Why Breastfeed? Do you know what it does to your body?!

Today breastfeeding is all over the news. The Guardian Newspaper has the Headline ‘UK Attitudes To Breastfeeding Must Change, Experts say’. Well No-Shit Sherlock, we all know that.

Whenever breastfeeding comes up in the media, and becomes a hot topic, I tend to shut off and back away. I don’t want to hear it. It shouldn’t even be a topic. It’s crap. If we just all got on with it and did it, tackled the tough times (because there are!) and just made it the norm then breastfeeding rates would go up. Many women are shying away from breastfeeding because they are embarrassed by the fact they are doing it. Doing it in public, looking like a member of the Breastapo for having a positive opinion on feeding and in a world where tits are plastered all over the media (tits sell guys) they either feel like its an awkward sex-thing or that they are exposing themselves.

Many ladies also do not get the support that they need. They struggle in the first few days, give one bottle and that’s it. Their breastfeeding journey is over. These ladies haven’t been given the help and the support they need. There is lots of help out there, professionals and peers who can be of a huge help. It’s just these struggling ladies don’t know where to ask for help, or are often too embarrassed to help. Education before birth helps too.

Lets stop talking about breastfeeding, train more people to help those who need help with breastfeeding and just get on with it. Just like we do for women who feed their babies bottles. No one bats an eye lid over that.

Last time I posted something about breastfeeding, I was bombarded with lots of negative comments from formula feeding mums, who seemed to take offence to what I was saying. I am NOT against giving formula to babies. My eldest daughter received formula after I stopped feeding her.  I have bottles in the house. I do not give a monkey’s what you choose to do. I just hope that your choice was an informed one.

Why Breastfeed?

We know that breastfeeding is great for lazy parents. I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered to get up in the night to make up bottles. Also, we are co-sleepers. It was the ultimate lazy combo. Obviously breastfeeding is was for the endless health benefits- for baby and for mother. I have breastfed all 3 of my daughters, and I am incredibly proud to say that each child has been fed for longer than the last. I have just weaned Ivy at 2 years old. It broke my heart, but she was no longer showing interest in the boob. I know I will certainly breastfeed my next baby due in September, and for who knows how long for.

Ivy Water Birth

For Baby- at birth

We know that even if you try and breastfeed for the first few feeds that it is far better than offering formula right away from the offset. The first milk you make is called colostrum (a yellow to orange colour sticky substance), and it won’t be until the 3rd day after birth until your actual milk comes in. Many women may have given up by now, because they think that they are not making enough milk. You simply haven’t started making it yet!

There are many benefits to baby’s health right from that first feed. Lets imagine baby has just popped out, you want to get baby on the breast as soon as possible! I aimed to feed all of mine within the first 15 minutes after birth (with skin to skin) because…

  • The first feed stabilises you baby’s blood pressure, sugar levels and calms them down after lots of hard work.
  • You will keep baby warm. You uterus was much warmer than this cold room that they are now in. Especially so if baby was early and had a low birth weight.
  • It’s their first vaccination! Your breastmilk contains lots of antibodies that fight viruses and infections.
  • It keeps jaundice to a minimum, which can make babies very poorly very quickly.
  • Breathing is improved and oxygen levels shoot up. You’ll see baby go from a blue-y colour, to pink much quicker.
  • It helps clear meconium from their gut (that sticky, black, tar-like poops) and normal poops will begin.
  • You will be colonising baby’s gut and skin, helping to fight lots of external and internal bugs. It’s much more difficult for micro-organisms to enter the fragile baby when colostrum is there to fight them away!
  • Bonding is initiated.

For Mother- for lifetime

And the benefits for Mum are amazing too, both short term feeding and long term …

  • Breastfeeding burns calories, meaning that you may loose that extra baby weight sooner. By sticking to a healthy diet, feeding a baby burns an extra 200-500 extra calories per day (the equivalent of 50 minutes on a rowing machine!)
  • It makes your uterus shrink back to pre-baby size faster. After you have a baby, your uterus has to shrink back to its original size. This can be felt after birth through ‘after pains’- a cramping feeling. Breastfeeding speeds up this process due to the release of oxytocin, and can also help your post partum bleeding end sooner.
  • It’s a high. Breastfeeding releases lots of happy chemicals, which literally make you high and happy. You sit there grinning, being all hormonal and stuff.
  • Breastfeeding can pause your periods from returning and act as nature’s contraception for the first 6 months after birth (with 100% nursing. Giving bottles, and weaning can affect this). Please note, this isn’t guaranteed and it is still possible to fall pregnant, even before your periods have returned. But breastfeeding certainly helps you to get away without annoying periods for a lot longer.
  • Breastfeeding MASSIVLY Reduces the risks of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. It is estimated that breastfeeding from 6-24 months during a woman’s reproductive years can slash the chance if developing breast cancer by 11-25% (Lyde 1989; Newcomb 1994). The longer you feed, the lower your risk of developing these types of cancer and that percentage rises.
  • It lowers your risk of developing osteoporosis. Non breastfeeding women have a 4 times greater risk of developing the condition, than those who breastfeed.

I could go on… the benefits of breastfeeding are huge for mother and for baby. If you would like to read more about the benefits of breastfeeding, you can read here.


Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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