Well done! You came out on the other side! First, you carried your baby for (give or take) 9 months, then went through a life and body shattering event, also known as giving birth, and are now considering nursing your baby. And to provide you with a nudge in the right direction, let’s chat about breastfeeding.
Post-partum: amazing but terrifying
The aftermath of giving birth is like an intimate roller coaster. Because it feels snug, warm, and cozy sometimes. But, honestly, don’t be surprised if you feel frustrated, uncertain, and weepy most of the time.
After nine months of carrying your child in your womb, you now face to face with your little blessing. It’s a closeness like no other. But beguiling as she may be, she depends on you for everything, from you feeding her to changing her and finally to putting her to sleep.
Your parental instinct kicks in. So all you want to do is protect her. That is euphoric but overwhelming, particularly when you have just been through the wringer of birth. While you were planning to breastfeed baby before the delivery, now you’re not so sure. You’re so exhausted, you can’t even think straight.
But don’t stress yourself, and try to relax. This feeling will pass. I have been there, and I know how intimidating it was at the start. Take it from me, though, once you get through the first trying weeks, and baby’s breastfeeding starts to establish, you’re all set to build a lifelong emotional bond with her.
Will breastfeeding always hurt?
No, it won’t. It might feel impossibly painful and demanding at first, particularly in baby’s first few days and weeks, but hang in there if you can. You won’t regret it. I can tell you, I’m so glad I stuck at it.
You’re probably full of questions right now. And while you may have a great health care professional, there might be a few questions you’re hesitant in asking. Don’t fret, we have listed the 7 most embarrassing breastfeeding questions here
Breastfeeding is not easy…at the start
Like many new mums, I found it very tough in the beginning. Neither of us could get the hang of latching on. When the (very patient) nurse and I finally got baby to feed on one boob, I was so exhausted I could sleep standing up. That’s when another nurse walked into the room and told me to try the other one, and then again, as soon as my baby was hungry, just 5 minutes later!
Breastfeeding a newborn
You see, breastfeeding is kind of like learning to drive. During your first lesson, you’re aware of all the actions you take to get the car moving, and you think you’ll never be able to remember them all. Nevertheless, when you’re no longer a novice, everything just comes to you automatically. The same happens with nursing.
The first time you do it, your head is full of questions. You’re not sure you’re doing it right; have I got baby latched on ok? Is he getting enough? Why did nobody tell me breastfeeding hurt so much? And, why does it take three people to latch him on? Will it always be like this? This is totally normal.
Every first-time mum feels like this. Don’t let it put you off. Just take your time and ask for all the support you need. That’s what the nurse/midwife is there for. She has seen it all before and can totally to deal with snots and tears: yes, not just your baby’s
Just hang in there. Before you know it, you’ll be breastfeeding baby with one arm, while casually checking your instafeed with the other.
If you have a breastfeeding goal of six months, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re wholly wrecked after each feed. Like the feeling of overwhelm at the start, this feeling will pass. Just take it one feed at a time and see how you and baby get on. You’ll see, days will turn into weeks, and weeks will turn into months. Honestly, that’s how it worked for me and many other mums I know.
Ultimately, it’s your decision if and how long you’ll nurse your baby. I guess what I’m saying is, that it may not work out for you, and that’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
On the other hand, if you do want to meet your goal, I will help you on your way. Just keep reading. Because, when you find out the health benefits of breastfeeding for you both, who knows, it might just spur you on for a bit longer.
Nursing your baby
There are many surprising health benefits of breastfeeding for both mums and babies. Apart from saving you time and money, breastfeeding is linked to many health gains for both mum and baby. Lots of research has gone into this by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (USA), who have published reports on how breastfeeding affects maternal & infant health in developed countries. Healthline has distilled them, and I have compiled the most important ones here for you.
Benefits of breastfeeding for mom
6 health benefits of breastfeeding
1. Heals your body after delivery
When you nurse your baby, your body will release oxytocin, which allows your uterus to contract and reduce blood loss after delivery.
2. Reduces the size of your uterus back to normal
So, yes, it’s totally normal to feel those funny twitches in your tummy when breastfeeding at the start.
3. Breastfeeding helps you to lose weight
Yes, this a tremendous unexpected benefit of nursing your baby. So, by breastfeeding your newborn, you burn up to 500 calories a day. Yay, that’s right, no mum and baby boot camp for you. (Trust me, this works. Most of my mom friends who breastfed had no weight issues afterward.)
4. Lowers risk of ovarian and breast cancer
Research has shown that women who nurse their babies have less risk of these types of cancers. In fact, Healthline states that women who breastfeed for longer than twelve months in their lives have a 28% lower risk of contracting both diseases.
5. Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of osteoporosis
Dr. Schnatz, who works at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Reading Hospital and Medical Center (in Reading, Pennsylvania), has shown in his research that (slightly) older mums stand to benefit from this link. He found that ‘among those women who breastfed, women younger than 27 at their first pregnancy had an 11% prevalence of osteoporosis compared to mums who were 27 and older at first-time pregnancy, who only had a 5% prevalence.
6. Delays menstruation
Did you know that breastfeeding exclusively keeps a lid on estrogen and progesterone, delaying ovulation and therefore suspending your periods for longer?
Breastfeeding affects your mental health in a good way
It can cut the risk of post-partum depression
In 2014, the Maternal and Child Health Journal published a landmark study done in 2014 into the link between breastfeeding and the mother’s mental health. It showed that “mums who had planned to breastfeed and then went on to breastfeed were around 50% less likely to become depressed than mothers who had not planned and did not nurse their babies.” The mums who wanted to, but who couldn’t suffer the highest risks of all the groups.
Environmental benefits of breastfeeding
Just imagine, no bottles mean no boiling the kettle umpteen times a day, and no empty formula cartons languishing on landfill. In 2009, research indicated that 550 million infant formula cans go to landfills every year. That’s a lot of paper and metal. That’s right, you’ll be helping our planet without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Breast milk contains all the proper nutrition for baby-at every stage of development
Mother nature is impressive: take breast milk. The first milk is called colostrum. It’s thick and yellow and contains lots of protein and other beneficial nutrients. It also helps the baby’s digestive tract develop. When your little one is a few days old, and his stomach gets bigger, your breasts will start producing more regular breast milk.
Six more benefits of breastfeeding for you
- Amazingly, your milk is always available when she is hungry.
- Breast milk is designed to be just right for the stage baby is in.
- It creates an emotional bond for baby and mum (In saying that, I have met many mums who didn’t breastfeed and who had a fantastic bond with their babies).
- It saves money (take it from me, formula is expensive!).
- Breastfeeding is a great time-saver, seeing you don’t have to sterilize bottles or even calculate how much baby needs when going out).
- Breastfed babies self-regulate their milk intake. You don’t need to worry whether they get enough.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for babies
Did you know that babies who have been exclusively breastfed have a lower risk of behavior disorders when they’re older? No, me neither. Nursing doesn’t just have short term health benefits; positive side effects can last through childhood.
According to Healthline, breastfeeding can cut the risk of baby contracting different illnesses and diseases. Here are just a few
- If your baby is breastfed exclusively for six months, he will have a 63% lower risk of contracting throat and ear infections or even bad colds.
- Four months of exclusive breastfeeding is all it takes to decrease the risk of hospitalization for respiratory tract infections by up to 72%.
- Middle ear infections: breastfeeding exclusively for three months will result in a reduction of 50% of getting these.
- Asthma, eczema, and dermatitis will stand a lower chance of taking hold of your breastfed baby: when you feed her exclusively for around 3 to 4 months, she will have a 27-42% reduced risk of all three.
- SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome): Exclusively breastfeeding is linked to a 50% reduced risk after one month and a 36% reduced risk in the first year.
- Leukemia: baby will have a 15 to 20% lower risk of childhood Leukaemia if she is breastfed for 6 months or longer.
More health gains for baby
So, still not convinced? Keep reading! It’s not just the risks of infection and diseases that are reduced by breastfeeding exclusively, there are also some major health gains for your baby as she grows into childhood.
- Research shows that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores.
While this effect is most pronounced in pre-term babies, who are more at risk of developmental issues, breastfeeding has a positive effect on brain development.
- Breastfeeding helps to prevent childhood obesity by promoting a healthy weight gain. Experts believe this is due to a few different factors, the main one being that breast milk contains leptin, a vital hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage. This is great news when we are staring an obesity crisis in the face, as the World Obesity Foundation predicts the number of obese children around the world to grow from 150 million to 250 million in 2030.
So, there you have it, nursing your baby is one of the best things you’ll ever do for your child; who knew there were so many benefits of breastfeeding? Of course, if it’s not for you, or if it doesn’t work out, use formula milk. That is fine too. The main thing is that both you and baby are happy. A happy mum makes for a happy baby.
But, if you are determined to breastfeed and your resolve feels a little shaky now after the first few days, don’t be afraid to ask for support. Things will get easier. Before you know it, you will enjoy the relaxed feeling of nursing your baby.