This August is World Breastfeeding Week. Breastmilk provides essential nutrients, boosts the immune system, and lowers the risk of infections and chronic diseases.

It helps mothers with post-birth recovery, reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and promotes bonding with the baby. Breastfeeding also requires no special equipment and costs nothing.

How does breastfeeding compare to formula feeding?

Breast milk is a natural and complete source of nutrition for infants. It provides a balanced combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals tailored to meet a baby’s specific needs at each stage of development.

Breast milk also contains antibodies, immune cells, and other bioactive substances that protect the baby from infections and support the development of the immune system.

Infant formula attempts to mimic the nutritional composition of breast milk, but it is not identical. Although formula manufacturers try to provide a balanced mix of nutrients, formula cannot replicate the dynamic and personalised components found in breast milk. Breast is best!

What are the health outcomes for babies?

Breastfed infants have a reduced risk of infections, respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal disorders, and certain chronic diseases, like obesity and diabetes. Breastfeeding has also been linked to better cognitive development and lower rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

It also fosters bonding and emotional attachment. The skin-to-skin contact and interaction during breastfeeding help create a strong parent-child relationship.

It is also convenient! No preparation or sterilisation is needed. And it is free of charge.

What are the common challenges surrounding breastfeeding?

There are a few issues that can make it difficult for mothers and babies to breastfeed. These are very common and include latching issues, sore or cracked nipples, and concerns about milk supply.

In some cases, formula feeding can provide adequate nutrition for the baby’s growth and development.

Ultimately, the choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding depends on the mother’s circumstances, personal preferences, and what is best for the baby’s health and well-being.

Different breastfeeding experiences

Sarah

Sarah, a first-time mother, struggled with latch issues, sore nipples, and loads of frustration.

With the help of a lactation consultant, Sarah learned proper positioning and techniques, and her daughter gradually improved her latch.

“I wanted to give up and put her on the bottle,” said Sarah.

Despite the initial difficulties, Sarah persisted, and within a few weeks, breastfeeding became a beautiful, bonding experience with baby Ava.

”I’m so glad I kept trying. It’s easy now and free. Plus I can breastfeed anywhere. I don’t need to wash bottles and sterilise equipment.” 

Emily

Emily joined a local breastfeeding support group shortly after the birth of her twins. At first, she felt overwhelmed by the demands of feeding two babies.

However, the support group provided a safe space to share her experiences, seek advice, and connect with other twin mums facing similar challenges.

“I was stressed to the max. We all were. But it was also completely hilarious.”

The group’s camaraderie and encouragement made a significant difference in Emily’s confidence and ability to successfully breastfeed both her babies.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of other mums of twins.”

Michael and Jo

Michael’s wife Jo returned to work when their baby was six months old.

Jo decided to use a breast pump to express milk for their baby each morning. That way, Michael,  who became the primary caregiver, was able to bottle-feed the milk to their little son and experience an opportunity to lovingly nurture him.

“I’m so grateful to Jo for letting me do this,” said Michael. “And Jo was really missing her work so she’s happier too.”

Where breastfeeding help is available

Antenatal Education: During pregnancy, mothers can attend antenatal classes where they receive information and guidance on breastfeeding techniques, benefits, and challenges.

Hospital Support: In hospitals and birthing centers, healthcare professionals, including midwives and lactation consultants, offer immediate postnatal support to new mothers. They assist with latching, positioning, and other breastfeeding techniques to ensure a successful start to breastfeeding.

Community Health Clinics: New mothers can access community health clinics where lactation support and advice are available. These clinics provide ongoing assistance for any breastfeeding challenges that may arise.

Private Lactation Consultants offer specialised support. They can be privately hired to provide personalised assistance for any breastfeeding difficulties.

For more information

For more information on breastfeeding, you can contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association. There is a Central Coast Breastfeeding Association, which offers a non-judgemental space for all families. They also offer evidence-based information, as well as support and friendship.

Child and Family Health Nursing Services provides parenting groups and drop in clinics throughout the central coast.

Read up on Australia’s National Breastfeeding Strategy


This article is general health information only and doesn’t take your personal medical situation into account. Speak with your doctor at Narara Valley Medical for personalised advice or referrals.