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DR SARA HAYES COLUMN: Breastfeeding has many benefits

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: August 25, 2014

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Dr Sara Hayes, is Director of Public Health at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board

I'M sure there will be many readers of this column who are pregnant or have recently become mums, or maybe are a friend or relative of someone who has.

Breastfeeding is a topic that isn't often talked about, but is an easy way to give your baby the very best start in life. Breastfeeding makes a big difference to both your baby's and your own health. A growing number of women in Wales are choosing to breastfeed to give their baby the healthiest start in life.

Breast milk is very different to formula milk because it contains really good things that you simply can't make in a factory. For example, your milk contains antibodies that help to protect your baby from infection and reduce the risk of illness. Breast milk provides all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months of your baby's life.

Breastfed babies are less at risk of tummy upsets, coughs and colds, ear and chest infections, urine infections, allergies and childhood diabetes. Breastfed babies also have better mental development than babies fed on formula milk.

Having been breastfed as a baby protects children's health when they grow up, making them less prone to things like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. There are benefits for mums too.

Apart from the fact that breastfeeding is free and much simpler than sterilising bottles and waiting for formula milk to be ready, there are lots of health benefits. Mums who breastfeed are proven to be less at risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and of osteoporosis (bone thinning). But breastfeeding can be a challenging time, particularly for first time mums, with some finding it difficult to get baby to feed properly, experiencing soreness and worrying whether the baby is getting enough milk.

For more information, call the national breastfeeding helpline on 0300 100 0212 between 9.30am and 9.30pm. Information on local breastfeeding groups is available at www.healthchallengewales.org

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