You probably already know breastfeeding is wonderful for your baby - but it has lots of benefits for Mum, too.
The Department of Health (DH) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby's life, and it can continue to benefit your baby along with solids for many months thereafter. It's very worthwhile making the effort; remember, every day you breastfeed is a bonus for your baby. Here's why:
Best for your baby
- The milk you produce is just right for your baby at every stage. Breastmilk provides the right amounts of all the nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth.
- Because breastmilk is easy to digest, breastfed babies are less likely to experience tummy problems such as stomach upsets, diarrhoea and constipation.
- Breastmilk is packed with antibodies and other protective factors, helping to protect your baby against common infections.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies, such as eczema.
Best for you
- Breastfeeding helps your womb return to its pre-pregnancy size and can help you to lose some of the weight gained during pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding helps to strengthen your bones later in life and has other long-term health benefits.
- Breastmilk is convenient - it is ready at any time of the day or night, without needing any special preparation.
- Breastmilk is always at the right temperature.
- You can go out without worrying about having to carry formula milk with you.
- Breastmilk is free!
If breastfeeding isn't possible
With the right support, most women are able to breastfeed. (If you're having a hard time getting started, speak to your health visitor or GP for advice.) But if you can't breastfeed, please don’t feel guilty. Today's infant milks are of the highest nutritional quality, and you’ll still be able to enjoy the closeness of feeding your baby.
If you're on medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether it's safe to breastfeed. If it isn't safe, you can check whether it might be possible to change your medication to a safe alternative.
In developed countries, women who are HIV positive are usually advised against breastfeeding because the risk of passing on the virus is greater than any of the risks associated with bottle feeding. Your doctor, health visitor or midwife will be able to talk to you about choosing a formula milk and learning to feed your baby with a bottle.