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Unveiling the Hidden Wonders: Health Benefits of Breastfeeding Revealed!

Updated: Jul 10, 2023





Disclaimer: It is essential to recognize that not every baby can be breastfed, and we do not discriminate against those who are unable to breastfeed due to certain circumstances or choose not to.


Breastfeeding has numerous health benefits for both the mother and baby. Despite its benefits, the rates of breastfeeding in the UK are surprisingly low compared to other countries, with less than half of mothers choosing to breastfeed.


In this blog post, we will share some of the latest research on breastfeeding, and explore why the rates of breastfeeding in the UK are so low.


What are the benefits of breastfeeding?


Breastmilk is the perfect food for newborns and infants. It is rich in all the necessary nutrients such as protein, fat, and carbohydrates, that the baby needs to grow and develop. In addition, breastmilk has numerous health benefits for the baby. For instance, it contains antibodies that help the baby to build a stronger immune system, thus enhancing the baby's ability to fight off infections. Babies who are breastfed also have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and had a 25% reduced chance of being obese (1,2).


How does breastfeeding help mums?


Breastfeeding has many health benefits for the mother. When a mother breastfeeds, her body releases the love hormone oxytocin, which aids with bonding with the baby, promotes healing and recovery after birth and reduces stress levels. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers. Furthermore, breastfeeding can help mothers to lose weight after giving birth. It has been found that breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day, which can help mothers to shed off the extra weight gained during pregnancy (3).


Breastmilk is environmentally friendly


Breastmilk is also more environmentally friendly (no factory or travel miles needed) affordable and accessible than formula. It is a complete source of nutrition for babies that requires no complicated sterilisation, temperature testing or measuring out that formula does. Therefore, it is essential to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and provide support to mothers who may face barriers to breastfeeding. Education and support are crucial to ensure that all mothers have the knowledge and resources they need to breastfeed successfully. By doing so, we can increase the rates of breastfeeding and improve the health and well-being of mother, child and the world.



So, given the health benefits, why are the rates of breastfeeding so low in the UK?


Despite the many benefits of breastfeeding, the rates of breastfeeding in the UK are unusually low. So why are British women not choosing this option? According to a recent report, only 48% of babies are breastfed to 8 weeks old. Another study found less than 34% of women were breastfeeding until the baby was 6 months old. (4,5). There are numerous reasons for this low rate, including lack of support, education and social stigma. It is important for parents to receive education and support about breastfeeding, and for the government to implement policies that promote and support breastfeeding.


Another aspect is that women are returning to work sooner after giving birth in the UK, and for babies to continue receiving breastmilk requires women to express breastmilk using portable breast pumps. Although these contraptions have come a long way, workplaces have not been as quick to evolve and there is usually no safe, quiet, and private place for women to express breastmilk or a place to store breastmilk once it has been expressed. Understandably, for many working mums, it simply becomes the easier option to use formula. This is a much more exacerbated issue in lower-income families and single mothers, who may have the most to gain by breastfeeding. In fact, a study found that babies who were breastfed by low-income mothers performed an average of 8% better in cognitive tests than formula-fed babies born to low-income mothers.


Takeaway


British society does not always make it conducive for mums to breastfeed in public and working commitments are another factor that can pose a barrier to breastfeeding. However, there are many benefits to both mother and babies health with breastfeeding. Fathers can support mums in a range of ways. See our new blog


To find out how you can help your partner with breastfeeding, see our new blog, How dads can get involved with breastfeeding here.


  1. Vandyousefi, S, Goran, MI, Gunderson, EP, et al. Association of breastfeeding and gestational diabetes mellitus with the prevalence of prediabetes and the metabolic syndrome in offspring of Hispanic mothers. Pediatric Obesity. 2019; 14:e12515. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijpo.12515

  2. https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/breastfeeding-reduces-child-obesity-risk-by-up-to-25-per-cent/

  3. Mary Frances Picciano, Pregnancy and Lactation: Physiological Adjustments, Nutritional Requirements and the Role of Dietary Supplements, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 133, Issue 6, June 2003, Pages 1997S–2002S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.6.1997S.

  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/breastfeeding-at-6-to-8-weeks-after-birth-quarterly-data-for-2022-to-2023

  5. McAndrew F, Thompson J, Fellows L et al Infant Feeding Survey 2010. NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre. Copyright © 2012, Health and Social Care Information Centre

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