The short answer is yes. From a nutritional and health point of view; breastfeeding has so many benefits that it should be our first point of call.
The long answer is not always. I believe the mental health of the mother and whole family unit is of paramount importance to the well being of the baby. So, in a situation where breastfeeding is causing so much angst and distress that a parent is not enjoying their baby or suffering from Postnatal Depression and Anxiety – then perhaps it isn’t the best thing for that family.
Why should we breastfeed?
Once it is all running smoothly, breastfeeding is free and convenient. Breast milk comes out at the right temperature, on tap and the ‘equipment’ doesn’t need to be washed and sterilized. The benefits of breastfeeding are far reaching; from aiding the mothers postnatal recovery and reducing the risk of gynaecological cancers, to increasing a babies IQ and reducing the risk of some chronic diseases throughout their lifetime.
Why is that?
Breastmilk is a human milk made for human babies, its contains a milk protein which is easily digested by the baby’s gut, antibacterial properties to fight infections and immune factors to provide passive immunity to diseases from mother to baby.
So why is it so damn hard to do?
Historically, babies who struggled to feed from their mother might not have survived or ‘failed to thrive’ due to a low milk consumption. These days, losing a baby to malnutrition is totally unacceptable and bottles and formula are widely available and socially accepted. Having this second option has perhaps pushed us to move away from thinking of breastfeeding as the norm. Many parents have had no exposure to breastfeeding until they come to do it for themselves. So I guess from a parental point of view – we have very poor understanding of the art of breastfeeding before we do it and there is often a strong societal push to move to bottles and formula; which greatly impacts on the rates of successful breastfeeding.
So what’s a girl to do then?
Be informed. Be supported. Practice. Persist.
Learn from your village, don’t shy away from watching your family and friends breastfeeding their baby.
Go to antenatal breastfeeding classes and learn all about it.
Use all the services available – lactation consultants in both the hospital and the community, your maternal health nurse at your local council and the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Persist. For at least six weeks. There can be so many ups and downs in the first couple of months, but with the right information and support many women look back and are so happy they persisted through those difficult times and went on to breastfeed their babies!
What if it just doesn’t work for me and my baby or I simply don’t want to do it?
Find someone to support you to express and bottle feed, combination breastfeed and formula feed or fully formula feed. This might be a peer or a health professional – whoever takes the time to understand you and your journey and respect your wishes.
I hope this article helps you to ‘Stress Less’ and enjoy your baby!
Check out the breastfeeding chapter of my book The Stress Less Baby Guide at www.stresslessbabyguide.com.au
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