Breastfeeding is popular in the UK, with an estimated 78% of new mothers choosing this method over bottle-feeding. If you’re pregnant, or have recently had a baby, you’ll have noticed that there’s no getting away from the crystal clear ‘breast is best’ message coming from all your healthcare providers.
Of course, this very personal choice is indeed remarkable because it allows you not only to feed your baby naturally, but also to bond with him and nurture him as only a mother can. Here are just a few of the ways in which this unique physical opportunity can benefit both you and your little one…
Breast milk is the only 100% natural food available for your baby. It’s a ‘complete’ solution, containing everything he needs to grow within the first six or so months of life. Breast milk also contains valuable antibodies, enzymes, living cells and hormones that help protect your baby from infection and disease – elements that are not present in formula milk. As milk is produced on demand, your baby will always get exactly the right amount, and will never go hungry or consume too much.
Of course, it’s possible to replicate the skin-to-skin contact a child receives while nursing with bottle-feeding parents, but there’s no denying the close physical contact, the familiar sound of his mother’s heartbeat and her recognisable smell will calm a fretful baby as nothing else will. Cradled in your arms, your baby will feel safe, close and satisfied – a feeling which will, in time, develop into the precious loving bond between mother and child.
From the very first feed, the hormones released by breastfeeding help your uterus to contract and shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. Early on in the process, it also helps to reduce post-partum bleeding and generally assist your body’s recovery following childbirth. Furthermore, once you’re into the swing of things, breastfeeding naturally costs you 500 calories a day, and can play a very important part in losing any surplus ‘baby weight’ you may be carrying after the birth.
In a nutshell, breast milk is brilliant because it’s free! Furthermore, the ‘equipment’ you use for feeding doesn’t need to be sterilised and the milk is always at the perfect temperature, so you can save money on formula, bottles, sterilisers, bottle warmers and so much more…
As the levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone are significantly lowered in the body during breastfeeding, scientists have suggested that breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer. The Cancer Research Campaign have also theorized that another hormone, oxytocin, which is secreted at the same time and tells the body to produce more milk, may protect cells from cancer later in life.
Exclusive breastfeeding acts as a natural contraception, as the level of hormones in your body are lowered to such an extent that the return of your periods following childbirth is delayed. This provides a safe and natural form of contraception.
It goes without saying that when you feed your baby, you are also bonding with him emotionally. However, you might not realise it at the time, but these early feeds are also forcing you to stop doing whatever you’re doing, sit still for a while and rest. This is physically and mentally good for both you and your baby, particularly when you are otherwise overcome by the demands of having a newborn! Successful breastfeeding also gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment as you watch your little one thrive, fed solely by your amazing body.
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