This week is Breastfeeding Awareness Week! Therefore I felt it would be a good idea to write a post to increase the understanding around breastfeeding for both new mothers and the rest of society. In this post, I will talk about the pros and cons of breastfeeding as well as looking at some of the myths and stigmas surrounding the topic.
Breastfeeding may be a natural instinct for both new mothers and their babies, but that does not mean that it is easy to do. In fact, it is still very much a learned behaviour which takes time, patience and persistence in order to get it right… and even then it may not work out, and that is okay!
If you do find that you are struggling with breastfeeding, there are various forms of support available. It may be a good starting point to speak to your midwife for advice, they may also be able to point you in the direction of support groups with other new mums too.
Deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed is not always an easy decision to make. What is the difference between the two? Does it make you a bad mother for not trying to breastfeed? Does breastmilk really outweigh formula milk when it comes to benefits?… Let’s take a look.
First of all, it definitely does not make you any less of a woman or of a mother if you choose to feed your baby with formula rather than breastmilk. At the end of the day, you are still providing a good source of nutrients for your child, you are caring for them, you are feeding them and you are showing them love! Never let anyone try to tell you otherwise.
Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding
It is known that breastmilk is much more beneficial for the health of babies in comparison to formula milk. There has been a lot of scientific research to back up this statement.
The first couple of days of breastfeeding are essentially the most important as this is when your breasts produce colostrum; a thick liquid that is rich in antibodies designed to sustain the baby as well as support their immune system until the regular breastmilk comes in. When a child breastfeeds, their saliva interacts with the mother, sending signals to their mother’s body, telling her what sort of nutrients and antibodies are needed. This helps to lower the risk of various health problems such as:
– NEC, a stomach disease which primarily affects babies that are premature.
– Ear infections.
– Colds and infections, especially respiratory infections.
– Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
– Stomach problems such as diarrhoea and vomiting.
– Reduce the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
– High Cholesterol.
– Certain cancers (such as childhood leukaemia).
– Heart disease.
Research has found no evidence to say that formula milk provides the same level of protection for babies. However, there is also no evidence to say that formula milk causes any major concerns for babies. Your child will still receive protein and nutrients from formula milk which enables them to grow.
Breastfeeding is also good in the sense that there is not a lot of preparation needed! The milk is already at the correct temperature and is already sterile and it is also free. However, for mums who have a busy schedule or are planning on going back to work soon after giving birth, then breastfeeding may not be the easiest option. Yes, there is the option to pump breastmilk into bottles, but this can be time-consuming and can also be rather uncomfortable.
Many also think that breastfeeding can take away quality time between fathers and their babies as the mother does all of the feeds (unless she chooses to express the milk into bottles).
There are lots of good advice forums and websites out there to help new mothers in whichever feeding method that they choose. I found a very good guide to formula feeding, which you can read here – This talks you through what formulas are best to use for your baby, what the difference is between first milk, follow-on milk and toddler milk, when you should introduce fresh cows milk and solid foods and what formulas/milks to avoid in the early stages of your babies life (unless advised differently from you GP or midwife).
Stigma and Discrimination New Mothers Face In Regards To Feeding Their Newborns:
Many mothers are criticised for their feeding choices, especially if they choose to feed their baby formula before trying to breastfeed. However, it is important for mothers to remember that he/she is their baby and therefore their concern and no one else. As long as you are feeding your child milk that is safe for them, providing them with shelter and love, then you are doing an amazing job!
We then have the stigma surrounding women who breastfeed their babies in public areas. For some strange reason, there are people out there who find this act of love and care offensive. Again, it is important for people to understand that 1. it is absolutely none of their business when and where a mother decides to feed her child and 2. the women are not being offensive, they are not showing off their bodies in a sexual nature, that are simply providing for their child by using their breasts in the way in which they were designed!
I have seen more and more places showing support for mothers who are breastfeeding their children, by displaying stickers such as these in the window:
Women should not feel the need to cover themselves up when feeding their child, especially when men can walk around topless for the sake of it! I personally do find it frustrating when people object against breastfeeding in public, even more so when their reasoning is that women are showing public indecency! I support the #FreeToFeed campaign.
If you would like to read more about breastfeeding vs formula feeding, check out the links below: