Over the course of your pregnancy your body has been preparing you for breastfeeding. Your nipples may have darkened, enlarged, they may have become more sensitive and your breasts may have got bigger. When you have given birth your body produces massive amounts of oxytocin which is the love hormone and also the main ‘push,’ for your body to produce milk. Whilst breastfeeding is a natural process it will do you no harm to be prepared for what is to come. It is absolutely normal to feel a whole host of emotions from joy to complete anxiety in these first few weeks which are the most crucial for establishing a good supply. For some it can take a little time to get going so remember that and be open to learning as you go through this journey.
Remember you are both learning – so take your time, the feeding will come.
Every baby is different when it comes to feeding and there is a wide range in the average scale. This is where you get to know your baby and understand that from the moment they are born they are completely different to anyone else.
Once your milk is ‘in,’then you may find your breasts feeling softer – it just means that you are producing enough for your baby and that your body has adjusted to the demands of feeding. It does not mean you don’t have enough milk. Milk is made on supply and demand so any supplementation with formula will impact your capacity to produce.
How long should you breastfeed for?
World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that a baby should be breastfed for the first two years of its life. The American Association of Paediatricians (AAP) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then breastfeeding and solid with milk as the main source of nutrition until the baby is one. After that carry on for as long as the mother wants to.
My view – any amount of breastmilk you can give your child is better than none so breastfeed for as long as you want to.
Benefits for you when you breastfeed:-
- Helps you feel close to the baby
- Releases hormones that help you relax
- Helps your uterus return to normal size
- Linked to less breast and ovarian cancer and is listed by the World Cancer Fund as one of the ten ways you can avoid developing cancer as well as a new study that shows it can provide protection against heart disease
- There are links to a lower chance of developing osteoporosis and hip fractures in later life
- Its convenient – no need to sterilise or carry bottles of formula with you
- Always ready – and it adjusts its temperature so it can help cool the baby down on a hot day
- It doesn’t cost anything and is better for the environment.
- As you breastfeed you have to rest which will help you recover from childbirth quicker
- You burn around 500 calories as you feed so some say it can help you loose any extra weight you’ve gained
- It also changes composition when the baby is sick so send antibodies from you to help them fight infection.
- It is the best designed milk for human babies. It contains at least 100 ingredients that cannot be found in formula milk.
- You get to hold and bond with your baby
It is estimated that formula costs the average family $1734 or £1316 or 651BHD for the first year.* Breastfeeding costs nothing! (other than that online shopping you may do at 3am!)
Benefits for the breastfed baby:-
- It is easily digested
- Provides long term protection against gastrointestinal, respiratory and ear infections as well as SIDS
- Prolactin in your milk is calming and sleep inducing
- Helps with normal growth and development
- May help prevent or delay the start of allergies
- Contains fatty acids that help with the development of nerves and the brain
- Changes composition to your growing baby’s needs
- Breast fed babies are rarely constipated (and their nappies smell nicer!)
- It is extremely rare for a baby to be allergic to breastmilk
- Helps with development of the palate, jaws and teeth. Breastfed babies tend to have fewer cavities.
- Research shows that breastfed babies have better protection against UTI’s, ear infections, bacterial meningitis, SIDS, certain childhood cancers, Crohn’s disease and some other digestive conditions.
- Breastfed babies tend to be less at risk of obesity in later life
*Figures correct as of December 2013.