Useful information on the benefits, advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding your baby.
Breastfeeding allows you to provide your baby with all it needs for growth and development. Breast milk not only contains all the nutrients your baby needs, in an easily digested form, but it also contains antibodies to protect your baby from all kinds of infection.
There are substances in breast milk, which cannot be reproduced. You alone can provide these living factors for your baby. Breastfeeding is a really positive thing to do. It is not only good for your baby, it is good for you. The advantages are numerous.
The main advantages of breastfeeding for your baby
The main advantages of breastfeeding for you
- Breast milk is the only food specifically designed, by nature, to meet your baby's individual needs.
- It contains the right balance of nutrients in a very easily digestible form.
- Antibodies are passed on through breast milk to protect your baby from all kinds of infection. The longer you can feed your baby the better but if you breastfeed for the first three or four months this protection can last for up to a year.
- Your baby is much less likely to need to be admitted to hospital.
- Your baby is less likely to develop diarrhoea or constipation.
- Breastfeeding reduced the incidence of allergies such as eczema and asthma.
- Breast milk contains growth factors and hormones to help your baby's development. These cannot be reproduced in formula milk. Children who have breast fed for eight months or more have been shown to achieve more at school than those who have been bottle fed.
The main disadvantages of breastfeeding for you
- Breastfeeding helps your body to return to normal after the birth and burns up to 500 calories a day.
- Breast milk is always ready and it costs nothing
- Women who breastfeed often feel a special bond with their baby and may be less likely to develop postnatal depression.
- Breastfeeding may offer you some protection against developing ovarian cancer, breast cancer and hip fractures.
- Blood borne viruses such as hepatitis B or HIV and some medication can be passed on to your baby in breast milk.
- Some women find breastfeeding painful, stressful and tiring
- You are unable to measure the amount of milk your baby has consumed, this can be a disadvantage if your baby is having problems putting on weight.
- It can be difficult for a breastfeeding mother to leave her baby for more than a couple of hours as no one else can feed baby unless she leaves expressed milk.
Nearly all women can breastfeed, but many do run into problems. It is important to ask for help. Feeding can take a number of weeks to establish properly. Once established most women then find feeding easy and enjoyable.
The most important thing to know about breastfeeding is how to position your baby during a feed. If your baby is in the right position then everything else will follow.