Breastfeeding Week is an annual event organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), a global network that works alongside the World Health Organization and UNICEF to protect, promote and support breastfeeding around the world. The event raises awareness of the health and wellbeing outcomes of breastfeeding and the importance of supporting mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish.
Whilst support at the individual level is crucial, WABA emphasizes that breastfeeding is a public health issue that requires investment at all levels. The opportunity to create a warm chain of support for breastfeeding that includes health systems, workplaces and communities at all levels of society is vital.
Breast milk is tailor-made for your baby, has all of the easily digested nutrients in the right proportions, and contains antibodies and properties that prevent and protect against infections. Whilst any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial, exclusively breastfeeding your baby for 6 months offers a lot more protection.
Breast milk has many benefits for both baby and mum.
• provides protection from infection – breast milk provides natural antibodies that help your baby fight infections like tummy bugs, diarrhoea, colds; and chest and ear infections
• is rich in vitamins and nutrition – your breast milk provides the perfect combination of vitamins and nutrition, it is also much easier to digest than first infant formula
• protects long-term health – breastfed babies are less likely to develop diabetes, or become overweight when they are older
• reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and childhood leukaemia
• helps your uterus get back down to size
• promotes bonding with baby
• protects your health by lowering your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis (weak bones), diabetes and cardiovascular disease (conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels).
Your diet whilst breastfeeding
You do not need a special diet while you are breastfeeding; just try to include a well-balanced, healthy variety of fruits, vegetables, starchy foods, dairy products and protein. For tips and advice, visit: https://healthygibraltar.org/healthy-eating/
How long should I breastfeed?
The World Health Organisation recommends that babies should have only breast milk for around the first 6 months of their lives and then continue to be breastfed for 2 years and beyond.
It is particularly important to give your baby only breast milk in the early days as this can affect your milk production. If you find it difficult to only breastfeed or you do not want to, try to give as much expressed breast milk as you can; your partner can help with feeding too.
When to feed your baby
If your baby is hungry or thirsty, they will show signs of hunger by:
• putting their hand to their mouth
• becoming agitated or upset (try calming them by cuddling, giving skin-to-skin contact, talking and stroking)
Keeping your baby close will help you recognise these signals. Responding to their needs will not spoil them, but will help them feel safe and secure.
Understanding first feeds
Your baby’s tummy is the size of a cherry on the first day; during the first 24 hours after the birth, babies usually wake and feed often to get your milk supply started. This may seem like a lot of feeding but is normal and will settle down.
Your baby’s tummy will grow from the size of a cherry on the first day to the size of an egg by the end of the first month. They will need to feed frequently (8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period) as small amounts of milk at each feed will fill them up.
As baby’s tummy grows, they will start to take a bit more at each feed. Feeding them as often as they want will help your body prepare a good supply of milk for the days, weeks and months ahead.
As your baby feeds more and grows, the gaps between some of the feeds will get longer. Responding to your baby’s feeding cues will ensure they feed frequently.
It is not possible to overfeed a breastfed baby.
Dads and partners
Emotional support and encouragement from dads and partners are as important as practical help. Dads and partners play a key role and can help mum by:
• taking an interest and finding out about breastfeeding, so you can give help and suggestions if your partner is struggling
• understanding it takes time and practice for mum and baby to get the technique right while feeding
• looking after mum while she’s breastfeeding and making sure she is comfortable
Getting support to breastfeed
Your midwife, health visitor or family nurse can provide information and help, and show you:
• how to hold your baby
• how to help them take your nipple and breast in the right
It is also helpful to chat to a friend who successfully breastfed her baby or contact the local breastfeeding association: