I’m hungry: The lowdown on breastfeeding your baby

If your baby is smacking or licking their lips, opening and closing their mouth or sucking on their lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes, toys or clothing, it’s a sure sign that it’s dinner time.1

Breast or bottle feeding is a very personal choice

If you’re able to breastfeed, there are many benefits for both mother and baby including helping to reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancers, promoting sensory and cognitive development, and protecting the infant against infections and boosting their immune system.2 However, breastfeeding is not easy and many women can experience unwanted side effects ranging from fatigue to fever and mastitis. If you’re aiming to give breastfeeding a try, there are helpful tips on techniques here and your doctor or a lactation specialist may be able to provide support.

But, breastfeeding isn’t an option for every new mother

If this is your situation, commercial infant formula is the only suitable alternative. These formulas have been developed to contain similar nutrition to breastmilk – and contains essential nutrients and vitamins your baby needs until you introduce solids at around six months. It’s important to remember that babies under 12 months should not be fed regular, low-fat or skim cow’s milk, evaporated or powdered milk, sweetened condensed milk, or cereal, nut and legume-based alternatives like rice, soy or almond milks.3

Breastmilk contains all your baby's nutritional needs for their first six months4

It satisfies both hunger and thirst and increases your baby's resistance to infection and disease.5 It also helps develop your baby’s eyes, brain and jaw development and helps protect your baby while their immune system is still developing.6

Make sure you remember your own nutrition too

Life with a new baby is demanding, emotional and tiring. And if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll be burning up a lot of energy – and the right foods and nutrition are essential; especially protein and calcium-rich foods. And keep a water bottle handy – expect to drink at least up to two litres a day.7 If you’re unsure you’re meeting your nutritional needs while breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare professional about the right supplements to support your health.

  • Iron – pregnancy and breastfeeding also zap your iron stores so replenish with red meat, chicken, fish, legumes, nuts, wholegrain bread and cereals and green leafy vegetables8
  • Vitamin C – citrus and tropical fruits, berries, tomatoes, capsicum and potatoes9
    Vitamin A in broccoli, carrots and pumpkin are all powerful foods to give your diet the support through breastfeeding10
  • Vitamin B12 – is essential for your baby's brain development and largely found in animal products. Consider supplementing, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan so it's difficult to get enough in vegetarian diets.11
  • Vitamin D – if you don't eat enough vitamin D-fortified foods like cow's milk and some cereals and cover up from the sun, you may need to supplement to ensure your baby absorbs calcium and phosphorus.12 Your baby gets their Vitamin D from your breastmilk in the early months.
  • Iodine – research suggests Australian women don’t get enough iodine in their diets at this time14 so speak to your doctor about appropriate levels of supplementation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – supports a healthy nervous system and brain development in your baby
  • Choline – is also integral to your baby’s brain development16

Calcium, zinc, magnesium and selenium supplementation may also be beneficial too. The most important things is to ensure you look after your own nutrition and wellbeing at this time – for you and your baby whether they’re being breast-fed or not. Your medical practitioner can advise you on the best supplements to ensure both of you are in optimal health.

References available on request

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