A qualified Nurse and Midwife Senior Clinical Academic, Prof. Debbie Carrick-Sen is a Florence Nightingale Foundation Professor of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Birmingham, UK. She recently was in Malta to give a seminar to local midwives on breast feeding at an event hosted by Pampers.

What are the advantages of breastfeeding?

The evidence of benefits of breastfeeding to the infant and mother are overwhelming. Apart from being the best for the baby from a nutrient point of view, it reduces the risk of infection and obesity, as the baby only takes what it needs, when it needs it. The mother-baby relationship is enhanced when breastfeeding. For the mother, there are many benefits including reduction of pregnancy weight and reduced risk of breast cancer.

Is baby formula a good alternative to breast milk? Or can it cause any disadvantages in the development of the child on the whole?

Babies that are breastfed are reported to have increased cognitive development than babies that are bottle-fed. However, what we don't know is whether this directly relates to nutrients received from the breastmilk or whether mothers who breastfeed stimulate/educate their child more than bottle-fed mothers.

Do breastfed babies require any added vitamins in their diet?

No, breastmilk contains all the nutrients requires for the infant, however if the mother does not eat a well-balanced diet then supplements may be recommended.

Can twins or premature babies also be fed adequately on breast milk?

Yes of course, it can be more challenging in these situations, but certainly not impossible. The sucking reflects develops at 34 weeks gestation, so a baby born after this, should be able to be breastfeed. Occasionally they get a bit more tired than term babies and might need more frequent smaller feeds in the first few weeks.

What should a mother do if her baby isn't getting enough milk?

In the early days (and weeks) the mother should focus her attention on herself and her baby. If the baby seems hungry or is unsettled, with no obvious cause, then putting the baby to the breast is the answer. Remember, milk supply and demand is not instance. It takes 24 hours for the milk supply to increase, and therefore during this time, the mother should just keep putting the baby to the breast to increase supply.

Are there any specific foods and beverages one should avoid while breastfeeding? In most cases, foods and beverages taken in moderation are fine. Occasionally, babies react to hot and spicy foods and very occasionally dairy products. So, you might need to do a bit of trial and error.

In most cases, foods and beverages taken in moderation are fine. Occasionally, babies react to hot and spicy foods and very occasionally dairy products. So, you might need to do a bit of trial and error.

Are there any common challenges new mothers face when starting to breastfeed? Yes, despite contradictory belief, for a large number of mothers, breastfeeding is challenging at the beginning. To avoid nipple and breast problems occurring, it is really important that the baby is correctly attached to the breast. Try and get help from the midwife and/or a knowledgeable person to help you with every feed during the first 24-48 hours. If you can get this right, you will

Yes, despite contradictory belief, for a large number of mothers, breastfeeding is challenging at the beginning. To avoid nipple and breast problems occurring, it is really important that the baby is correctly attached to the breast. Try and get help from the midwife and/or a knowledgeable person to help you with every feed during the first 24-48 hours. If you can get this right, you will minimise problems occurring. If you can get through the first 10-14 days, then your chances of success are high.

What should be done if for some reason the mother is unable to continue breastfeeding? Would switching to formula suffice?

We do know that 90% of mothers that give up before they intended to, regret the decision. Therefore, it is important to do all you can to maintain breastfeeding. However, should you make a decision to discontinue then offering your baby formula milk is ok and completely acceptable. It also contains all the nutrients the baby requires.

On more of a social level, would you say breastfeeding in public is still somewhat shunned?

Unfortunately yes, I do believe attitudes are changing. There are a number of coffee shops etc that are breastfeeding friendly. The balance is maintaining modesty and exposure of the breast/nipple in public. Wraps and scarfs are useful and can be used in a very creative way. 

 The three key messages I would like to give are:

1)     Breastfeeding is not always easy, but correct baby to breast attachment in the first few days will minimise problems developing.

2)     Remember, if your baby is unsettled or you think your milk supply has reduced, it takes 24 hours for the demand/supply reflect to work. Just keep putting the baby to the breast and supply will increase.

3)     Breastfeeding is a full-time job! In the first few weeks, just focus on you and the baby – rest and have a good fluid intake – accept help from others to do housework, cooking and shopping.

 

 

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