Good nutrition and healthy eating is important for everyone. It is especially important in the early years as children have very specific energy and nutrient requirements as it is a time of rapid growth and development.
“Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants and exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months (26 weeks) of life as it provides all the nutrients a baby needs”. Exclusive breastfeeding is when a baby receives only breastmilk. They are not given any other liquids or solid foods except medicines, vitamin drops or oral rehydration solutions when necessary.(Department of Health, 2003).
What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby and Mum?
- Breastfeeding has some of the most wide-reaching and long-lasting effects on a baby’s health and development
- Breastmilk is tailor-made for babies and contains all the nutrients they need*
- It contains lots of antibodies which help to protect babies from infections such as gastrointestinal (stomach) upsets and respiratory (chest) infections
- Breastfeeding reduces a mothers risk of pre-menopausal breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding has been cited by the World Cancer Research Fund as one of 10 recommendations in reducing the risk of cancer
- Breastfeeding women are at reduced risk of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and post-menopausal hip fractures – studies suggest the longer women breastfeed, the greater their protection
- It helps the mother and baby to form a bond
- The most recent Infant Feeding Survey (IFS) in 2010, revealed:
- 1 in 3 mothers were breastfeeding their infant at six months
- However, only 1 in 100 mothers were following the current UK government guidelines on exclusive breastfeeding.
How can we support mums to feel confident about breast feeding?
It may take a while to feel confident to breastfeed. It is important for mums to know they are not alone with support available from midwifes and health visitors.
- There may also be locally trained volunteers (peer supporters) to help get breast off to a good start. Mums can meet their health visitor face to face at baby clinics or speak to them in between appointments by giving them a call.
- Children’s Centres often have local breastfeeding groups. You can check for your local one via NHS Choices https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/Breastfeeding-support-services/LocationSearch/360
- There are lots of organisations that you can call for support
- National Breastfeeding Helpline – 0300 100 0212
- The Breastfeeding Network supporter line in Bengali and Sylheti – 0300 456 2421
- Association of Breastfeeding Mothers – 0300 330 5453
- La Leche League – 0345 120 2918
- NCT – 0300 330 0700
Returning to work:
It is important to encourage and support mums to continue breastfeeding baby even after the age of 6 months, even if she is returning to work and putting her infant into childcare. Families should be encouraged to bring expressed breast milk or to breastfeed before and after work/nursery. Even just a few breastfeeds a day will provide the baby with valuable nutrients and protective factors for both mother and baby. can seek further information and advice from this Start4Life booklet ‘breastfeeding after returning to work or study’ which can be accessed at: https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/2-start-4-life/resources
Programmes and public health campaigns such as Start4Life recognise the importance of introducing infants and toddlers to a range of healthy foods, as early dietary intakes can influence and encourage healthy eating habits in later life and reduce the incidence of fussy eating.
24/7 support via Start4Life resources:
There are also lots of other free support networks available, including the Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life on Amazon Alexa and Facebook Messenger
Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life on Amazon Alexa
If you have any breastfeeding questions – the Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life on Amazon Alexa (available 24⁄7) has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you.
Start4Life Breastfeeding Chatbot on Facebook messenger
If you have any breastfeeding questions – the Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend chatbot (via Facebook messenger) has lots of useful information and expert advice to share with you.
Sign up for our pregnancy, baby and toddler guide
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By Edwina Revel