balanced for your baby for the first six months of a baby’s life. It has just the right amount of protein, fats, salts, sugars and other nutrients. The nutrients contained within in it are produced in the most easily to utilise form for your baby so they can easily absorb their required calcium and iron. It comes out at the perfect temperature, required no measuring/heating or cleaning of equipment. Breast milk and breast feeding is convenient and made just for your baby – no one else’s – specially for your baby

3. Breast milk is FREE!!

That’s right folks – there is such a thing as a free lunch. There is no special equipment required to breastfeed (ok yes yes your boobs are special but I mean different than what majority of women already have when they give birth to their babies). I will not lie to you- it is not entirely without the occasional mess but nothing a simple wipe with a wet clot won’t fix. There is no need to purchase formula, bottles, teats, sterilisers, special bottle warmers….. Do you see the list goes on? Sometimes a little assistance is required but on majority, once it is going and you have the hang of it then it is a great way to save money – let’s face it babies are expensive so every dollar counts.

4. Your body is designed to do it and it promotes bonding with your baby

A baby has spent close to 40 weeks being intimately close with their mother and when they come out they still seek that closeness. Breastfeeding is so natural that babies have a reflex that shortly after birth allows them to crawl up their mother’s abdomen and find the breast. Mother’s breasts change during pregnancy to help promote breastfeeding – the nipples become larger, flatter, darker and the breasts themselves change from very early in pregnancy (sometimes the first symptom a woman may notice that lets her know she is pregnant). A woman’s body undergoes a great many changes in preparation for the birth of their baby but the changes in the breasts are one of the most obvious changes that is preparing a woman’s body for what is required after delivery of the baby. Breasts are close to your heart and they are warm. A baby knows their mother’s smell when they are born and a mother’s body can actually regulate their baby’s temperature when they are skin to skin. A baby knows the smell of their mother’s milk and finds great comfort in it. A baby when born can see only about 20-30cm in distance- the perfect amount of vision required to see their mother’s face when they are breast feeding. Sometimes there is no amount of cuddling, wrapping and soothing that can get a crying and distressed baby to settle but often a simple breast feed will do the job – now that is a handy thing to have!!

5. It is good for the mother!!!!

That’s right ladies. This breast feeding business is not all about the baby. There are several excellent benefits for women who breast feed. In your long term health, it helps reduce your risk of osteoporosis, breast and ovarian cancer. Whilst breast feeding it promotes hormones to calm both mother and baby which means night times feeds are more likely to allow you to return to sleep and put your little baby back to sleep. It helps your body return to shape post delivery of your baby by aiding in contracting the uterus (reducing blood loss) but also helps you burn extra calories as you feed your precious bundle some of that food you just ate. It will often delay the return of menstrual cycle and delay fertility – woo hoo bonus – no tampons or pads for a few extra months!!

So now having said all of the above I do want to say one thing. Just because it is “natural” does not necessarily mean it is always easy or always perfect. Like anything in life it is a skill and it needs to be learnt. If you can breastfeed – that is awesome!!! If you can’t or you cannot fully breast feed – that is also perfectly fine – it is better that you are able to care for your baby and be the best mum you can be than stress out about one small area.

There are a few important things to keep in mind when breastfeeding. If your baby is failing to gain enough weight, seems very unsettled or you are worried that there is an issue with your supply/technique then please seek some assistance from either your GP, Child health nurse or lactation consultant. If you are experiencing pain, nipple trauma, feel unwell, are suffering mental distress or have any other worries regarding your breast feeding or just in general after delivering your baby then please do not hesitate to follow up with your health provider.


Resources:

  1. Breastfeeding…Naturally, second Edition, Edited by Jill Day, Australian Breastfeeding Association 2009
  2. “Getting the message via milk” from www.mammalssuck.blogspot.com.au posted 2nd May 2015 by Katie Hinde
  3. The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making more Milk, Diana West, IBCLC, and Lisa Marasco, M.A., IBCLC 2009 McGraw Hill

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