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Article Gapianne - Dois-je allaiter ? Avantages et inconvénients de l’allaitement
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The advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding

That's it, your pregnancy is coming to an end. You are asking yourself these famous questions that all mothers ask themselves: “Should I breastfeed or bottle feed my baby?”, “Which is best for him?”.

These questions seem trivial, yet they raise many questions and their answer depends on many factors. If you are looking for THE right solution, know that it does not exist. The right solution will be the one you choose.

In this article, we give you all the keys so that you can make the choice that suits you and your baby. We also explain all the disadvantages and advantages of breastfeeding .

At the end of this article, you will be able to say goodbye to guilt, whether you decide to breastfeed or bottle-feed, everything is OK!

Breastfeeding, an ancestral gesture

First of all, it is important to remember that breastfeeding is a gesture as old as humanity itself. This process is rooted in our biology. Humans are made like that.

As for bottle feeding, a modern innovation, it offers a superb flexible and nutritious alternative for families and babies.

Why do professionals recommend breastfeeding?

It is therefore completely natural for health professionals to encourage future mothers to breastfeed during the baby's first 6 months.

As you know, nature is well done! Breastfeeding has many benefits for the health of mother and baby , it also allows all essential nutrients to be given to the baby in ideal quantities and allows for bonding.

With all these advantages, it would be difficult to imagine that parents could decide to bottle feed their little one. However, breastfeeding is not easy.

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Yet breastfeeding is not easy for some mothers

In France, exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months now reaches 22.8%. A fairly low figure, especially compared to the world average which is 44%. This still highlights that breastfeeding is not a trivial act.

Conceiving and giving birth to a child can be very stressful for some mothers. We can never remind you enough: it is a gift of self. This is why breastfeeding your baby following pregnancy and childbirth can, for some, prove to be more complicated than it seems due to many factors.

Several factors influence breastfeeding

Breastfeeding, although natural, can represent a real challenge but also pose a significant risk to mothers' health, due to various factors. Let's look at them together.

Physical difficulties:

Some women may experience problems such as pain, cracking, mastitis (breast inflammation), or difficulty with the baby latching on. Conditions such as breast hypoplasia or low milk supply can also make breastfeeding difficult.

Medical problems:

Medical problems can sometimes make breastfeeding difficult. Complications during childbirth, such as hemorrhage or emergency cesarean section, can delay the start of breastfeeding and affect milk production. Postpartum endometritis and endometriosis after childbirth can also impact the desire to breastfeed. Medical conditions in the mother, such as hormonal disorders, breast infections, or history of breast surgery, can influence lactation. In babies, problems such as a tight tongue or difficulty breathing can make breastfeeding more difficult. Additionally, some medications taken by the mother may be incompatible with breastfeeding or affect milk production. It is also very important to note that psychological conditions such as postpartum depression or high stress can also impact a mother's ability to breastfeed.

Lack of support and information:

A lack of support from family, friends, or health professionals can make breastfeeding more difficult. Additionally, a lack of information or practical advice can leave mothers unsure or unprepared for breastfeeding.

Psychological or emotional problems:

Feelings such as stress, anxiety or postpartum depression are important topics. Although tongues are wagging on this subject, it still remains little discussed, although it is a public health issue for women. So, in addition to significantly impacting mothers' mental health, these problems can affect the ability to breastfeed. Additionally, past experiences, such as trauma or breast surgery, can also influence the breastfeeding experience. If you are experiencing low morale or fatigue, postpartum dietary supplements can help support emotional balance and combat fatigue.

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Time constraints:

Time constraints , whether related to work demands, family responsibilities, or lifestyle, can make breastfeeding difficult to maintain. Mothers are sometimes faced with difficult choices about continuing or adapting breastfeeding based on their personal situation. It is essential to recognize these challenges and support mothers in finding suitable solutions.

Social and cultural pressure:

In some cases, social pressures or cultural norms can exert a significant influence on the decision to breastfeed or complicate the breastfeeding experience for mothers. Social pressure can come from those around the mother, family, friends or even the media, which sometimes convey contradictory ideals regarding breastfeeding. Cultural norms may also play a role, as some cultures place more value on breastfeeding while others favor the use of formula. These social and cultural factors can create stress and dilemmas for mothers, sometimes leading them to make decisions that do not necessarily correspond to their personal preferences.

The choice is yours and it’s ok whatever it is.

The choice is yours and it's important to remember that whatever path you decide to take when it comes to breastfeeding, it's completely ok. Each mother has her own journey, shaped by her personal needs, health, life constraints and preferences.

Whether you choose exclusive breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or a combination of the two, your decision is respected and valid. What matters most is the love and care you give your baby. As a mother, you are in the best position to make informed decisions for yourself and your family. Trust your instincts and what feels best for you, because that choice is yours, and it's perfect, whatever it is.

The benefits of breastfeeding your baby

Breastfeeding offers a multitude of benefits in the physical and psycho-emotional development of the baby and also offers many benefits for the mother. Let's discover the advantages that make this practice a beneficial choice for the health and well-being of the infant and his mother.

Optimal nutrition for the baby:

Breastfeeding provides ideal nutrition for the infant. Breast milk is specially designed to meet the growth and development needs of the child, providing a perfect and balanced combination of essential nutrients, including high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, essential vitamins and minerals .

Strengthens the toddler's immune system:

Breast milk is a true treasure trove of benefits for the infant's immune system. It's full of antibodies , also called immunoglobulins, which are proteins produced by the mother's immune system in response to infections she has encountered. These antibodies are then passed to the baby through breast milk, where they provide immediate protection against a wide range of infections and diseases.

Additionally, breast milk contains natural immune factors such as leukocytes, which are defense cells, as well as cytokines and enzymes that strengthen the baby's immune response. These components work in tandem to establish a valuable first line of defense against bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

Breastfeeding is not limited to the transmission of antibodies and immune factors. It also promotes the growth of intestinal flora beneficial to the baby, which plays an essential role in strengthening the immune system. This healthy gut flora helps prevent infections by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.

The combined effect of these elements gives breast milk an incomparable advantage in strengthening the infant's immune system. It provides vital protection during the first months of life, when the baby's immune system is still developing.

Participates in the development of the baby's body

Breast milk plays a crucial role in the overall development of the infant. Its nutritional components contribute significantly to the development of the baby's brain, organs and tissues.

  • Brain development: Breast milk is rich in essential fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is a key element for baby's brain development. DHA promotes brain cell growth and the formation of neuronal connections, which is essential for cognitive development.
  • Organ Growth: The high-quality proteins found in breast milk are essential for the growth and development of vital organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys. The vitamins and minerals in breast milk also support the proper functioning of these organs.
  • Immune system: As previously said, in addition to strengthening the immune system, breast milk contains special oligosaccharides that nourish the baby's good intestinal bacteria. Healthy intestinal flora is linked to the development of the immune system and the prevention of allergies.
  • Tissues and muscles: Breast milk proteins contribute to the growth of the baby's muscles and tissues, promoting overall physical development.
  • Bones and skeleton: Breast milk is a source of calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for the formation and strength of a baby's bones and skeleton.

Breast milk provides a full range of nutrients that promote the harmonious development of the baby's body. It addresses the specific needs of each stage of growth, providing a solid foundation for the child's long-term health.

Helps baby's digestion

Breast milk plays an essential role in facilitating digestion in infants. Its unique composition is specifically adapted to the baby's delicate gastrointestinal system. Breast milk is rich in lactoferrin and immunoglobulin proteins, which help stimulate and protect the infant's intestinal lining, strengthening its ability to absorb essential nutrients. Additionally, fats in breast milk are easily digested, minimizing the risk of constipation in the baby.

Breast milk also contains natural enzymes that aid in the digestion of carbohydrates, helping to reduce intestinal gas and colic. Compared to formula, breast milk is gentler on the baby's digestive system, which reduces the risk of gastroesophageal reflux.

The ability of breast milk to support gentle digestion is crucial to infant well-being, as a healthy gastrointestinal system is essential for the efficient absorption of nutrients necessary for growth and development. Therefore, breastfeeding provides an added benefit by helping to minimize gastrointestinal discomfort, excessive crying and digestive upset in infants, thereby providing a more comfortable experience for the baby and his parents.

Limits certain diseases

Breastfeeding provides valuable protection against several common illnesses in infants.

  • Respiratory infections: Breast milk is rich in antibodies and immune factors that help prevent upper and lower respiratory infections in babies. It constitutes a first line of defense against pathologies such as colds, flu and bronchiolitis. Source: Human milk and maternal infections.
  • Ear infections: Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of developing ear infections (ear infections) compared to bottle-fed babies. Breast milk helps maintain better Eustachian tube health, which reduces the risk of infection. *Source: [ Otitis.* ]
  • Allergies: Studies have shown that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing food and environmental allergies in babies. Immune and anti-inflammatory factors present in breast milk may help modulate the allergic response.
  • Childhood obesity: Exclusive breastfeeding during the first months of life is associated with a reduced risk of childhood obesity. Breast milk promotes more effective appetite regulation and better body composition in the baby. *Source: Breastfeeding and the prevention of excess weight in children.*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases: Breast milk helps protect against some common gastrointestinal illnesses, such as gastroenteritis and diarrhea. *Source: [ LLL Today #3 – The science behind the benefits of breast milk ]
  • Type 2 diabetes: Breastfeeding can help reduce the future risk of type 2 diabetes in children. Source: Breastfeeding could reduce the risk of diabetes in women who have had gestational diabetes

These benefits and studies show how breast milk acts as a natural protective barrier against various diseases and medical conditions. It provides continued protection during the first months of life, when the baby's immune system is still developing.

Relieve stress

Breastfeeding is also a comforting experience for the baby. It goes beyond just nutrition. The mechanism is simple, when the baby suckles, it triggers the release of an essential hormone called oxytocin, often nicknamed “the happy hormone”. This release of oxytocin provides a number of emotional and physiological benefits to the infant.

  • Calm and comfort: Oxytocin helps induce a state of relaxation and well-being in the baby. This results in a feeling of calm and comfort during and after breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin contact with the mother, the warmth of her body and her familiar smell reinforce this soothing effect.
  • Stress Reduction: Oxytocin acts as a natural antidote to stress. It helps reduce the infant's stress level, which is particularly beneficial in times of irritability or agitation.
  • Strengthening the mother-child bond: Breastfeeding strengthens the emotional bond between mother and child through these moments of intimate proximity. The infant often associates breastfeeding with security and maternal love, thus strengthening the emotional bond between them.
  • Lactation Support: Oxytocin also plays a crucial role in the lactation process by promoting the ejection of breast milk, which ensures effective feeding of the baby.
  • Reduced risk of postpartum depression: A little less known, yet the positive interaction between oxytocin and breastfeeding could help reduce the risk of postpartum depression in the mother by promoting a fulfilling maternal experience.

Overall, breastfeeding is not only a source of nutrition, but also a natural mechanism that soothes, comforts and strengthens the bond between mother and baby. It creates a safe and loving environment, which helps promote the emotional well-being of the infant and mother.

Develops emotional bond and develops a feeling of security

A significant benefit with breastfeeding is creating a deep and intimate emotional bond between mother and child. Skin-to-skin contact, which is an essential component of breastfeeding, establishes comforting physical proximity between mother and baby. During these intimate moments, looks, smiles and gestures of affection are exchanged, which strengthens the emotional bond.

Oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, inducing a feeling of well-being in mother and infant, which helps create a strong emotional bond. The baby feels secure, knowing that he can count on his mother for food, warmth and love. This emotional security is essential for the infant's development and fulfillment. In addition, breastfeeding allows the mother to respond quickly to the needs of her baby, strengthening trust between them and promoting a harmonious relationship.

The disadvantages of breastfeeding your baby

Can cause pain and discomfort for the mother

While it's a valuable experience for many moms, breastfeeding can cause some pain and discomfort, especially during the first few weeks.

Here are the main things to consider:

  • Nipple sensitivity: A mother's nipples may become sensitive and painful when they are first touched by the baby. This is often due to the baby's initial adaptation to latching. The feeling of tightness or burning may be felt when feeding. However, these sensations usually improve as mother and baby get used to breastfeeding.
  • Cracks: Cracks, small painful cracks on the nipple , can develop due to friction during breastfeeding. They can make each feeding uncomfortable or even painful. Cracks can be avoided by ensuring good position and latching by the baby. Using moisturizing breastfeeding creams or balms can also help relieve soreness and promote healing. You can also get nursing shells which help soothe and heal.

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  • Breast engorgement: Breast engorgement occurs when the mother's breasts are too full of milk, which can cause a feeling of tightness and pain. The breasts may become hot, tight and painful. Engorgement can occur when milk production is greater than the baby's demand. It can be relieved by expressing a little milk manually or using a breast pump.

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  • Breast infections: In rare cases, a breast infection such as mastitis may occur. It causes painful inflammation of the breast and may be associated with fever. Moms with mastitis should consult a healthcare professional for appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics.

Time and energy constraints

Breastfeeding requires a significant investment in terms of time and energy on the part of the mother. Infants need to breastfeed frequently, including at night, which can cause significant loss of sleep for the mother. This high frequency may limit the mother's flexibility for other daily activities or responsibilities. It is therefore a significant constraint. To balance breastfeeding with other aspects of life, adequate support from family and friends is essential to relieve this mental burden!

Insufficient milk production

Another notable drawback is insufficient milk production. This is actually a more common problem than you might imagine. It can be caused by various factors, including stress, poor position of the baby at the breast, or hormonal problems. This situation can be stressful for the mother and require the intervention of a health professional. Fortunately, a good diet can promote lactation.

Mother's diet should be controlled

When you have just given birth to your baby, you might want to return to old habits, especially after 9 months of pregnancy. However, when a mother chooses to breastfeed, she needs to pay close attention to her diet, as what she consumes can impact the quality of breast milk and the health of her baby. This dietary constraint can involve several aspects:

  • Avoid certain allergenic foods: Certain foods, such as peanuts, dairy, seafood, or eggs, are known to be potential triggers for food allergies in infants. Therefore, some mothers may feel pressured to avoid them to reduce the risk of allergic reactions in their baby.
  • Avoid the consumption of caffeine and alcohol (and yes still not!): Caffeine and alcohol can pass into breast milk in small quantities, which can affect the baby. Mothers often need to reduce their use of these substances to minimize any potential impact.
  • Maintain a balanced diet: A balanced diet is essential to ensure that breast milk provides the necessary nutrients to the baby. This may mean the mother needs to make sure she eats a variety of nutritious foods to meet her and her baby's nutritional needs.
  • Adequate hydration: Breastfeeding mothers should also make sure to stay well hydrated, as dehydration can affect milk production.

Although this attention to feeding may be perceived as restrictive by some mothers, it is often seen as a necessary effort to ensure the health and well-being of their baby while breastfeeding.

Also read: Hair loss after pregnancy, childbirth: what to do?

Insufficient milk production

Another disadvantage of breastfeeding is the social pressure it generates. Yet when it comes to making decisions about feeding their baby, it's important to remind mothers that the choice is theirs. Every woman has her own unique circumstances, preferences and challenges. Some mothers may find breastfeeding a perfect fit for their lifestyle, while others may prefer bottle feeding for personal or medical reasons.

Whatever the choice, there is no universal answer. The main thing is to make the decision that best suits the mother and her baby, based on their needs and their particular situation.

It is equally crucial to emphasize that every mother deserves to be supported in her choice, whatever it may be. Emotional support from the partner and family is essential to help mothers feel comfortable and confident in their decision.

Impacts the mother’s life and her sleep

Another reason and not the least, breastfeeding, although offering many benefits, can also have a significant impact on the mother's daily life:

  • Sleep Disruption: Frequent feedings, especially at night, are common during the first months of a baby's life. This can disrupt the mother's sleep, who must wake up regularly to feed her child. Sleep deprivation can lead to chronic fatigue, also known as postpartum fatigue , affecting concentration, mood, and the ability to function fully during the day.
  • Limited mobility: Breastfeeding can limit the mother's mobility, as she must be available for her baby's frequent feedings. This can make planning outings or social activities more difficult, as the mother must consider her child's needs. Additionally, breastfeeding can sometimes create challenges for mothers who want to return to work, as they need to find ways to express milk or arrange breastfeeding breaks.
  • Balancing family and work life: Balancing family life, work, leisure and time for yourself can become a challenge for many breastfeeding mothers. Having to meet their baby's needs may require adjustments in daily planning, including coordinating with dad and finding solutions to support breastfeeding while continuing to work.

Also read: Postpartum belly: how to pamper it?

Can make the baby addicted

Finally, breastfeeding is closely linked to the closeness between the baby and his mother. This can sometimes lead to a baby's dependence on his mother's presence to meet his nutritional and emotional needs. This is why it is recommended to breastfeed for the baby's first 6 months. Here is how this can manifest itself:

  • Need for constant proximity: Breastfed babies may develop a need for constant proximity to their mothers, as they naturally associate the mother with the source of their nourishment and comfort. This means that the baby may seek out the mother's presence more frequently than bottle-fed babies.
  • Difficulty for other family members: The baby's dependence on the mother may make it more difficult for other family members, including the partner or grandparents, to care for the baby. When the baby demands the mother for breastfeeding, it can create additional pressure on the mother to be constantly available.
  • Impact on the mother's freedom: This dependence can also have an impact on the mother's personal freedom. She may feel less free to be away or engage in activities outside the home because she knows the baby may need her at any time for breastfeeding.

It is important to note, however, that baby dependence is a natural feature of breastfeeding and can vary from baby to baby! Some babies are more dependent than others. This dependence can also change over time as the baby grows and develops the ability to self-soothe. So don't panic!

What alternatives are there if I do not want to breastfeed?

Do not panic ! Several solutions exist. Here they are :

Infant milk or formula milk:

Infant milk or formula milk represents an effective alternative to breastfeeding for feeding infants. These milks are specially formulated to imitate breast milk as closely as possible and meet the complex nutritional needs of babies. They contain a balance of essential nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, necessary for the healthy growth and development of an infant.

Formula manufacturers offer a variety of formulas to meet the specific needs of babies. For example, for infants who are intolerant or allergic to cow's milk proteins, there are hypoallergenic formulas. These formulas are designed to minimize the risk of allergic reactions. Other special formulas may be enriched with certain nutrients or adapted for premature babies.

It is essential to choose a formula adapted to the baby's age. Infant formulas are intended for the first few months of life, while follow-up formulas are designed for older babies and typically begin use around 6 months of age. These follow-up formulas can help with the transition to a more solid diet.

When choosing a formula, it is important to consult a pediatrician or healthcare professional. They can offer personalized advice based on each baby's individual health needs, ensuring the chosen diet promotes optimal growth and development.

Expressing milk:

Expressing your own milk is also an interesting option for mothers who cannot or do not wish to breastfeed directly, but who still want to provide breast milk for their baby. This method involves the use of a breast pump, either manual or electric, to extract milk which can then be saved and given to the baby at a later time.

This approach offers several advantages. First, it helps maintain the mother's milk production, ensuring a constant source of breast milk. Second, it provides flexibility, allowing other people to feed the baby, which, at the same time, gives the mother the opportunity to return to work or other activities while still providing breast milk. Additionally, breast milk retains most of its beneficial properties, including antibodies and essential nutrients for baby's development.

To optimize the storage and use of breast milk, it is important to follow proper storage guidelines, such as cooling or freezing, and to use sterilized containers for storage.

Combining breast milk and formula

The combination of breast milk and formula is also a very interesting mixed feeding strategy.

It is a flexible approach that combines the nutritional and immunological benefits of breast milk with the flexibility provided by the use of formula. For mothers who are having difficulty producing enough milk, returning to work, or experiencing physical challenges with breastfeeding, this method can offer a beneficial balance.

Mixed feeding can ease the baby's transition to formula, especially if exclusive breastfeeding is no longer possible. Importantly, this method can help prevent maternal burnout and help you manage busy schedules more easily.

When adopting this strategy, it is important to ensure that the baby tolerates both types of milk well and to follow the recommendations of a healthcare professional to balance the proportions of breast milk and formula. Parents should also be alert for signs of allergic reactions or digestive sensitivities, especially when initially introducing formula.

Also read: Hair loss after pregnancy: everything you need to know

Discover feedback from breastfeeding mothers

Sources:

https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/hs/pdf/fr/GensSante/IAB/FicheInformationSupportDesGrandsParents.pdf

https://www.pampers.fr/nouveau-ne/alimentation/article/alimentation-maternel-tous-les-avants

https://www.moselle.fr/upload/docs/application/pdf/2020-10/fiche_alimentation_.pdf

https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_1

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