Nourishing New Lives: Unveiling the Benefits of Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding
Since 2001 the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that mothers worldwide exclusively breastfeed babies for the first six months, to achieve optimal, development and health (WHO,2001)
As soon as a baby is born milk is their only meal for the next six months, whether this is breast or a bottle, this is really important for their development. Breast milk is a nutritional powerhouse which includes the following:
- composition of the breast milk changing as the baby grows to meet their evolving nutritional needs.
- Breast milk is easy to digest, reducing the risk of constipation and gas.
- It strengthens the bond between mother and baby.
- Contains all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed for their growth and development. It provides an ideal balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, ensuring that the baby receives all the necessary nutrients for a healthy start.
- Immune System Boost: Breast milk is filled with antibodies and immune-boosting substances that help protect infants from various infections and illnesses. It provides a natural defence against common childhood diseases such as respiratory infections, ear infections, and gastrointestinal infections.
- Breast milk is easily digestible and gentle on the baby's developing digestive system. It contains enzymes that aid in digestion and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the baby's gut, reducing the risk of digestive issues like constipation and diarrhoea.
- Breastfeeding has been shown to help prevent allergies in infants. Breast milk contains immune factors that help develop tolerance to potential allergens and protect the baby from developing allergies to common foods.
- Breast milk contains essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain development. Studies have shown that breastfed babies tend to have higher IQ scores and improved cognitive abilities later in life.
- Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower risk of developing chronic diseases later in life. Breastfed babies have a decreased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain types of cancer.
What to eat while breastfeeding
Overall it is important to try and eat a variety of foods including:
Plenty of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or a glass of juice)
Starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes to give you the extra energy you will need.
Plenty of fibre, found in wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals, pasta, rice pulses (like beans and lentils) fruit and vegetables. After childbirth, some women may experience bowel problems and may become constipated , consuming fibre rich foods may help with this.
Protein such as lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs and pulses.
Fish at least twice a week, including some oily fish
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, which contains calcium and are a great source of protein.
Finally drink plenty of fluids , ideally 6 to 8 glasses a day.
What to avoid
Eating fish is good for our health and the development of the baby but try not to have more than 2 portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish includes fresh tuna (not canned) mackerel, sardines and trout. Due to high levels of mercury from shark, marlin and swordfish , this should be reduced to one portion a week.
It is important to be aware that every mother and baby is different, and breastfeeding may not be possible for everyone, so let us explore all about bottle feeding benefits:
- Flexibility- bottle feeding allows other caregivers to feed the baby, giving the mother a break or allowing her to return to work sooner.
- Routine- Formula-fed babies may have more predictable feeding patterns compared to breastfed babies, which can be beneficial for establishing routines.
From the 18th September till the 24th September the NHS is celebrating national breastfeeding week, encouraging all new mums to breast feed. All the great hints, tips and advice around this can be found on the NHS website