As celebrations for National Breastfeeding Week have come to a close earlier this month (NBCW), we are keeping the celebratory ball rolling!
Here are my top 5 reasons why breast-milk is a super powerful substance and why it should be celebrated:
Save the Planet
Breast-milk is the most eco-friendly baby food imaginable! Just by sitting on the sofa and nursing your little one you are contributing to protecting our planet. There is no waste disposal, pollution, manufacturing, packaging, transporting or preparation involved in the production of breastmilk. In contrast, the consumption of formula results in 70,000 tonnes of metal waste from containers. That’s the equivalent to 5,500 double decker buses, and doesn’t even take into consideration bottles, sterilisers or teats!
My husband mocks me a lot for my passionate belief in the all healing powers of breastmilk that I relay to him on a daily basis. Baby has conjunctivitis? Squirt. Cradle cap? Squirt. Any sort of rash? Squirt. Blocked nose? Squirt. One of my fellow Breastfeeding Peer Supporters told us how she even managed to cure her husband’s sunburn by pouring expressed breastmilk onto his back whilst on holiday!
The medicinal powers of a mother’s milk are astonishing. Human milk is a living substance and as such adapts on a feed by feed basis according to the specific needs of your baby. At 12 months old your baby’s immune system is only operating at just over half that of an adult and doesn’t fully mature until around the age of six. Breastfeeding helps to protect your baby during this vulnerable period, as the immunological components of breastmilk actually increase in years two and three. Both the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend continued breastfeeding for at least two years. According to the 2016 Lancet, ‘the scaling up of breastfeeding to a near universal level could prevent 823, 000 annual deaths in children younger than 5 years.’ 
At night, ‘There is no such thing as infant sleep, there is no such thing as breastfeeding, there is only breastsleeping’. This super ability to nourish your child in between states of feeding and sleeping without really waking them (or better still, you) up at all! If this isn’t a superpower then I don’t know what is. The ability to induce sleep in an overtired baby is like a magical power within its own right. Our milk contains higher levels of melatonin in the evenings and during the night; nature’s way of helping sleep deprived mothers coax their little darlings back to sleep at 3am! Breastfeeding also has the power to stop tantrums, brings pain relief (perfect for teething babas), comfort and meets almost all of your baby’s needs. Breastfeeding is so much more than just milk.
Not only is breastmilk good for baby, it is also good for mum. Breastfeeding helps to protect mum’s health against developing osteoporosis, helps the uterus to return to a normal size after giving birth and can also help reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Best of all though is that breastfeeding reduces mother’s risk of developing breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers. How badass is breastmilk? In fact, for each year a mother breastfeeds she reduces her risk of breast cancer by around 4 per cent. This is very reassuring, if like me, you’re nursing into toddlerhood. Also, breastfeeding burns around 500 calories per day, so that’s like 30 minutes on a treadmill without even getting off the sofa!
Your breasts produce colostrum in early pregnancy and through to the first few days of breastfeeding. Colostrum is thicker and ranges in colour from yellow to orange and is the perfect first food for your baby. The first time a new-born feeds they only take a teaspoon, but this mighty substance is bursting with antibodies to protect precious new-borns from harmful bacteria and viruses, which is why colostrum is sometimes referred to as baby’s first vaccine. It’s high in protein, and low in fat and carbohydrates (having three times more protein than ‘mature’ breastmilk); making it extremely easy to digest. It is also a natural laxative that helps baby to excrete the meconium (yep, that black tarry poop that takes all new parents about half an hour to deal with). They don’t call it liquid gold for nothing!
The theme of this year’s NBCW is breastfeeding support. I believe the real nemesis to breastfeeding is misinformation and lack of support. This is why the sharing of accurate information, dispelling myths and supporting one another is the only way to defeat this nemesis. Together.
‘If a multinational company developed a product that was a nutritionally balanced and delicious food, a wonder drug that both prevented and treated disease, cost almost nothing to produce and could be delivered in quantities controlled by consumers’ needs, the announcement of this find would send its shares rocketing to the top of the stock market. The scientists who developed the product would win prizes and the wealth and influence of everyone involved would increase dramatically. Women have been producing such a miraculous substance, breast-milk, since the beginning of human existence, yet they form the least wealthy and the least powerful half of humanity.’ Gabrielle Palmer, The Politics of Breastfeeding.