Before your baby is born, you should decide whether you wish to breastfeed your baby or not. To help you answer this important question, please read this information on breastfeeding and take time to talk to your partner, midwife, doctor and friends about your decision.
Benefits for the baby
Breast milk supplies all the nutrients babies need for the first six months of their life. Breast milk has a combination of nutrients that are best for brain development, and help enhance eyesight, speech, jaw development and the immune system.
Breast milk changes taste according to what the mother has eaten. Infants who are breastfed therefore tend to take to solids more easily as they are already familiar with some of the flavours through their mother’s milk. While infant formula tries to copy the composition of breast milk, it cannot. Breast milk changes based on your baby’s stage of development, the time of day, how long you are into the feed and your menstrual cycle. Breastfeeding is also proven to reduce the risk of many childhood and adult conditions including:
urinary tract infections (UTI)
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
gastrointestinal illness eg. gastroenteritis
respiratory illness eg. asthma
overweight and obesity
inflammatory bowel disease
diarrhoea or constipation.
Benefits for you
Breastfeeding has many health benefits for mothers.
These benefits include:
reduced risk of developing osteoporosis
reduced risk of ovarian and pre- menopausal breast cancers
reduced risk of heart disease
faster return to your pre-pregnancy weight
natural contraceptive following pregnancy
delayed return to menstruation.
Other benefits of breastfeeding
Convenience – Breastfeeding can be done any time, any place. There is no need to worry about carrying bottles, teats, formula and water wherever you go.
Money saving – Formula feeding requires the purchase of the formula, bottles, teats and other equipment, whereas breastfeeding doesn’t. You may also save on health care costs for your baby due to the reduced risk of many illnesses mentioned previously.
Reduced smell – Children who are breastfed have sweeter smelling poos. An added bonus!
Bonding with your baby - Breastfeeding gives mum and baby time to enjoy each other’s company.
Breastfeeding takes time and practice
Breastfeeding is not always easy and can be tiring, especially at first. It does get easier with time. There are many support services that can help you with your questions and concerns. Ask for help from a Lactation Consultant, Child and Family Health Nurse or the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt
You may feel some discomfort in the first few days of breastfeeding but it should be a rewarding experience and should not hurt. Problems like incorrect positioning, attachment or sucking can cause pain. These problems can usually be solved if you seek the right help from support services in the community.
Your husband will not be excluded if you breastfeed
You may think that bottle-feeding will help feeding to be shared with the father, and that this is the best feeding option. Fathers need to know that cuddling, bathing and playing with your baby are all just as important for a child’s healthy development. Fathers can play an important role in these. Supporting you in your decision to breastfeed is equally important. If breast milk is expressed for any reason, your partner can feed your baby this milk.
Sources of further information
Australian Breastfeeding Association
Australian Department of Health and Aging
Child and Youth Health
La Leche League International
Australian Breastfeeding Association Help line
Ph 1800 686 268
Tresillian Help line
Ph (02) 9878 5255 or 1800 637 357 (outside Sydney Metropolitan Area).
Karitane Help line
Ph (02) 9794 1852 or 1800 677 961 (outside Sydney Metropolitan Area).
Child and Family Health Nurse
If, despite your best efforts, breastfeeding does not work out, know that you did your best and your baby would have gained benefits from the milk that they have received. Talk with your paediatrician, child health nurse or dietitian about options for infant formula if required.