Benefits of Breastfeeding Benefits of Breastfeeding

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breast milk is best for babies

Breastfeeding is best for babies and has many benefits, such as protecting your baby from infection while their immune system develops. It is important that you eat a healthy, balanced diet in preparation for and during breastfeeding.

Infant formula is designed to replace breast milk when an infant is not breastfed. Combining breast and bottle feeding in your baby’s first weeks of life may reduce your supply of breast milk, and reversing a decision not to breastfeed is difficult.

The social and financial implications of using infant formula should be considered when choosing a method of feeding. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when preparing and using infant formula, including proper sterilisation of bottles and using boiled water. Improper use of an infant formula may make your baby ill.

Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby.

Breastfeeding is considered the best way to feed your baby for many reasons. It provides optimal nourishment as well as many other important benefits for your baby and for you. Breastfeeding will meet all of your baby’s nutritional needs for the first six months or so of life, and should continue after solids are introduced until your baby is 12 months old and beyond.

Benefits for baby

Optimal nutrition: Breastfeeding your baby gives them the best start in life. During their first year, babies grow faster than at any other time during their lives. Your breast milk is designed to support this rapid growth, and is constantly changing to meet your baby’s nutritional needs.2

Immunity: Breast milk contains many immune factors that help protect your baby against infection while their immune systems mature.2

Stimulating the senses: Breastfeeding stimulates your baby's senses of touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste by encouraging close contact and bonding between you and your baby.3

Benefits for you

Recovery from birth: When your baby suckles, a hormone called oxytocin is released, which causes your uterus to contract back to normal size. Oxytocin also helps you feel relaxed and content when feeding your baby, making breastfeeding a positive bonding experience for both of you.4–6

Convenient: Breast milk is a convenient, inexpensive source of food and fluid for your baby. It requires no preparation or storage, and is always available at the right temperature anywhere and anytime.5

Delay of menstruation: Breastfeeding may delay the return of your menstrual cycle, which can preserve your iron stores and help them return to pre-pregnancy levels. You’re also less likely to get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding, although it’s still possible (make sure you talk with your healthcare professional for advice about contraception).6

For more information or advice about breastfeeding, visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association at https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au

Breast health

Like any skill, breastfeeding can take some practice and some time to get used to. Some women find it easy and feel like it’s a special time to bond with their baby, while others can find it a little more difficult. There’s nothing wrong with this and for some mums it might just require a little more patience and determination.

Either way, you need to remain focused on your breast health during this time. Take some time to make yourself familiar with some of the most common breastfeeding issues below.

Milk issues

It’s not unusual for breastfeeding mums to experience some milk issues. Some of the most common problems with breast milk include:

  • Too much milk. In the first 6–8 weeks it’s possible to produce too much breast milk as your body adjusts to what your baby needs. If this is the case, your breasts may feel engorged and your baby may gulp or cough while feeding. To ease the flow, try expressing some milk before a feed or switching breasts frequently during a feed.
  • Not enough milk. Your body can take up to a week to adjust to your baby’s feeding demands, so there may be times that your breasts start to feel less full while your body starts to increase the amount of milk it produces. Sometimes milk production can slow or stop if breastfeeding patterns are disrupted and breastfeeding becomes less frequent. For example, bottle feeding or using a dummy results in less time spent on the breast.
  • Leaking breasts. It’s completely normal for breasts to leak, particularly in the first few weeks after giving birth. This is a good sign that you’re producing plenty of milk for your baby. There’s no way to stop leakage, and many women find breast pads helpful. You may also find that leakage slows down with more frequent feeds.
  • Mastitis. Mastitis may occur when a blocked duct or a build-up of milk causes your breast tissue to become inflamed. You may be able to feel a lump where the blocked duct is located. Other symptoms include red, sore, swollen, or hot breasts, as well as flu-like symptoms such as fever and headaches. The best way to cure mastitis is to continue to feed your baby from this breast, even if it’s painful. It’s best to visit your doctor, especially if mastitis has not cleared after a couple of days.

Sore nipples

Sore, dry, cracked or bleeding nipples are common in breastfeeding mums, especially in the first few days of breastfeeding. However, painful nipples may be a sign that something is not right. The most common cause of sore nipples is when your baby doesn’t latch on correctly. In order to latch on, your baby will need to have their mouth wide open, with the nipple sitting far back in their mouth. Sore nipples occur when the baby sucks the nipple in.

If your baby has trouble latching on correctly, you may notice the following signs:

  • Very frequent feeds
  • Long time spent on breast
  • Baby gaining weight slower than expected
  • Baby is unsettled after feeds

If you’re experiencing sore breasts from breastfeeding, it’s best to speak to your doctor or lactation consultant so you can rectify the problem as soon as possible.

Being a new mum and integrating breastfeeding into your daily routine can be tough work! These nine lifestyle and breastfeeding tips will help you to make things a little easier.

  1. Learn how to breastfeed before giving birth

    Nothing can totally prepare you for the real-life experience, but it certainly helps to read up on breastfeeding before you begin. Not all breastfeeding positions will work for all mums and babies, so it’s nice to have a few options available off the top of your head.

  2. Express your breast milk

    Expressing is simply a way of taking milk from your breast without your baby suckling. Once you’ve expressed your milk, you can store it in the fridge to bottle-feed your baby later. There are three common methods for expressing breast milk; by hand, with a hand-held pump, or with an electric pump. Having your breast milk expressed and stored is great in emergencies and can save a lot of time for busy mums. It’s also handy if you’re in a place where you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding.

  3. Learn how to store breast milk

    After you’ve expressed your breast milk, the next step is storing it correctly. Breast milk storage isn’t overly complicated, but it does require some care and attention. You should use sterilised, airtight containers or breast milk storage bags specifically designed for this purpose (though bear in mind that these can often tear or become contaminated more easily). If using a plastic container, ensure that it is BPA-free.

    Follow the guide below for breast milk storage times and temperatures from the National Health and Medical Research Council: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n56_infant_feeding_guidelines_150917.pdf.

    Always remember to label each container with the date it was expressed, so you can keep track of when it’s going to expire. If you send your baby to childcare, ensure it has their full name on the container.

  4. Master breastfeeding in public

    Breastfeeding in public can be a daunting experience for first time mums, and although it’s a natural process, it doesn’t always feel comfortable for everyone when they first get started. Try practicing in the mirror if you’re anxious about nursing in public to find you and your baby’s best position. The key to mastering breastfeeding in public is to feel confident. Choose clothes that you will feel comfortable in and use an easy-access bra, and consider a spot that you can sit at ease with some support for your back. You may also want to consider looking for a place where you are less visible to the general public and in turn less likely to be disturbed.

    Many women prefer to use a breastfeeding cover or blanket when breastfeeding in public, so consider this option if you think it would make you feel more comfortable. While there’s no harm in giving it a try, keep in mind that some breastfeeding covers may irritate your baby.

  5. Consider breastfeeding-specific clothing

    Breastfeeding clothes are a relatively recent addition to the market and take the humble maternity bra to the next level. Breastfeeding tops and breastfeeding dresses are growing in popularity due to the ease with which you can feed your baby in them.

  6. Maintain a healthy breastfeeding diet

    Your healthy diet shouldn’t fly out the window once pregnancy is over. While you can relax a little more and start eating some items that were previously off limits (hello, soft cheeses!), what you eat can affect your breast milk.

  7. Take a breastfeeding multivitamin

    Sticking to a healthy diet at all times is almost impossible with a new baby at home. In addition to this, breastfeeding means you’ll need to meet increased nutritional requirements. Consider a breastfeeding multivitamin, such as Elevit Breastfeeding, which provides key nutrients, such as betacarotene, omega 3, B-group vitamins, folate and vitamins C and D, calcium, iron and zinc. Meeting nutrient requirements is not only beneficial to your own health, but also to your baby’s development.

  8. Ensure you get enough rest

    Being a new mum can be stressful and it’s easy to not get enough sleep in those first few months, it’s still important that you get sleep whenever and wherever you can, especially when breastfeeding, as you’re expending more energy than normal with feeds. Prioritise it and make time for it if necessary.

  9. Make time to socialise with other breastfeeding mums

    Breastfeeding can be pretty tricky for such a natural process, and it’s great to have a support network of likeminded people to turn to if you’re having problems. Try looking on parenting sites, Facebook, or Gumtree, for parenting groups in your area.