The nutritional benefits of breastmilk
From a nutritional standpoint, breastmilk is the best source of early nutrition for your baby. It contains all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months of their life, and adapts to their changes needs as they grow (even throughout a feed - the first – or fore - milk is thirst-quenching, and the later – or hind - milk is rich, creamy and full of good fats).
Your baby’s first breastfeed is made up of what is called colostrum (sometimes called ‘liquid gold.’) This milk is low in fat, and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies, and is extremely easy to digest, making it an ideal first food for your baby.
LEARN MORE: What’s in breastmilk?
The health benefits for bubs
Breastmilk is easily digested and absorbed by your baby, and contains antibodies and other agents that protect your baby from infection and help support healthy development. It also contains essential fatty acids important for healthy brain development.
Breastfeeding also helps your baby develop a healthy and diverse gut microbiome. Bacteria (probiotics) are passed on to your baby during breastfeeding - from your skin and the breastmilk, which contains about 200 different types of oligosaccharides (prebiotics).
And why is this important? Research suggests our gut microbiome may play an important role in many aspects of our physical and emotional wellbeing, influencing many cells of our body, and therefore our overall health.
And, because the taste of breastmilk changes with whatever you’ve eaten, a breastfed baby is thought to be more likely to accept new tastes when they start eating solids.
Health benefits for Mum
Breastfeeding has a number of health benefits for mothers. Breastfeeding can be an incredibly bonding experience with your new baby (not to mention a great way to get some no questions asked, one-on-one time with bubs when you need a time out from visitors!)
It also releases oxytocin, a hormone which causes the uterus to contract, which can promote uterine involution (the return to a non-pregnant state).
Breastfeeding is helpful in getting back to a pre-pregnancy weight, which has obvious health benefits. It’s also cheaper and more convenient in many situations – and breastfeeding mums can still share feeding with their partner and others by expressing milk.
What if I am having trouble breastfeeding?
While breastmilk is perfectly designed for feeding babies, it’s not always easy to breastfeed your baby. There are excellent support services available to women that are having difficulty breastfeeding and need help or advice, and your GP or health caregiver will be able to provide a referral should you need one.
If however, following consultation with a healthcare professional breastfeeding is not the right choice for you and your baby, the good news is, infant formulas have come a long way, and a lot of research has gone into making them nutritionally complete. If you do decide to formula feed your baby, it’s important to make sure you follow can instructions exactly as incorrect preparation can make your baby very ill. It is especially important to sterilise bottles thoroughly after use, and that you store prepared formula according to the specific instructions on the pack.
Blackmores supports the benefits of breastfeeding as the best source of nutrition for babies. However, we also recognise that not all mums are able to breastfeed, and the reasons women are not able to breastfeed are for each mum to discuss with her health care professional.