Breastfeeding ‘as nature intended’
‘Giving your Baby the ‘Breast’ Start in Life’
If you gave your baby a choice of milk at birth and explained which one was best for baby’s long term development which milk do you think baby would choose?
On the 1st of August 2016 UNICEF issued a joint statement supporting a call to action for health care professionals and breastfeeding advocates to urge the government to remove the barriers associated with breastfeeding within the UK. The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the UK and despite all the evidence informing women that breast is best, we still lag behind the rest of the world. So why is this most natural form of feeding so difficult for women living in the UK? Here I explore the aspects of breastfeeding in order to help inform you of the many benefits of feeding your babies as nature intended.
The historical Impact on our thoughts around breastfeeding
We live in an ever changing society, over 50 years ago, bottle feeding was promoted as a great alternative to breastfeeding and I myself was bottle fed as in the 60’s hospitals gave away free milk to new mums as a way to encourage women to buy their products.
As young women growing up most of us have seen babies bottle fed, and we were not exposed to as many breastfeeding women in the UK. Bottle feeding became the ‘norm’ by the 70’s. Lack of exposure to natures greatest gift sadly impacted on children’s health. By the mid 80’s finally we began to wake up to the actual benefits of breastfeeding our offspring. Sadly a lot of damage was done.
The social implications are far-reaching, getting our boobs out in public for example became frowned upon! Women worry they will loose their sexual identity, and there is so much ignorance surrounding the physical effects of breastfeeding. More and more celebrity’s are supporting the breastfeeding cause. Tamara Ecclestone pictured above has allowed herself to be photographed feeding her daughter on many occasions, she carried on feeding until her daughter was a toddler. We need more celebrity’s to allow the camera’s in to show women that breastfeeding is normal and will not affect your social identity, if you feel confident then your emotions will be stable and your bonding with your baby will be priceless.
Sadly the press still reports on small-minded restaurant owners who throw women out for breastfeeding. This has to stop and you lovely women are advocates for future generations. Your boobs are not just sexual objects! There is so much media exposure to soft porn and female role models who use their boobs to further their careers, that many young women get caught up in a vortex of personal image ‘V’ feeding our children. I will tell you this your boobs can still look good once you finish breastfeeding, the female body is so clever and yet we allow outside influences to dictate how we use our bodies. Furthermore breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer and has many other cancer fighting bonuses so for a women breastfeeding is far more beneficial to your health than breast enlargement.
What you need to know about Breast feeding to help make your decision
The evidence is clear breastfeeding does save lives, it improves your chances for long term health for you and your baby and it saves you money! Yes its free remember no need to subscribe to another unnecessary cost. It has no genetically modified chemicals in it unless you eat them yourself so it is safer. There is extensive evidence out there regarding benefits to baby, in the first few days the breast produces the most amazing substance known as colostrum, this is highly nutritious, carries all your immunity’s to the baby, which protects her in her early days of life, and it is full on antibodies, which carry on multiplying and help initiate her immune system. Imagine your baby’s stomach is like a brand new engine. The colostrum being the gold standard oil that lubricates this new engine and helps the whole body work in unison and promotes balance in the newborn infant.
Another barrier to breastfeeding is that women state ‘I can’t see how much the baby is getting’ Well your baby only needs a teaspoon or 2 every few hours in the first few days of life. UNICEF guidelines focus on 8-10 feeds per day. Look at the above photograph bottle fed baby’s are given far too much milk at birth and it over stretches the newborn stomach; after all bottle feeding is associated with higher instances of obesity. Now can you see why. Obesity is the biggest cause of type 2 diabetes and diabetes is the biggest pandemic around the world today. Coincidental that this occurs post introduction to bottle feeding? I’m not sure but what I do know is that our population is becoming very unhealthy and this impacts on all of our lives and our services. Breastfeeding your child promotes an ethos for healthy living and we need to wake up to this fact fast as our immune systems and health are in detriment due to our views on health.
There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, bonding for example. It is recognised that a child’s emotional well being is as important as their physical health. The department of health (DOH) issued guidelines to help parents on the Transition to parenthood document highlights how important early bonding is “There is a significant body of evidence that demonstrates the importance of sensitive attuned parenting on the development of the baby’s brain and in promoting secure attachment and bonding. Preventing and intervening early to address attachment issues will have an impact on resilience and physical, mental and socioeconomic outcomes in later life.” (DOH 2014). I breastfed both my sons, I am not a perfect parent and made many mistakes until they became teenagers, what I will tell you is that my 2 sons are closer to me than many of their peers to their parents. The biggest difference being their peers were not breastfed. Breastfeeding does have long-term influences so think about that, you can’t grab back the time lost.
What you do need to know is that a baby will feed more when breastfed compared to bottle feeding, you will have to feed your babies at night, they will wake up. During the night we produce a hormone called melatonin, this is our healing hormone and babies need us to produce this as it will help them sleep too. Babies will sleep for shorter times up until approx 3am (all babies are different) but then they sleep well between 3am and 10am approximately. You will need to learn to have a lie in and not get up as if you were going to work. Your partner should be able to take paternity leave for up to 2 weeks, so he can adjust too. Enlist the support of your parents, siblings and friends so they can help you with the washing, cleaning and cooking. Restrict visitors to certain times to enable you to rest. Take afternoon naps when your baby sleeps. Think about expressing and storing your milk. So that other members of your household can cup feed whilst you take ‘me’ time. Learn to chill out. Be brave look for the breastfeeding friendly sign in cafe’s and public areas.
I could go on about how to feed your baby but to be honest there are some amazing websites out there UNICEF being one of them and NHS choices will give you the most up to date correct evidence and advice. Another piece of advice I want to give you is to please attend a breastfeeding antenatal class. The hospital where you are booked should provide free classes. Children centre’s across the UK act as a great resource both in the Antenatal & Postnatal period. If you want more intimate education then contact us at www.callthemidwives.co.uk my class only covers South East London and North West Kent but there are many other private breastfeeding promoters out there.
Now we live in the 21st century, we have many influences around us, lots of pressure’s like work, peer, or financial. But we are lucky in the UK that women are given maternity leave with many women receiving benefits up to the baby is 9 months old. This time is perfect as UNICEF guidelines encourage women to feed their infant until 6 months. I am not the breastfeeding police I know there can be pitfalls and many women encounter problems and are discouraged by their peers. Please ladies all I ask is that your give it a go. I never thought I would do it, to be honest as a young girl I didn’t even realise my breasts were there to feed my young! bad biology lessons as a teenager. But luckily for me one of my friends breastfed her daughter whilst I was pregnant, I was amazed and just instinctively knew I had to give it a go. I believe that as long as you try your best as a parent you will never look back and say if only.
Before I finish this blog a statistic. In the UK 34% of babies are receiving breastmilk at 6 months, yet in Denmark that figure is a staggering 71%. If the Danish can do it and still look good then why can’t we?
Good luck new parents Best wishes Wendy Kuharska Midwife
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