Breastfeeding benefits – for babies *and* mums

It's National Celebrate Breastfeeding Week - but why breastfeed, and what are the benefits for babies and mothers?

National Breastfeeding Celebration Week is designed to raise awareness of the health and wellbeing benefits of breastfeeding. You might be aware that breast milk is the only natural food designed for your baby and provides many health benefits for them. But did you know there are many benefits to mums from breastfeeding, too?

We asked our in-house midwife Summaya to talk us through breastfeeding benefits for babies and mums, plus tips on diet and advice on seeking help and support if you need it.

So what are the breastfeeding benefits for babies?

Breastfeeding protects your baby from infections and diseases. It means there's less likelihood of becoming obese and therefore developing type 2 diabetes and other illnesses later in life. There's also less chance of them developing eczema, and baby is likely to have fewer chest and ear infections. And there's less chance of them being constipated

But how does breastfeeding benefit the mother?

Breastfeeding can help to build a strong bond between you and your baby. But did you know it also lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer? As well as naturally using up to 500 calories a day, it can give you a great sense of achievement and it's also completely free.

Do I have to change my diet to breastfeed? What should I eat (and avoid?)

A healthy, varied diet is vital to help produce nutritious breast milk and maintain your own health during the post natal period. Whilst breastfeeding we advise and encourage you to stick to the same healthy diet that you were on whilst you were pregnant as baby will absorb what you ingest via your milk.

You might wish to consider taking a supplement designed specifically for the post-natal/breastfeeding period, like Pregnacare Breastfeeding, to help support your nutritional requirements.

Can I still have a glass of wine when I'm breastfeeding?

The good news is yes...read more in this article on The Telegraph on breastfeeding and alcohol.

Where can I seek help and advice with breastfeeding if I need it?

Hospitals may have peer support workers that come around while you are still on the ward after giving birth; their job is to see if the feeding is going well before you are discharged home, and to give you tips and advice if needed.

Some boroughs have breastfeeding cafes, which are drop in centres for breastfeeding mothers or women that are struggling with feeding. It is beneficial for those that need extra support as there are breastfeeding advisors and midwives at the venue. Additionally it is also a nice way to get to know local mothers and babies in the area.

You can also (for those able to afford it) pay for a lactation consultant to come and help you with the breastfeeding at home. Research what is available to you and what your hospital is offering - there is help out there if you need it.

There's also a list of online resources in our post on midwives and breastfeeding, including the NCT breastfeeding helpline number and some useful websites.

Make sure you read our posts on breastfeeding and allergies and tips on being a breastfeeding working mum.

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