It’s World Breastfeeding Week’s 25th year and we should all be celebrating. Why? Because breastfeeding is amazing, that’s why.
As something that is a natural process, it’s easy to think that breastfeeding should come naturally but more often than not, it doesn’t.
Personally, I’ve been through agony with a tongue tie, weeping and yelping through each feed and dreading the next; I’ve had nipple thrush; I’ve had a ridiculous oversupply (which is NOT a good thing – more on that and how to deal with it coming soon!); I’ve had blistered nipples, painful engorgement, a baby with endless food sensitivities that put me onto a total elimination diet and to top it all off, 5 months without a single, unbroken night’s sleep. And I’m not alone. Other women experience Mastitis, low supply, Vasospasm, cracked nipples and more!
Basically, what I’m trying to say is: breastfeeding is tough and breastfeeding mums are superheroes.
I am a loud and proud breastfeeding mama, with my baby still exclusively breastfed at 5 months old, but so far it has been a pretty much the opposite from the beautiful journey I imagined it would be. For some, breastfeeding comes easy; for others, like myself, it really, really doesn’t. This gives us even more reason to support and encourage women who strive to continue against all odds, as if we didn’t have enough already!
Here are 5 reasons why we all need to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week:
1. Support Those Breastfeeding Mamas!
I have been so close to throwing in the towel with breastfeeding, particularly as all of my oversupply and tongue tie problems were also contributing to colic and reflux for my baby. There were many times where the pain and exhaustion felt too much to bear.
If it hadn’t been for the support of my partner, my family, my friends, an amazing lactation consultant and numerous breastfeeding groups I’d probably have stopped long ago, but I am so glad that I didn’t, for both myself and my little one.
Not everyone has a great support network and breastfeeding can be really challenging, especially braving doing it in public. The next time that you see a woman breastfeeding, whether she’s a stranger or a loved one, tell her what a fantastic job she’s doing. You never know what a huge difference it might make.
2. The Perfect Blend for Babies
I am of course a huge proponent of breastfeeding, but I would never judge a woman who formula feeds her baby. There are endless reasons why she might have chosen to do this or have been pushed into a situation where it was the only option and of course, the most important thing at the end of the day is that mum and baby are doing well and thriving. However, there is no denying that breast milk is the best formula there is for babies and the ideal option whenever possible.
A new mother’s body is incredible and will produce milk that is perfectly designed for her own baby. Packed with all of the vitamins, protein and fat that a baby needs to thrive; full of bespoke antibodies for made-to-order immunity to help bubs fight off bad bacteria and viruses and constructed to promote the growth of healthy bacteria to line your baby’s gut and protect their tiny tums. Breast milk has even been proven to boost brain development in those first few critical years of a baby’s development, amongst a whole host of other health benefits for baby that cannot be reproduced.
3. First Defence Against Allergies
Breast milk contains a variety of immune factors, such as secretory IgA, that scientists have suggested help to prevent allergies now and later in life.
By providing a layer of protection to the intestinal tract that you can’t get from infant formula, breast fed babies are less susceptible to inflammation and undigested proteins crossing the gut leading to allergies and other health problems.
4. Combats Post-Partum Depression
The National Institute of Health published a study of 9,000 mothers which concluded that women who stopped breastfeeding or didn’t breast feed at all were far more likely to experience post-partum depression.
Thanks to the high levels of Oxytocin released whilst breastfeeding, milky mamas are usually less stressed than bottle-feeding mummies and also tend to have lower blood pressure. The regular skin to skin contact that breastfeeding encourages is also a huge stress reliever for both mummy and baby, so if your baby is formula fed, go ahead and strip off next time you have a feed to enjoy this benefit too!
5. Lowers Risk of SIDS
Breastfeeding has been linked repeatedly to a lower risk of SIDS. This is down to a number of factors, including an increase in the mother’s awareness of their baby’s presence; improved breathing and swallowing co-ordination; a stronger immune system and clearer airways. Read more about how breastfeeding can lower the risk of SIDS here.