Why Breastfeed?

There are few more important decisions to make than how to feed your baby. Bottle or breast?

Throughout pregnancy your baby has got everything he needs from your body and that needn’t change. Your body produces milk that is specially made to meet your baby’s needs from feed to feed. Even the most expensive formula would never be able to do that.

Best For Baby

Breast milk is full of antibodies which will help protect your baby against health problems such as chest and ear infections, urinary tract infections, gastro-intestinal infection, eczema, diabetes, even childhood leukaemia and cot death. It is much more easily digested. So baby is less likely to get diarrhoea and vomiting, or to become constipated. Breast milk also contains fatty acids which baby needs for good brain development.

These benefits begin right from birth. Your milk takes a few days to come in, but baby’s tummy is only big enough to hold around a teaspoon of milk. In response to this first need, your body produces colostrum, a highly concentrated food full of proteins, antibodies, vitamins and minerals which is plenty to satisfy baby until the milk comes in. Just getting this first rich food will benefit your baby.

Formula fed babies sometimes need water as well as milk, and if they aren?t well, may need hydrating products as well. Breast fed babies get everything they need from you. First they get foremilk which is thinner and designed to satisfy thirst and then the richer milk to satisfy hunger.

What you eat affects your breast milk, so baby ?tastes? whatever you eat, and research shows that this leads to baby being less fussy when weaning.

RELATED: Breastfeeding in Public

Best For Mummy

Breastfeeding has health benefits for you too, starting at birth. When baby is put on the breast straight after birth, her sucking reflex helps deliver the placenta, and reduces blood loss. In the first few days, it helps the womb go back to its pre-birth position, and produces hormones to help you relax.

Breastfeeding protects mothers from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. Post natal depression is less likely and where it does occur, less severe for breast feeding mothers. It will also delay the start of menstruation and hair loss after giving birth, and because it burns 500 cal a day, breastfeeding can even help you regain your pre-birth weight!

Finally, breast feeding allows you a major sense of achievement and peace of mind. In the midst of the fuss surrounding the new arrival, you can rest easily knowing that you are doing so much more than just filling up a hungry tummy. It takes commitment to continue, but that means even stronger bonds with your baby.

Let’s Get Practical

Apart from all these health benefits, there is also the practical side of things to consider. It is estimated that formula feeding supplies cost around ?600 per year. Just think what you could buy with that money; breastfeeding is free! You won?t need to allow time for preparation of formula bottles; your baby’s feed is ready at exactly the right time because your body knows when baby will need it. It will be just the right temperature, and you will always have just the right amount however hungry baby is.

How much easier will that be in the middle of the night? When you go out, you won?t have to pack a bag with all the things you need for feeding, you have it all right there with you wherever you are. And because your body makes it specifically for your baby, you don?t have to worry about whether it’s made properly. With formula, you have to be very careful not to use too much or too little powder as a mistake can cause your baby to become very ill.

For further information, visit the HSE’s breastfeeding site at www.breastfeeding.ie