Lets not beat around the bush; Breast really IS best for babies, Mums and the future health of the next generation. Well done to all those amazing Mums out there who are doing the best for their baby by tackling the challenges that face us every day. These challenges can be physiological (leaky boobs, yo-yoing milk supply and nasty infections), environmental (it’s bloody freezing, how do I get my boobs out here) and societal (with helpful comments like ‘are you STILL feeding? ‘ and ‘I can’t believe you are feeding in public’).
Breastmilk has lots of positives. Specifically;
- Breastmilk is specifically designed for your baby and contains the right amount of calories, fat, protein and vitamins to support your babies growth
- Breastmilk contains antibodies which will develop in response to your babies needs/ illnesses etc.
- The nutritional composition of breastmilk is so complex, that we can’t even identify some of the magic components of this liquid gold.
- Breastmilk is produced on a supply and demand basis, specific to baby at that time.
BUT…… what about those Mums and families where breastfeeding isn’t possible or an option? There is a strong argument that struggling Mums should get more support during this difficult time, which I totally agree with. Instilling pro-breastfeeding, evidence based advice across all healthcare and social settings is key to promoting and improving breastfeeding rates. Busting myths around perceived low milk supplies, promoting skin to skin and improving the social acceptability of frequent, regular feeding and snacking. But… still….. what IF it doesn’t work out? What if Mum chooses to not feed, or Mum is not available to. What can we learn from breastfeeding that will support those parents to feel they are doing the best for their child, and perhaps normalise the intricacies of breastfeeding an infant.
How to support your infant no matter how you choose to feed
- Skin to Skin
Hormones, skin, smell and body temperature play a key part in comforting and supporting an infant and are an important part of feeding, development and wellbeing. The endorphin rush for both parent and child of skin to skin comfort is really important for bonding and attachment.
- Feeding on Demand
We love numbers and data. How much milk was in babies bottle, how often are they feeding and how many bottles per day. Actually…. as parents it’s not our job to decide that (except in special medical circumstances). Allow baby to decide. If they are hungry let them drink lots, if not… don’t worry. We often expect babies to finish a bottle. Watch out for hunger cues and respect fullness cues. As your baby grows, you want them to be able to enjoy food when hungry and eat when full.
A newborn has just left the womb. It wants comfort, warmth and cuddles. Whether breastfed, bottle-fed or anything, remember this is developmentally appropriate and entirely expected. Try and avoid expecting baby to finish a bottle or sleep for 12 hours straight.
Dai Iawn to all those awesome Mums, Dads and parents out there who are looking after little ones. Your doing a great job!
Written by Ashling Pigott, Dietitian.
Aisling Pigott (Ash) is a Registered Dietitian. Dietitians are the only health professionals trained and regulated to give up to date nutrition advice. Ash has experience in a variety of healthcare, private and academic settings. As an evidenced based practitioner, she is passionate about de-bunking nutrition myths and diet culture whilst promoting health and well-being.