Today was the last day of World Breastfeeding Week. Last week we wrote a post about why World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated and what it is trying to achieve. In order to support the cause, we challenged ourselves to come up with a breastfeeding design each day of this week. It has been an intensely creative week and we have learnt many things about breastfeeding and breast milk. Here are the 7 Amazing Breastfeeding Facts we have learnt this week.
1. Breast Milk Is Adaptable
A mother’s breast milk will adapt to satisfy her babies needs. It changes throughout the day to ensure the baby gets just what he requires. When a baby first starts to suckle he will get a very watery milk in case he is just thirsty. If he continues suckling he will get a fattier milk to satisfy his hunger. During the night, a mother’s body will make “sleepy milk”. This night time milk has more sleep-inducing hormones and amino-acids to ensure breastfed babies get a good night sleep.
Breast milk will also adapt to the baby’s development, meaning that its nutritional content will change as the baby grows. A 6 month-old baby does not have the same nutritional needs as a newborn, and mummy’s milk knows this. Her body will make the milk her baby needs.
Even better, breast milk adapts its antibodies to produce illness-specific antibodies when the baby needs it. If a baby is ill he will leave germs on his mother’s nipples when he feeds. Her body will read these germs and make more antibodies designed to fight his illness. No wonder our wee ones love mummy’s milk!
2. Breastfeeding Helps Bonding
When babies are first born their eyesight is very limited. They can only see as far as 8-10 inches. This happens to be the distance between their face and their mother’s. Mother Nature has ensured that a baby is able to focus only on his mother’s face while nursing. This will help with their bonding.
This is why it is so important that us mothers leave our phones to one side when we are feeding our wee ones. It is easy to get in the habit of checking Facebook or replying to emails while the baby feeds. It is so common that there is a word for it: Brexting (breastfeeding & texting). This habit must be suppressed. Use this time to look in to your baby’s eyes. Being able to respond to your baby’s cues will help him feel secure.
3. Breastfeeding Has An Economic Impact
Breast milk is free per se, but breastfeeding has some costs. A breastfeeding mother will need to buy nursing bras. Some women will also need breast pads. In some cases, a baby can cause injuries to the nipples and there will be a need to purchase nipple cream. If a mother decides to express milk for future bottle-feeding she will also need to buy a breast pump, storage bags and bottles.
But breastfeeding also has an economic impact on a social level. It has been proven that breastfed babies are less likely to get infections or even common colds. These babies will go less to the hospital or their local GP. On the long run this will save the National Health Service money.
4. Breastfeeding And The Law
In England and Wales, breastfeeding in public places is protected by the Equality Act 2010. It states that it is sex discrimination to treat women unfavourably because they are breastfeeding.
In Scotland the law goes a step further. Feeding in public places is protected by the Scotland Act 2005. Under this Act it is criminal offence to prevent someone from breastfeeding their baby in a public place. The legislation allows for fines of up to £2500 for trying to prevent public feeding regardless of this being bottle-fed or breastfed.
5. Breastfeeding Is Healing
Another amazing breastfeeding fact is how it affects baby’s and mother’s health. Breastfed babies have fewer ear and respiratory tract infections and a decreased risk of developing allergies, urinary tract infections, childhood diabetes and common colds.
Breastfeeding is also very beneficial for mummy: it decreases her risk of ovarian and breast cancer. It can also help prevent Post Natal Depression and encourages a stronger mother-baby bond. It will also help mummy lose the baby weight gained during pregnancy.
Healthier mummies and babies sounds like a win-win!
6. Don’t Forget The Nipples
Breast milk leaves the breast through various small openings in the nipple. It is almost as if each nipple was a very small sieve. The average amount of openings is 9, but some women can have up to 20 openings per nipple. Each nipple is unique and varies from one mother to another.
In order to keep your nipples safe during a feed it is important to get a deep latch. When a baby takes the nipple deep into his mouth he can get the milk without injuring the breast. A shallow latch means the nipple is being pressed against the baby’s hard palate. This will cause the nipples to hurt and, in some cases, to bleed.
7. Smell is Important
Out last amazing breastfeeding fact has to do with the wee one’s ability to smell. A baby will recognise his mother’s breast milk by its smell. From the moment babies are born the unique scent from mummy’s milk will attract them to the breast and encourage them to suckle. The ability to smell develops even before the baby is born. From a Mother Nature perspective, this will ensure his survival as he will need to be able to smell the milk in order to find the breast on his own.
Breast milk has a unique scent. Research indicates that if you were to line up a number of breastfeeding mothers, a baby would be able to recognise his mother by her milk’s scent. It is safe to say that every mother’s milk is different and babies develop a preference for their mother’s breast milk.