Making the breastfeeding decision
NHS figures show that over the past 10 years there's been a significant rise in the number of mums who chose to breastfeed.
81% of newborn babies in the UK are now breastfed, according to the NHS Information Centre. In 2005 the figure was 76%. In 1990, it was 62%.
Research about breastfeeding continues to show important health benefits for baby and mother. Mother's milk can offer the baby a wide range of protective effects, including reducing the risk of infections in the gastrointestinal, urinary and respiratory tracts, lowering the rate of ear infections, diarrhoea and the risk of SIDS (sudden-infant death syndrome), and helping to protect against allergies, diabetes and even obesity later in life.
Even if a mother breastfeeds for just a few weeks after her baby is born, she is giving her baby an enormous health boost with positive effects that can be seen almost immediately, as well as long- term benefits that may help her child remain healthier well into adulthood.
The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life. Even when your baby moves on to solid food, breast milk will continue to offer benefits.
Breastfeeding is good for mum too
Doctors say breastfeeding is also beneficial to mothers, with both long and short term benefits.
In the short term, breastfeeding increases the production of oxytocin, a hormone that not only encourages milk production, but also helps a mother feel more relaxed and calm.
Studies also show that the effect of breastfeeding hormones on the uterus may help reduce a mother's risk of postpartum haemorrhage (massive uterine bleeding). Nursing may even help protect some women from postnatal depression.
In addition, nursing your baby for even a few months can reduce your risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer, as well as potentially help strengthen your bones -- which in turn may offer some protection against osteoporosis.