Breast milk is the best and most natural food for your baby. It gives your baby the best possible start in life.
Breast milk contains all the right nutrients for your baby, which only mum’s body can make. It also helps to protect your baby against many illnesses and conditions. Very occasionally, there are sound medical reasons for not breastfeeding – for example, if you have HIV or, in rare cases, you’re taking a medication that could harm your baby, such as drugs for treating cancer.
What does breast milk help to protect against?
Breast milk provides your baby with the best possible protection against many illnesses and conditions, such as:
Breastfeeding also helps protect mum from breast cancer and osteoporosis (weak bones, causing hip fractures).
Other benefits of breastfeeding:
The support and encouragement of a caring partner is really important to the success of breastfeeding.
Find out as much as you can about feeding before your baby arrives. Remember that, although the relationship between mum and baby is really close in the early days when breastfeeding is being established, there are lots of ways in which you can be involved, by offering practical and emotional support.
Remember that the benefits of breastfeeding will last your baby’s lifetime, so it really is worth working at getting it right in the early days and weeks.
Public Health England (PHE) recommend exclusive breastfeeding (feeding baby breast milk and nothing else) for the first six months of life. After that time, continuing to breastfeed alongside
solid food still offers both mum and baby many health benefits. Remember, though, that any amount of breast milk will always be good for your baby’s health and wellbeing.
There are lots of things you can do to support and encourage breastfeeding.
You might expect to feel like a bit of a spare part with feeding but it’s good to remember that each parent plays a different and vital role. The decision on how you feed your baby is certainly a joint one. It might take a while to get used to the different parts you play though.
Whatever you decide to do, you might actually find feeding is less important to you than you expected anyway. Especially if you’re hands-on with your baby in different and rewarding ways.
For more ideas on being a hands-on parent, see our article about bonding with and getting to know your baby.
If mum chooses to express breast milk, the great thing is that you will be able to join in by feeding your baby, too!
If you decide to feed your baby with formula milk, talk to your Midwife or Health Visitor about this.
Following the guidelines below at feeding time will help you take positive steps to keeping your baby healthy.
To make a feed using powdered formula milk:
Feeding your baby should be a loving and pleasant experience for both of you. The following information will help you both enjoy feeding times.
Remember to throw away any leftover milk that has not been used after two hours.