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Do I Need To Breastfeed? A Look at the Pros and Cons

Choosing how to feed your newborn can be a difficult decision for a lot of new parents.  

Whilst some may think that breastfeeding is the best option, this might not always be the case. For some, the benefits of breastfeeding make the choice easy, however not every new mum can breastfeed, and that is okay. You can still have a healthy baby with or without breastfeeding.  

The most important decisions are the ones you make for your own body, as a healthy mum means a healthy baby. 

What we’ll be looking into:

  • The benefits of breastfeeding 
  • The alternatives to breastfeeding 
  • What to do if you can’t breastfeed 

The benefits of breastfeeding

There are many benefits of breastfeeding your baby. Breast milk provides all the correct nutrients that your newborn needs, and has been shown to lower the risk of infections, illnesses such as diarrhea and vomiting and problems with obesity and cardiovascular diseases in adulthood.  

Breastfeeding can also benefit the health of the mother, by reducing their risk of ovarian and breast cancer, and more. 

It can also help to strengthen the mother-infant bond by providing contact time. However, this is not the only way in which you can ensure this.  

What are the alternatives? 

An estimated 5% of mothers have physiological conditions where they do not produce enough breast milk.

Many more report that they cannot breastfeed for reasons like their baby not latching, suffering from engorgement, or if the mum has had a history of substance abuse. If a mother has a history of taking certain medications or addictive substances, there may be situations where the breastmilk may not be the best for the baby.

In fact, it is very common for babies to be reluctant to latch, and they can fail to do so at any point even if they have latched previously.  This may be because a baby has received a bottle teat or a dummy previously, whereby the suckling is very different, delaying the initial feed and even holding the baby in the wrong position. The NHS has some useful tips on breastfeeding positions here.

Furthermore, there may be societal pressures for some mums including not being able to find a place to breastfeed, if they need to go back to work before the baby has finished breastfeeding, or they can’t pump.  

There should be no societal pressure to breastfeed your baby if it is the wrong choice for you.  

You can provide skin-to-skin contact with your baby to help to strengthen the mother-baby bond too. 

I can’t breastfeed my baby – is that okay? 

Yes, and there are many alternatives to breastfeeding.  

You can provide your baby in their first 12 months with first infant formula. This is based on cow’s milk, and is suitable to use whilst introducing your baby’s first solid foods too. For more alternatives to breastmilk, the NHS suggests these. 

There should be no shame in doing this either. In fact, according to statistics from the UK Government in 2021, whilst 68% started breastfeeding, under half (48%) continued to do this past 6 weeks.  

Whilst any amount of breastfeeding is positive, there is no need to pressurise yourself if it isn’t right for you. In fact, according to UNICEF, in the UK 80% of mothers stop breastfeeding before they want to. If you are worried about this, just know that you are not alone! 

In summary, a healthy mum makes a healthy baby. You must put your own health first in order to do the best for your newborn. We know it can be difficult to make sacrifices, but listening to your body will always lead you to the best outcome.  

Evidence Based
This article has been reviewed by our Kari Health Experts and Editorial Board to ensure accuracy and reliability of the information presented. However, please note that the content provided is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from your medical professional.

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