World Breastfeeding Week:
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mother and Baby
Did you know that this week is World Breastfeeding Week? A time to celebrate and raise awareness of the many benefits breastfeeding has for both mother and baby.
Morlais Health is committed to supporting women who choose to breastfeed, with a dedicated breastfeeding room at our Ivor Street Surgery Baby Clinic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our Baby Clinic has moved to Berry Square Surgery and mothers are very welcome to breastfeed anywhere at any of our premises. However, if you wish to have privacy, please ask a member of staff who will be able to help you find a more private area.
If you are pregnant, with its many advantages, breastfeeding is something to consider. From the moment a mother begins to breastfeed her baby, they will both receive its benefits.
The advantages breastfeeding has on your baby
- It really is liquid gold
Referred to as “liquid gold”, when your baby is new born your body makes colostrum, a light yellow and slightly sticky liquid that comprises of everything a baby needs in their first days of life, including high levels of protein, salts, fats, and vitamins.
In the first days following birth, your body will continue to make colostrum, which not only provides all the nutrients a baby needs, but it also protects your baby’s throat, lungs, intestines and leukocytes – a part of the baby’s immune system that fights viruses and bacteria. After about 3 or 4 days of producing colostrum, your breasts will begin to produce breast milk, offering additional benefits to both you and your baby.
- Breast milk changes to fight against viruses and bacteria
Just like the colostrum, breast milk provides your baby with antibodies and when a baby is exposed to an illness, the breast milk will alter to provide the relevant antibodies they need to fight off that specific illness. Yes, you read that correctly, human nature really is that incredible!
- It reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Breastfeeding reduces the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or cot death), a recent study suggests. The study showed that two months of breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk of cot death by almost 50%, and the longer the breastfeeding continues, the greater the protection.
- It has psychological benefits
The physical closeness that breastfeeding requires will soothe your baby, offering a sense of safety and reassurance after birth. When feeding, you will notice that your baby will make eye contact. This helps strengthen the bond between you as s/he adjusts to this new world.
- The benefits continue through childhood
Children who were breastfed as a baby will continue to reap the benefits that breastfeeding provides. As they grow older, they will also be less likely to suffer from ear infections, respiratory infections, allergies and diabetes.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese in later life
According to research, those who are breastfed for the first six months of their life are less likely to become obese. The research suggests that weight issues in adulthood could stem from over-feeding with formula milk in early life. It is true that you cannot “overfeed” breastfed baby as the baby will only take what s/he needs when being fed.
The advantages breastfeeding has on mothers
- It burns hundreds of calories
Breastfeeding your baby burns around 500 calories a day, helping you burn off any additional post-partum weight. When you breastfeed, you may also feel your tummy contracting, this is your muscles tightening and toning back up after pregnancy.
- You could benefit from a better night’s sleep
There is no doubt that having a baby will result in a disturbed night’s sleep. However, breastfeeding makes those night-time feeds much easier. When a baby wakes in the night for food, no preparation is needed. In fact, if baby sleeps in a crib next to you, you probably won’t even have to get out of bed, just bring baby in with you to feed, before placing baby back in the crib when s/he has settled back to sleep.
In addition, studies suggest that exclusively breastfeeding mothers slept 40 minutes longer a night than mixed- or formula-feeding mothers (Doan, Gardiner, Gay, & Lee, 2007). Breastfeeding releases hormones that helps both mother and baby feel sleepy and relaxed, making falling back to sleep easier.
- It takes up less preparation
Breastfeeding takes less preparation than bottle-feeding. With no bottles to sterilize and make up in advance, leaving the house is also a whole lot easier, you’ve also got a lot less items to carry with you. People are generally very supportive of breastfeeding mother’s and feeding your baby is a beautiful and natural thing to do, so don’t be put off by feeding and nourishing your baby on the go.
- It’s cheaper
Breastfeeding is much cheaper than bottle feeding. It can become costly to purchase formula milk week after week, especially when your baby gets older and requires more milk. Breast milk will not cost you a penny and you won’t need to purchase additional items such as bottles, teats and sterilisers.
- It has mental health benefits
One in ten women will experience post-partum depression. Studies suggest that women who breastfeed are far less likely to experience depression after having their baby.
- It lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer
Research identifies that those who breastfeed their babies lower their risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The hormonal changes that take place during lactation delay periods, reducing a woman’s exposure to hormones like oestrogen, which can stimulate breast cancer cell growth and abnormal cancerous cells.
What’s more, during breastfeeding women shed breast tissue, which helps to remove cells that may have DNA damage, again reducing the chances of the mother developing breast cancer in the future.
There are lots of resources that can help support you with breastfeeding:
Ask your midwife at Morlais health who will provide additional information, support and answer any questions you might have. Simply contact Eryl O’Neill, based at Keir Hardie Health Park on 01685 351274. Your midwife can offer breastfeeding support and advice before and after the birth of your baby, it’s important to ask for the help you need during the first days of feeding.
Don’t be afraid to ask the midwife at the hospital to show you how to feed your baby. Those first hours of skin to skin with your baby are important and the sooner you can get your baby to latch the better. You may feel a little overwhelmed after giving birth, so why not write in your birth notes that you would like to be shown how to breastfeed at the earliest possibility.
Your health visitor can also provide support and will also undertake regular weighing and developmental checks to ensure the baby is receiving enough milk from you.
Local breastfeeding support in Merthyr Tydfil
Prince Charles Hospital’s Infant Feeding Co-ordinator, Gaynor Evans is available to help and support mothers who breastfeed. You can contact Gaynor on 07796 444734.
You can attend breastfeeding groups and speak to women who are also on their breastfeeding journey. Whether they are well-established or are getting used to it, it may be extra helpful to have support from women who can fully empathise with you. Merthyr Tydfil Breastfeeding Group meet Tuesdays 10:30-12:30 and provide a warm welcome to all new mums.
Tirion Birth Centre at Royal Glamorgan Hospital can also help new parents with breastfeeding support. New mums can stay overnight if needed, even if they didn’t give birth there. You can contact the birth centre on 01443 443524.
Local Facebook Support Groups: There is also plenty of social media support through Facebook groups ran by trained support workers. Visit Cwm Taf Breastfeeding Network and Cwm Taf Breastfeeding who are currently running virtual Zoom classes throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative
La Leche league
NCT New Parents support