Welcome to stage two of the SMA 5-Stage plan to infant feeding. More than three-quarters of a million babies are born every year in the UK. And with every new life starts a new journey. This module will help you to provide an important infant feeding service that development supports parents on their journey. Future modules will look at everything from category management to staff training, but first, here are some essential facts and figures.
Breastfeeding is universally acknowledged to be the best way to feed a baby, as well as being the best form of nutrition for newborn babies. This is why the Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (26 weeks) of an infant’s life.
This advice is based on solid evidence gathered from numerous studies from around the world, which have found that breastfeeding has many health benefits.1 For instance, breastfed babies have enhanced immune system function and are less likely to develop:
• Gastric, respiratory and urinary tract infections
• Obesity in later childhood
• Type 1 diabetes in childhood
• Atopic diseases like eczema.
There are benefits for mums, too. For example:
• Breastfeeding mums are less likely to develop pre-menopausal breast cancer
• They are more likely to return to their pre- pregnancy weight
• Resumption of their menstrual cycle is delayed
• Breastfeeding is convenient and free
• Breastfeeding also helps to reinforce bonding.
Many mums will be grateful for support in helping them to continue breastfeeding. The following contacts will be able to tell them about local support groups and provide additional advice:
• National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212 / www.nationalbreastfeedinghelpline.org.uk
• Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: 0300 330 5453 / www.abm.me.uk
• La Leche League GB: 0845 120 2918 / www.laleche.org.uk
Some mums may want to feed their baby using a combination of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding (with expressed breast milk or formula milk). This type of ‘combination’ feeding can be particularly useful if mums are returning to work or to enable someone else to feed the baby.
Combination feeding is best introduced when breastfeeding is well established (usually at around six weeks). Combination feeding is a growing trend. But mums should be aware that introducing partial bottle-feeding may have a negative effect on breastfeeding and that reversing a decision not to breastfeed is difficult.
The first 1,000 days – from conception until a toddler’s second birthday – have now been identified as having more influence on a child’s future than any other time in his or her life. This underlines why correct nutrition in infancy is so important. This is the period of greatest growth in the human brain, and a child’s developmental score at 22 months can serve as an accurate predictor of their educational outcome at 26 years.