When it comes to feeding your baby, isbreastfeeding still the best approach to opt for?
Put simply, the resounding answer from theDepartment of Health (DoH), The Breastfeeding Network, Association of BreastfeedingMothers (ABM) and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), is yes, breastfeeding isbest and is recommended if at all possible.
‘Breastfeeding for the first six months oflife provides the best possible start for babies and helps to set down apattern of good health for life,’ say the DoH. In fact, they now recommendexclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (26 weeks) of an infant’slife, as it provides everything a baby needs.
Breast milk is designed to be just rightfor babies, providing all the essential nutrients needed. The first milkproduced, called colostrum, is rich in antibodies and other crucial substances,which help build up immunity and protect your baby from catching infections orbecoming ill.
There are numerous other benefits ofbreastfeeding, both for infants and their mums. It reduces the risk of infantssuffering from stomach upsets and ear infections and it contributes in generalto their physiological development. In cases where allergies, particularlyeczema, run in the family, it has been shown to reduce the risk of them beingpassed on.
The simple act of breastfeeding enhancesthe bond between mother and baby and can play an important connecting role inthe early days. Like their babies, women gain extra benefits too. Research hasshown that those who breastfeed are less likely to suffer from pre-menopausalbreast cancer, ovarian cancer and broken bones due to osteoporosis later inlife and it can play a part in helping women make a quicker return to their pre-pregnancyweight.
In line with the DoH, ABM recommends,‘Exclusive breastfeeding until six months of beyond, then continuedbreastfeeding with the addition of suitable complementary foods for two yearsor more.’
‘We still don’t know after thousands of yearsexactly what is in breast milk, although over 200 ingredients have now beenidentified. This makes it impossible to replicate artificially,’ theyclaim.
When breastfeeding doesn’t happen
Despite the benefits, for somewomen breastfeeding just doesn’t work out, despite many attempts. If for any reason you’re not able tobreastfeed, then bottle-feeding is a good option too and shouldn’t be somethingto feel bad about, advise the NCT.
Like breastfeeding, bottle-feeding providesan ideal opportunity for you to bond with your baby, but it has the added bonusof offering your partner the chance to join in as well. Taking turns with thefeeding can take a huge amount of stress away from having to do it solelyyourself, and isn’t quite such an exhausting method.
All baby milk formulas are produced to thebest standards and, in the same way as breast milk, are designed to meet yourbaby’s nutritional requirements. They do vary slightly though, so it may take afew attempts to find the most tasty and satisfying formula for your infant.
Breastfeeding is beneficial if you’re ableto, but what it really comes down to is finding the most suitable method forboth you and your baby. So be guided by your instincts and experiences and talkto other mums. If you need further advice or help, have a chat with yourmidwife, nurse or doctor, or call one of the help lines listed below. Afterall, they’re there to help.