The World Health Organization states that “breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants”. Breastfeeding ensures that your baby receives the best form of nutrition, and in Australia it is recommended that infants are exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age, when solid foods are introduced.
There are many other advantages of breast milk. There are numerous studies that have shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of or the severity of, a number of conditions in infancy and later life, including gastrointestinal, ear and urine infections, sudden infant death syndrome, allergies, asthma and diabetes. There is a reduction in risk factors for high blood pressure and raised cholesterol and obesity in childhood and later life. There is evidence that breastfeeding benefits mum’s health as well, as it reduces the risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. Breastfeeding also provides a perfect opportunity for bonding between mum and baby due to the regular close interaction and skin to skin contact.
Having a Caesarean section does not preclude successful breast feeding, with changes in milk composition following Caesarean delivery similar to those following vaginal delivery.
Some women will find they are unable to breastfeed, either at all or for as long as they had planned. Often they then experience a deep sense of loss and also perceive themselves as having failed. This is natural, but you are absolutely not a failure. At the end of the day the most important thing is that both you and your baby are happy and healthy. Having a formula fed baby does not in any way prevent you from having a strong bond and loving relationship with your child.
Advice with regards to successful breastfeeding is diverse and often conflicting. This creates a potential minefield, particularly for first time mothers. The best advice I can give is to ask for help! The Mater and Townsville General Hospitals both have lactation consultants who can help optimise the experience for mother and baby whilst in hospital; and once you have gone home you can access health visitors, your GP and postnatal clinics for extra support. We understand that the process isn’t always smooth sailing and we are here to help.
Author – Dr. Freyja Page
MB,BS (London), DCH
© Townsville & Suburban Medical Practice, 2016.