The Importance of Breastfeeding
Posted on: 5th February 2016
Breastfeeding is very important for your baby and for you. That’s why here at Lansinoh® we have put together some information to help you to succeed in your breastfeeding goals. We want you to enjoy this precious time with your baby and we want to help you overcome some of the common hurdles.
Breastfeeding your newborn baby
It is important to hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth, or as soon as possible, allowing your baby to self-attach when ready – don’t hurry this important time of getting to know each other before the first feed.
Your first milk (colostrum) may be small in quantity, but it is rich in everything your baby needs. As it passes through your baby’s digestive system, it lines the stomach and intestines to better defend against bacteria and viruses. This is one of the reasons why it is important not to dilute it with water or formula feeds in those first few days before your milk comes in. Your colostrum also helps your baby to produce his first stool to excrete meconium (the substances ingested while in the womb).
Why breastfeeding is important for mum
From the very first feed you are creating a lasting bond with your baby, and giving a feeling of comfort and security through skin to skin contact. Not only is breastfeeding free, but breastmilk is ready on demand at just the right temperature, without the need to sterilise bottles or carry around an even bigger bag of kit when out and about. And then there are some important ways that breastfeeding is good for mother, too …
Skin to skin contact and the suckling of your baby at the breast immediately after birth encourages the release of oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’), which sends a signal to your breasts to release milk to your baby. Oxytocin also encourages your uterus to contract, to prevent haemorrhaging and begin to return to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding can delay the return of your period (thus conserving iron in your body), but while you are less likely to conceive during the first six months if you are fully breastfeeding, it is not a foolproof method so it is best not to rely on it totally.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding provides additional advantages for mothers, including health advantages.
The hormones of lactation, oxytocin and prolactin, have an overall calming effect on mum – as you relax during a breastfeeding session, even your blood pressure falls.
Studies also suggest that, these hormones reduce the risk of postnatal anxiety and depression in breastfeeding women compared to mothers who are bottle-feeding. However, breastfeeding difficulties in the early days can be very stressful, so make sure you get the support you need, before the problems escalate.
If your baby is breastfed, you may pay fewer visits to your GP, and experience less of the stress associated with caring for a sick baby. If you are planning to return to work, continuing to feed your baby with your milk can be a really important way of reducing the risk of having to take time off to care for a sick baby.
Another benefit for mums is that breastfeeding helps mobilise fat stores and burns up to 500 calories a day, to help you lose pregnancy pounds faster. A bottle feeding mum would need to cycle uphill for an hour in order to use up this many calories! In general, non-breastfeeding mothers lose less weight and are not as successful in keeping it off as breastfeeding women. There is a suggestion that a breastfeeding mother’s metabolism changes to regulate blood sugar levels and this, together with more efficient weight loss and good cholesterol levels, may lead to a lower risk of heart problems for women who have breastfed.
Breastfeeding can save the family a substantial amount of money compared to formula feeding.
Why breastfeeding is important for your baby
Your breastmilk is the only food designed specifically for your baby. It cannot be replicated with formula milk. It changes as your growing baby’s needs change. What is more, the nutrients in breastmilk are more easily absorbed than formula milk, so you can be certain that your baby is getting maximum benefit, as well as being protected by the antibodies you produce just for your baby, in response to what you are both exposed to, and pass on through your milk.
There are both short and long term benefits for your baby if you breastfeed exclusively for the recommended time of six months, and thereafter together with solid foods for as long as you and your baby wish. Breastmilk never loses its health-giving properties. Many of the benefits of breastfeeding are dose-dependent – the longer your baby is breastfed, the greater the benefits.
There are many ways in which breastfed babies generally are healthier. Breastmilk contains vital substances to help the development of your baby’s brain, retina and central nervous system, as well as growth factors and hormones. Stem cells in breastmilk are thought to play a role in normal growth and development and may have an important functional role later in life.
The childhood and lifelong advantages of breastfeeding
Your colostrum and breastmilk are really important for establishing a healthy microbiome in your baby’s gut. It is now thought that the healthy bacteria established in the gut through exclusive breastfeeding may mediate many of the lifelong health advantages which result from being breastfed as an infant.
Breastfeeding and premature babies
If your baby is born prematurely, the baby’s immune system will be immature and the brain and other organs will be less developed than those of a full term baby. Your milk can be even more important. It can help build up your baby’s strength and offer protection from infection, especially the gut infections that can be serious for premature babies.
If your baby is unable to feed at the breast at first, there is the option of expressing your colostrum as soon as possible after giving birth. It can be fed to your baby by tube or other means as soon as your baby is stable. This can be a challenging time, but the staff at the hospital will support you and help you establish a good milk supply. If your baby is too small or too sick to take all of the milk you express, it can be frozen for later use. Lansinoh® BREASTMILK STORAGE BAGS can be used to store your expressed breastmilk.