“Babies should be exclusively breast-fed, meaning that they receive nothing but breastmilk, not even water-for about the first six months of life. Except in the rarest cases, no additional fluids or foods are necessary, and they can be harmful-introducing germs, triggering allergies and filling the stomach so the infant takes less breastmilk. Breastfeeding should be sustained until the baby is at least 2 years old, but beginning at about six months breastmilk should be complemented with appropriate solid foods.”
(Breastfeeding: foundation for a healthy future. UNICEF 1999)
Breastfeeding Pros and Cons
Getting Started and Problems
- Your milk is made specifically for your baby’s nutritional needs.
- Breastfeeding immediately after birth causes the uterus to contract to it’s normal size and reduces risk of post-partum haemorrhaging.
- Your body burns 500-1000 calories per day in the production of breastmilk, so you’ll get back to your pre-pregnancy weight sooner.
- It’s comes ready made at the perfect temperature.
- Convenient storage and carrying.
- It reduces the risk of your baby developing allergies, childhood cancers, gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory disease, ear infections, diabetes, Crohn’s disease and many others.
- Provides the food that assists healthy brain development.
- Creates the bond of mother and child.
- Decreases your risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis, ovarian cancer and anaemia.
- With a pump, your partner can aid with feeding the baby after a few months.
- Provides daily doses of the “mothering” hormone, prolactin, which is calming and improves your mothering skills.
- It’s free.
- The risk of sore nipples for a few days
- The rare bout of mastitis, an infection caused by blocked a blocked milk duct. Cure = rest and feed your baby more frequently!
- Someone else can feed the baby
- The formula is made from mostly water, sugar and oil
- Formula can cause diarrhoea and intestinal illnesses
- You have to prepare it.
- It has to be stored properly or else goes off.
- You have to with keep bottles sterilised and clean.
- You will spend more time at the doctor’s with a sick child.
- It costs money.
- The production of formula creates pollution along with the disposal of packaging.
- It’s artificial.
Some women feel a little modest about breastfeeding in public. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s easy to be discreet. And for those of us who are not so modest, it’s important to feed in public and let people know that it’s normal, natural and healthy!
Immediately after your baby is born, he will be looking to suckle. If your delivery has been without complications to the baby then bring him straight to your breast. If he’s warm and comfortable on your skin, he should nurse easily. If my babies didn’t want to nurse after birth, I would get in a warm bath with them, so they were relaxed enough to nurse without fail. All doctors and midwives are required to give breastfeeding support after the birth. They will give you lots of pamphlets, read them and then ask them to show you how. In my experience, most women that do not breastfeed or do so for only a short while (less than 12 months) are simply lacking support. Breastfeeding does take a few weeks to get the hang of, but with a good midwife or lactation specialist, it soon becomes second nature. It’s important that you have the support of your family or at least of your partner. You need to believe and know that you are capable of providing your baby with everything he/she needs. It is very discouraging when well meaning people question your ability or the “quality” / amount of your milk. If you are eating well, getting the rest and help you need you can breastfeed successfully.
As natural as many mums seem to breastfeed, it is unlikely that they didn’t have their share of problems. As always though, support from your partner, friends and family will get you through any obstacles and on your way to a successful breastfeeding relationship with your child. If you are having problems, read through all the sub-topics here and also visit the links at the bottom of the page for more information.
Latching on: Incorrect latching on is the number cause of sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. I was told by my midwives in the US for years to place my nipple centrally in the baby’s mouth when latching on. It was not until my 5th baby here in the UK that my midwives told me that it “was not necessary to get sore” when establishing breastfeeding and to place my nipple so that the baby got mostly the bottom of my areola in his mouth. A fantastic discovery!!!
Snacking: If baby starts to suckle and then decides their full when you get a let down, they are just “snacking” and not receiving the hind milk, which has more of the good stuff in it. Try feeding baby a little less frequently (do not deprive them if they’re crying though! ), and encourage them to stay on the breast after let down. If the flow is too fast and is choking them, just let it spray into a nappy or cloth until it has eased up a little and then baby may find feeding easier.
Sore nipples: if you do end up with sore nipples, determine the cause. If it’s simply due to establishing your nursing relationship, the best remedy (besides ensuring that you’re latching on correctly), is fresh air. Go bra-less until their healed and expose to the sun when possible. Wipe them dry after feeds too. You can also rub breastmilk into the nipples and this will help. There are some natural herbal creams available that may work for you, but keeping them dry and clean is the number 1 cure.
Thrush: can be dreadful. If you see white patches around the insides of your baby’s mouth (not just on her tongue), your baby has a yeast infection that will spread to your nipples and cause painful feeding. It may be more pain than you can bear and prevent you from feeding altogether. It is therefore important that you seek treatment immediately. Doctors as standard give an oral liquid antibiotic medicine to infants called “Nystatin”. This is unlikely to work however and just create the all too common cycle of thrush-antibiotic-thrush syndrome. My suggestions are to : eliminate sugar from your diet, and consider the alternative remedy of baking soda and water swabbed around the inside of baby’s mouth before each feed. After feeding, swab some on your nipples. Yoghurt can be used on your nipples, as long as it is wiped off before a feed and avoid administering yoghurt to a baby under 6 months old, over 6 months, this can be very effective. I have been through some desperate times with thrush and feeding and have used an over the counter medicine called “Daktarin” for oral thrush in infants. Apply to nipples also.
Mastitis: When a breast becomes full of milk and is not expressed, a milk duct can get blocked, and quickly become infected causing your breast to be extremely tender and painful. Like most infections this can then lead to chills and fevers, making the patient bed-ridden and feeling very low. As soon as you suspect mastitis, take action:
First: Nurse your baby as much as you both can stand it – it will be sore but it’s the only way to get milk flowing through that blocked duct again.
Second: Rest, go to bed and do nothing except nurse, nurse, nurse.
Third: Drink lots of fluids to flush your system.
You can also try natural antibiotics such as herbal echinacea (eck-inn-ay-sha) or garlic capsules to help fight any infection.
These measures always work for me, but prevention is always better than a cure, so avoid spending too long between feedings.
Engorgement: Bless the heavens that you have so much good milk for you baby!! But then to relieve your discomfort and allow easier latching on, you can express milk by placing hot wet flannels on your breast or submerging your breasts in warm water, the milk will then flow easily out as you massage towards the nipple. It is commonly suggested that making a compress of warm wet cabbage leaves in the most effective treatment, but I have never actually tried it. A breast pump can also help, as can a willing partner! Pumped milk could then be used in a milkshake for an ill family member (you may or may not choose to tell them ;- ) ), the healing properties of your milk need not be exclusive to your baby!
- You can nurse your child even if you become pregnant again.
- You can nurse your child/toddler even after delivering a new baby, this is called Tandem Nursing .
- You can nurse your adopted child. There are special feeding systems you can use and it is even possible to lactate without ever giving birth.
- You can re-lactate if you weaned your baby and then decide you want to continue breastfeeding.
- You can trust the quality and goodness of your milk. Providing you eat well, your milk is packed full of the best stuff your baby needs.
- You can nurse, read a book and eat a sandwich all at the same time (once you get the hang of it).
- You can demand that your baby not recieve any supplements (water, glucose water, formula) after your hospital delivery.
- You can feed on demand when your baby’s hungry without “spoiling” him. It is not possible to “spoil” an infant with love, care and attention.
- You can completely enjoy that wonderful “breastfeeding high” that comes with the release of prolactin and oxytocin upon nursing.
We’re told that once your baby reaches six months old, his/her nutritional needs change and our milk is no longer enough to keep him/her healthy. I personally disagree with this sweeping statement. As a rule, I introduce solid foods (in the form of baby rice and breast or rice milk) when my child starts to throw themselves at my food. This has been anywhere from 5 months to almost 1 year. My baby’s have all been big with healthy appetites and are above average height in the NHS charts. We shouldn’t feel pressured to wean even when our child does start solid food. You can still continue to nurse for absolutely as long as you both are happy! Weaning is something that should be done when the time feels right, not at the six month, six week or even two-year mark. Both you and child should be ready. It can be a difficult process, but very often it creates for a new phase of relationship with your child. The world-wide average for weaning is five years, keep this in mind and throw it at those relatives that think your 12 + month old is “too big for that”!
Time for Solids
I can’t recommend giving your baby anything to eat or drink other than breastmilk for at least the first six months of life. When those teeth start popping through and baby grabs at your food you can introduce rice cereal mixed with breastmilk, rice or oat milk. Eventually you can add pureed steamed vegetables or fruit to this such as potatoes, carrot, avocado, banana (very sweet, use sparingly), apple and pear. Be aware that babies sense of taste is highly sensitive and strong flavours will be too overpowering to begin with. I avoid dairy until a least 12-18 months, then only maybe a little cheese. A good alternative is nutritional yeast flakes, with it’s cheesy, nutty flavour and dairy-free (from your local healthy food shop)! While satisfying baby’s appetite and instinct to imitate, it is important to avoid allergy triggering foods such as wheat, dairy and soy for the first 12 months. Citrus fruits and strawberries also usually do not agree with young tummies. Strawberries gave our first babe bad nappy rash and dairy caused constipation. Around 8-10 months feeding mashed portions of the family dinner (without seasoning) made my youngest feel part of mealtimes. they seem to know when they’re eating the same stuff as us or when we’re trying to feed them “baby food”! Your own home prepared food will always be preferable over shop bought processed food. To make it really easy, buy a mini food processor from an electrical retailer, they’re great!
Typically applies to nursing past twelve months and anywhere up to six years of age or so. Nursing your toddler offers a great many benefits, besides all those listed above – I have been grateful for my extended breastfeeding relationship with my toddlers:
trials and tribulations of war and play – a cuddle at mum’s breast for a few minutes and all their worries are forgotten.
during illness – I know they’re getting extra immune-boosting antibodies from my milk
I find it a great joy to be able to provide such comfort during some very challenging months. There are few greater mothering moments than having a upset, frustrated child climb into your lap and nurse, and feeling all their hurt melt away, leaving them fresh and confident to move on.
Being flexible and open to the different paths that mothering gets you to travel is a wonderful thing. It may not be something you choose to do, but it may naturally end up choosing you. When I was expecting my first baby and attended a midwife-held breastfeeding class, the midwife spoke in full, round laughter of enjoying her nursing relationships with her children. It was a very inspiring class, and when she spoke of breastfeeding one of her children until they were 6 years old, she must have enjoyed the looks of amazment on our faces! Never would I have imagined that “baby” number 4 would still be happily nursing at almost 5 years old…..(with his 2 year old brother!)
Some people are obviously very uncomfortable to witness you breastfeeding a child that can ask to do so, but this is absolutely a hang-up specific to our society. If we look to other cultures where crime is low or unheard of and family communities are strong, you will find extended breastfeeding. There are NO disadvantages provided you are happy doing so. Pay no heed to nay-sayers accusing you of making your child dependent and insecure, on the contrary as I often proclaim, by meeting the needs of your child you are only helping them develop and grow into secure, happy people.
La Leche League GB