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Breastfeeding Mum

The fruits of good mothering and early nurture are among the greatest blessings a person can have in life. In offering these to their babies, mothers and fathers are setting patterns of relationships which can be creative, mutually rewarding and last for the rest of their lives.

Breastfeeding has advantages for infants, mothers, families, and society. These advantages include health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, psychological, social, economic, and environmental benefits. Breastfeeding has important societal benefits too. Namely, breast milk is very cost-effective. One of its biggest conveniences is that it is absolutely free. Breast milk is important in developing the facial structure, oral make-up and brain growth of babies. Premature infants who are breastfed tend to have a higher IQ than premature babies who are fed infant formula. In addition to the nutritional benefits of breast milk, there is an added emotional benefit as well. Eye and skin contact maintained while nursing gives babies the same sense of security felt in the womb, creating a loving transition into their new world. The first month of breastfeeding is the most difficult, so your commitment in getting through that period will reap rewards of greater ‘self esteem’, as things do become easier. Having faith in your ability as a mother is of paramount importance.

During difficulties, or to ask questions it’s important to consult a breastfeeding counsellor who can offer support and resources to overcome problems. Or speak to another committed breastfeeding mother, or the friend or family member of someone who has/is breastfeeding. A good support network is vital to the success of breastfeeding. While stress may affect milk supply, breastfeeding itself can help to reduce stress. When you breastfeed, your body creates hormones that are calming. More evidence for breastfeeding’s beneficial effect on mental development

An American study (1) of 83 one week old infants found that breastfed babies had better development when assessed on orientation, motor skills and other issues. They also exhibited fewer abnormal reflexes, signs of depression, and withdrawal.

Meanwhile, researchers in Australia (2) have found higher levels of ganglioside-bound and protein-bound sialic acid concentrations in the frontal cortex gray matter of breastfed infants than in that of formula-fed infants (P < 0.01). The concentration of sialic acid in brain gangliosides and glycoproteins has been linked to learning ability in animal studies. Human milk is a rich source of sialic acid.

1. Hart S et al (2003). Brief Report: Breast-fed One-Week-Olds Demonstrate Superior Neurobehavioral Organization. Journal of Pediatric Psychology 28: 529-534 [Abstract]

2. Wang B et al (2003) Brain ganglioside and glycoprotein sialic acid in breastfed compared with formula-fed infants. Am J Clin Nut 78: 1024-1029 [Abstract]

Breastfeeding and fathers

Fathers are certainly important, and share with mothers in being playmates, partners, parents, protectors and providers. But in all mammals, the roles of the two parents are different. In the natural breastfeeding period the role of mother is always primary. In primates this includes carrying and co-sleeping, which promote secure attachment. Programs which pressure young mothers into the workforce and promote early daycare carry long-term risks for community well-being. Our society needs to recognise the far-reaching developmental importance of breastfeeding and close, responsive mother-infant relationships in the early years, along with the close involvement of fathers, and aim to create social settings which facilitate and support them. If we are going to pay for quality infant care, why not support mothers to do it? Infancy cannot be re-run later.

Long-term Mental Health Outcome of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding for at least one month in infancy leads to reduced stress and higher levels of psychological well-being in adolescence and early adulthood. Joseph Meagher, M.D., University of Manchester.

Breastfeeding and Intelligence

Results have showed increasing duration of breastfeeding was associated with consistent and statistically significant increases in 1) intelligence quotient assessed at ages 8 and 9 years, 2) reading comprehension, mathematical ability, and scholastic ability assessed during the period from 8 to 12 years, 3) teacher ratings of reading and mathematics assessed at 8 and 12 years, and 4) higher levels of attainment in school leaving examinations. Children who were breastfed for 8 months had mean test scores that were between 0.35 and 0.59 SD units higher than children that were bottle fed. After adjustment for confounding factors, the group still had mean test scores that were between 0.11 and 0.30 units higher than those not breastfed. Breastfeeding and Later Cognitive Development and Academic Outcomes by L. John Horwood and David M Fergusson. This article comes along with pediatrician’s now encouraging breast feeding for the first year.
Link: www.007b.com/breastfeeding_intelligence_diet.php

Sudden Weaning

Breastfeeding is the baby’s source of comfort and closeness as well a food, sudden ‘cold turkey’ weaning is emotionally traumatic for the baby. Mum’s hormones are also more likely to take a drastic plunge, causing mood swings, depression etc. An abrupt end to nursing can cause blocked ducts, breast infection, or even a breast abscess. Natural weaning is by far a fairer solution all round.

A good book to read if you are considering weaning is “How Weaning Happens” by La Leche League International. If sudden weaning is suggested for medical reasons, consult a Lactation Consultant or breastfeeding counsellor for a second opinion.

Breastfeeding and PND

Depressed, Irritable, Tired, Sleepless, Not hungry, Unable to enjoy anything, Unable to cope, Anxious? According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists around 1 in 10 women have PND after having a baby. Link: www.rcpsych.ac.uk/info/help/pndep/index.asp A lesser but not insignificant problem is that many depressed women who are breast-feeding will not take antidepressants, or they will go back on the drugs but choose not to breast-feed their infants.

Most experts believe that the risk to the nursing infant is minimal. “Most of these drugs get into the breast milk in very small amounts, and it’s not considered a risk,” said Adrienne Einarson, assistant director of the Motherisk program.

“If a woman needs to be treated for depression, it’s certainly not a reason to stop breast-feeding,” she said. Read more from the Women’s Mental Health Program: www.emorywomensprogram.org/articleDetail.asp?authID=1708403644&ArticleID=46
Link: Guide to Using Antidepressants in Breastfeeding Mothers www.kellymom.com/health/meds/antidepressants-hale10-02.html
Link: Breastfeeding and Psychiatric Medicications: www.womensmentalhealth.org/topics/breastfeeding_lib_antidep.html
Breastfeeding after Sexual Abuse: www.lalecheleague.org/llleaderweb/LV/LVAprMay97p27.html

Mandy Lelliott founder of Lait D’Amour – Making Breastfeeding Fashionable.

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