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Dr Colin Michie

 

'Why do we breastfeed ?


Lactation is found in mammals and certain species of reptiles and birds to provide protection and nutrition for infants. In all three groups infancy has the highest mortality rates and enhancing survival through this early stage is critical, evolution has ensured that mother's milk provides the best nourishment for her offspring.

Breastfeeding has powerful beneficial effects, through protection against infection and disease as well as reducing the likelihood of allergic disorders. Breast milk also provides a high level of antibodies to protect against illness and disease, which means that responses to vaccination will be enhanced.

Breastfeeding is for life. The effects of breastfeeding will be observed in a child for many years following weaning.

Breast milk will vary from one mother to another, it will also change according to the time of day, and will adapt to suit baby's changing needs as he grows older. In the first days of breastfeeding babies receive colostrum which is a special milk full of antibodies, protein and carbohydrates. As breastfeeding becomes established your baby will receive foremilk for the first few minutes followed by hind milk, which has a higher fat content and will satisfy baby's appetite.

Breastfeeding is not just good for babies, there are benefits for mother too; feeding your new infant will cause the uterus to contract and return back to its pre-pregnancy shape and size. Breastfeeding also provides a special opportunity for you to bond with your baby.

Many mothers breastfeed without any problems, for others however this is quite the opposite and can be very distressing. Learn as much as possible before your baby is born, and if you do begin to have difficulties talk straight away to either your doctor, midwife or breastfeeding counsellor for help and advice. 

For information and advice on breastfeeding try visiting www.lalecheleague.org