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13th - 19th May marks this year's National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, a major health promotion campaign that will be supported by national and local events. Health professionals across the country will be advising new mothers that "breast is best", but why is breastfeeding quite so important?
Beneficial for baby
Breast milk contains all the nutrients that a growing baby needs, in precisely the right amounts. It is tailor-made to nourish a baby with everything that his or her body requires for the first six months of life. Breast milk also provides these nutrients in the way that is most easy for the baby to digest and absorb - it is literally a superfood for tots.
For babies, regular breast milk has been shown to help prevent ear infections, gastro-intestinal infections, chest infections, urine infections, diabetes, eczema, asthma and obesity. There has even been research to suggest that breastfed babies go on to have a higher IQ.
Feeding "on demand" is now believed to be the best way for babies and will usually mean a feed every two to three hours. However, when trying to establish a feeding routine, all a new mother needs to do is listen to her baby. They will normally be pretty vocal about when they want milk and you are unlikely to overfeed your baby - they will instinctively stop when they have had enough.
Beneficial for mum
Breastfeeding holds health benefits not just for the baby, but for nursing mothers too. Mothers can gain extra protection from ovarian cancer, breast cancer and weak bones later in life. Also, since producing milk burns around 500 calories per day, women who breastfeed also find it quicker and easier to return to their pre-pregnancy figures. And of course it is also completely free, which can save families around £450 per year.
Nestle have never been forgiven by some for promoting baby milk powder to third world countries some thirty or more years ago.
Their confectionery products are still banned in many UK academic institutions as a result of this and new students are made aware of the history behind the decision.
I think theres a drive on at the moment to make it legal or something to be able to breast feed in public and theres a web site where you can add your name in support. My wife breast fed all our kids, there's nothing better, how people can find the sight of a mother breast feeding distastful is beyond me.
Definitely, no question about it.
It's perfectly legal to breastfeed in public.
It may not be acceptable to some, but there's nothing illegal about it.
For a mother to breastfeed her baby is the most natural thing in the world. My friends daughter often breastfed her daughter at their home while I was present, it is an unobtrusive and easy exercise and to be honest often she was feeding the baby without me even realising it.
Any embarassment and both sides should be overcome.
Anyone who objects to breast feeding in public really needs to get more acquainted with the troubles that were stirring on in Sigmund Freud's head as I feel that they will recognise them.
It might be "best" for the baby but it's often not best for the mother. There's a lot of pressure on women to breastfeed and a number of women either find it difficult or just don't want to. They're subject to a fair bit of emotional blackmail about it and can be made to feel pretty rubbish about it: not what you want in the emotionally and physically difficult aftermath of giving birth. I'd far rather see an acknowledgment that it's up to the woman to decide rather than have choices pressed upon her.
It's not the same thing, but there's a distressing move in the US to treat women merely as vessels for their babies. There, women are encouraged to consider themselves "pre-pregnant" and to take health choices based on that status. I find that very distasteful for a number of reasons, but the overwhelming one is that women are individuals who make their own choices. To consider women as primarily vessels who are subordinate to the needs of the fetus is a worrying trend and one that depersonalises women, who in the US have had to fight hard for simple things like abortion rights - which are being undermined.
By all means support women who want to breastfeed: it's an important choice. And support women who want to breastfeed in public. But please also think about the whole picture.
I agree with much of what you have said Kate B.
Of course in supporting breastfeeding we must not make mothers feel guilty, who for one reason or another cannot or choose not to breastfeed, and it is typical of America to take things to the extreme, both the mother and baby are equally important and to start to promote one over the other will only lead to problems.
I breastfed my three children and for me that came naturally my first being 25yrs ago it was my choice and do not remember being pressured in any way then!
But my daughter gave birth only 11weeks ago she managed for the first 8wks to breastfeed my grandchild (and good for her)
But however I do agree with Kate Bs comments regarding the pressure put on to new mothers to breastfeed, it is difficult thing to do for most especially when your child needs fed in public and it is surprising the amount of people who look on in disgust!
And this adds to the feeling of being a failure, it took me some time to reassure my daughter that she had not failed in any way she made a decision she gave it her best shot end off, it should always be a mothers decision she should never feel pressured in any way and IMHO I feel that health officials and Breastfeeding Awareness groups should back off and leave the decision on whether or not too Breastfeed to the Mother.
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