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Is breast fed really best fed?

February 5th, 2021
Chrissie
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Is breast fed really best fed?
This must be the most contentious issues of all! The World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and many other top organisations all say that babies should be fed exclusively on breast milk until they are six months old. There are definite health advantages for mums and their babies for sure, but many mums are put under huge pressure to breast feed – whatever they feel about the subject. Is this fair? Is breast fed really best fed?

Breast feeding your baby is the natural way

Certainly, if you can breast feed your baby that is great. You never have to worry about preparing bottles or if you have prepared the formula correctly and whether the bottle is the correct temperature. Breast milk is always at the ideal temperature and contains valuable antibodies that kill germs and prevent your baby catching colds and other infections.
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What if breast feeding isn’t easy?

Many new mums struggle to breast feed their baby for many reasons. These include not liking the idea of breast feeding or wanting to physically see that their baby has had sufficient milk. If your newborn has to spend time in an incubator this can be difficult for you both, especially as your milk will have ‘come in’. If your baby is not feeding or you cannot express an adequate amount, your breasts can feel hot, tender and very sore.

Even if you do start off by breast feeding your baby relatively easily there is a low point in the second week when your baby doesn’t seem to be finding breast feeding easy or adequate and you end up feeling despondent that things are not going as well as you planned. Neither of you looks like the radiant breast feeding mum and her contented baby, portrayed in baby books and websites! At this point, ‘hang on in there’! You do have to persevere through this low point because believe it or not, in most cases, things suddenly resolve and you and your baby both get the knack of things and it is full steam ahead!

What problems can occur with breastfeeding?

Another problem that can occur is that just when you thought that all was good on the breastfeeding front, your baby suddenly wants to be fed incredibly frequently – barely managing two hours between feeds. This can happen simply because you have got tired and the milk you are producing is not as satisfying as usual for your baby. The only way to rectify the situation is to try and rest more- sometimes easier said than done, but the results really make it worthwhile.

Bottle fed means easily fed

For many mums there are numerous reasons why they prefer to bottle feed their baby but many struggle with harsh judgments from other new mums and relatives and bow to this pressure even though it is not something they want to do.

Some new mums simply cannot produce enough milk for their babies. In a recent study conducted by St Luke’s Hospital, Denver, Colorado, one in seven mums have this problem. Others worry about their babies getting enough milk and would far rather be able to physically see the amount their babies are getting.

Baby milk without pressure.

Breast feeding certainly puts pressure on a new mum as she is the only person able to feed her baby. Some are able to express milk so that their partner can help with the night time feeds, but many babies insist on breast milk and will not touch a bottle. Having had this experience, a number of mums opt to bottle feed so that they can get a much-needed break.

Another important reason why mums choose to bottle feed is that it gives them flexibility if they are planning to return to work and will be relying on childminders
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A combo can work

Some mums have found that giving their babies a mixture of breast milk and milk formula gives them the best of both worlds, though this has to be carefully balanced otherwise breast milk supplies can reduce.

Are health benefits of breast milk really that good?

The jury is still out about the full benefits of breast milk. It is true that breast milk reduces the chance of babies having infections and allergies - but this is only for the time that babies are being breast fed. Some experts have proclaimed that breast fed babies become healthier, slimmer and more intelligent adults but these claims cannot be scientifically supported.

What is a more important consideration is the fact that many women struggle to breast feed because it is what is expected of them and they are made to feel bad if they don’t. This pressure can impact their mental well-being and cause post natal depression which is far more worrying. At the end of the day, a new mum should feel free to make the choice between breast milk and formula and be able to give breast feeding a go and then switch to formula is she prefers – after all a relaxed, happy mum and baby is what should be the top priority for everyone...

Chrissie x

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