Narrator: Breastfeeding gives your baby the best start in life. It has health benefits for you and your baby, so the longer you can breastfeed, the better it is for both of you.
Along with the health benefits, breastfeeding is free and convenient and it’s also a unique chance for you to bond with your baby. In Australia, it’s recommended that babies be exclusively breastfeed until around 6 months of age when solid foods are introduced.
Most babies will show signs of being ready for solid foods by around 6 months, but solids don’t replace breastfeeding. It’s recommended that breastfeeding be continued to 12 months of age and beyond. Breastmilk is a complete meal and contains all the nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months of life.
Breastmilk is easy to digest and is readily absorbed into your baby’s system. It’s also a living fluid with fatty acids that are best for your baby’s developing brain. Both the colostrum that you first produce, and mature breastmilk, contain antibodies and other agents that help to protect your baby from infection and disease, including gastroenteritis, respiratory tract and ear infections, and type-1 diabetes.
Breastfeeding is important for baby’s eyesight, speech, jaw and mouth development. Babies who breastfeed also have a lower risk of sudden, unexpected death in infancy. Mums who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer, osteoporosis and type-2 diabetes. Breastfeeding can also help some women lose weight after birth.
Breastfeeding is much more than just food. It’s a time for cuddling, comfort, nurturing and bonding. It’s a time for getting to know each other and developing trust and for talking and singing to your baby.
To help breastfeeding get off to the best start possible, it’s ideal for you to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after birth. In fact, skin-to-skin contact at anytime is good for you and your baby. It helps you connect with each other and with settling and learning your baby’s feeding cues. This close contact also makes it more likely that your baby will attach well to your breast without any help. Good breast attachment is important for your baby to get enough milk and can also prevent you from developing complications like cracked or sore nipples, blocked milk ducts, and mastitis.
Breastfeeding might not be as you expected at first. While it’s the natural way to feed your baby, it’s also a learned skill and can take time, practice and patience. Some women breastfeed without too much difficulty and others have challenges. At some point you might worry about having too little milk, or even too much milk, but you might find it reassuring to know that your body will adapt and produce as much milk as your baby needs.
Most women find that problems with breastfeeding can be worked out with the right help. Overcoming challenges can increase your confidence, making it more likely for you to breastfeed for longer. But if things don’t go to plan, it’s good to know that breastfeeding for a shorter time still has benefits for you and your baby. When you get the right care, along with respect and encouragement from family, friends and health professionals, you’ll feel supported to breastfeed. And when you feel supported, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to breastfeed for as long as you and your baby want to.