The Benefits of Breastfeeding

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is nature’s perfect way of giving babies exactly what they need to thrive. Indeed, a mother’s milk is automatically tailored to suit the baby as it gets older, gradually adapting to the baby’s changing needs as they grow. That’s incredible when you think about it.

Breastfeeding has an enormous range of benefits to the baby — perhaps many more than most people realise. What’s more, breastfeeding is hugely beneficial to the mother too. In this article, we’ll explain the many benefits of breastfeeding in detail, so mums are well-informed, enabling easier decisions around breastfeeding and how long to continue it in a child’s early life.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Benefits to Baby

There are many benefits of breast milk for babiesBabies benefit enormously from breast milk; from simple, practical considerations to major health benefits, many of which continue to benefit them into adulthood. Let’s take a look:

  • Virtually every baby loves the taste of breast milk. That’s important.
  • Breastfeeding newborns passes important antibodies straight to the baby from its earliest age. What better way to counter viruses right from the outset.
  • Breast milk also contains important vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and even hormones. All of these help the infant’s development. Of particular note are the polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help with early brain development.
  • Statistics suggest that babies are less likely to develop asthma and allergic rhinitis if they have been breastfed for at least the first 3 months.
  • They’re also less likely to develop childhood leukaemia if they have been breastfed for at least 6 months.
  • Historical data also suggests that children suffer less from food allergies, eczema and wheezing if they have been breastfed.
  • Incidences of ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infection are lower amongst breastfed children, as are cases of diarrhoea.
  • Breastfeeding reduces the incidences of children developing Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC) or dying from SADS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • As we mentioned in our introduction, breast milk adapts and changes to suit the precise needs of the baby as it grows older. That’s true tailoring for babies, in its most natural, healthy form.
  • As its taste also adapts, the infant gets used to more flavours, ready for weaning onto solids, usually at any time from the age of 6 months.

Benefits to Mum

Mothers also benefit from breastfeedingBreastfeeding also has a range of significant health (and other) benefits for mothers. These include:

  • A lower risk of developing obesity or Type 2 Diabetes;
  • A lower risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer;
  • A lower risk of developing osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease;
  • A faster return of the uterus to its normal size;
  • A swift and closer bond between mother and baby;
  • The faster return of the menstrual cycle (potentially useful for family planning considerations).

Additional Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breast milk is free, so is also a money-saver! It can also be given to baby pretty much anywhere, any time, quickly and without the need for special equipment or preparation.

Breastfed milk also helps the planet, of course. After all, there’s no packaging to dispose of, no carbon footprint caused by manufacturing or shipping/delivery pollutants and no greenhouse gas-producing dairy herds involved in its production. It’s the greenest food out there, when you think about it!

Breast milk is as natural as natural gets!

The big one, though, is that breast milk is as natural as natural gets! This unique, tailored infant food is free of added colourings, artificial ingredients, E numbers and dairy products and indeed actively helps children to be more physiologically resistant to allergens and diseases. And there is no formula milk on the planet that adapts itself so perfectly as breast milk, totally naturally and automatically, when it comes to the precise needs of a growing child.

Baby Milk at Little Cedars Nursery

We're happy to feed infants breast or formula milk at Little Cedars Nursery in StreathamThe childcare professionals at Little Cedars Nursery are keen to fall in with the wishes of parents when it comes to baby and infant milk. To that end, parents are free to supply breast milk or formula milk, as preferred, for children under our care. When doing so, we recommend use of cool bags for this purpose, along with clear labelling, so we can match the right milk with the right infant.

If parents elect to supply formula milk instead, they do not need to make it up as our childcare staff can freshly mix and prepare it as needed, at appropriate times during the day.

Nursing mums also have access to a private space in which to feed their child at the nursery, whenever needed.

A Place for your Baby, Toddler or Preschooler in our Streatham Nursery

Little Cedars is a nursery in Streatham, SW16, and is convenient for families in Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is an outstanding nursery in Streatham, London SW16. Contact us if you are looking for a high quality nursery near you, close to Furzedown, Tooting or Balham, SW16. To learn more about the childcare setting and to explore the possibility of a place for your baby or child, please select a button below to make contact with us.

Rough Guide to Weaning

Rough Guide to Weaning

The Cambridge Dictionary defines weaning as “the act or process of causing a baby or young animal to stop feeding on its mother’s milk and to start eating other food.” It’s all about babies moving from a liquid, milk-only diet to a more varied diet that includes “solid” foods (albeit usually mashed or blended initially). Parents can make the transition to solid foods stress-free and fun if they follow a few simple tipsAlso known as complimentary feeding, weaning is an important milestone for any parent or baby and usually occurs when the baby reaches the age of about 6 months. Sometimes babies simply tire of milk and weaning thereby comes naturally. In other cases, a baby needs a bit more encouragement to make their transition towards solids. Here, we’ll explore the whole topic of weaning in more detail, including ways parents can help to make the transition smoothly and stress-free for all parties.

How to Help the Weaning Process

First off, parents must realise that weaning is a gradual process i.e. there is a period of overlap where baby continues to drink milk and starts eating other foods. Usually, he or she will gradually eat a greater proportion of solids and less and less milk as time goes by, as opposed to suddenly changing from one to the other in one huge leap. So, weaning is a process, not a single step.

Moving to solid food can be exciting, surprising, confusing, hideous or anything in between for the baby. The world of textured food and new flavours is a whole new experience for baby; each mouthful can represent an explosion of new flavours, textures and adventure. This can be wonderful, or sometimes troubling to the child, depending on the individual and, of course, the tastes and textures involved. Therefore, starting slowly with tiny steps is fine; it’s OK if the baby does not want to eat much at first. They’ll gradually catch on as they get used to this brand new concept.

It’s OK if the baby does not want to eat much solid food at first. They’ll gradually catch on as they get used to this brand new concept.

Weaning should be fun for the infant!Weaning should be fun and it’s also the only time in a child’s life where they won’t have any preconceived ideas about what foods they “do or don’t like”. So, parents can experiment, within reason of course. It’s a time when introducing new foods to the baby comes naturally once the baby has caught on to the idea of this new experience.

Remember that the baby will take a few tries before they perfect the art of eating solid foods, so they may unwittingly push some food out again at first. Until now, they have only been used to breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle, so pushing food out their mouths initially may not mean that they don’t like what you’re feeding them. Give it another try. You’ll be able to ‘read’ their facial expressions anyway. Those are the real giveaway as to whether they enjoy a particular food, or find it repulsive. Their reactions can also be the cause of much laughter!

Tips For Weaning Success

There are several additional things parents can do to make weaning a success. Here are a few tips:

  • Toddlers need to be able to hold their heads up unaided, with good coordination, before they should be weanedDon’t rush it; set aside some time with baby so it’s relaxed, otherwise everyone can get stressed, especially initially.
  • Don’t try to wean them off breast milk too soon either. It’s the very best food for them during their first 6 months, for sure. You can learn more in our separate article all about the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother.
  • Don’t try to wean your baby until it’s physiologically ready. That means they need to be able to hold their own head up when in a seated position, they need to be able to swallow food successfully and they need to have good coordination between eyes, hands and mouth.
  • Is baby tired? Don’t try introducing them to solid foods right now if so. Wait until they’re wide awake and full of energy otherwise they simply won’t want to cooperate.
  • Purée (i.e. finely blend or mash) the foods, mashing them particularly well at the start of the weaning process. That way the solid foods are more like liquids, so will be less of a surprise to the baby bearing in mind they’ve only had milk up until this point. Try mashing ripe apples, bananas, pears and other soft fruits, then feeding them to baby with a weaning teaspoon (these are softer and more gentle in babies’ mouths). Try mashing cooked vegetables too, for example cauliflower, potato, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, carrots and so on. Suitably cooled down for safety, of course. All of these can make a very good purée that’ll slip down easily if the baby warms to the taste.
  • Offer baby just a little initially. They’ll soon let you know if they would like more. If they’re not convinced, demonstrate yourself eating a little bit and showing that you’re enjoying it.
  • Initially, you can follow a little bit of food up with a milk feed. This is a great way to introduce them slowly to solids.
  • Once they’re taking food from you, help them feed themselves either by hand or with a teaspoon (let them copy you). The skill of feeding themselves sometimes comes quite quickly but for others it can take more time.
  • Don’t worry if baby makes a mess. It’s natural at first and not something they should concentrate on initially. The important part is that the baby is beginning to try new foods, so you don’t want to distract from that. Coaching baby to be more tidy with their eating can come a bit later, after they’ve mastered the process of eating purées, mashed food and perhaps gone on to more solid food. A clean, plastic or pelican bib will help in the interim.
  • Infants can move on to finger-sized food that they can feed themselvesYou can later move on to whole, (adult) finger-sized pieces of very soft fruits that baby can learn to hold. However, do read the Health & Safety Considerations section below before moving to un-mashed foods.
  • Remember that babies may need to taste new foods multiple times before they accept them, so don’t give up if they first reject them. Try again another time and don’t ever force them to eat. If they turn their head away or clamp their mouth shut, they’ve had enough for now.
  • Avoid distractions for the baby at feeding times. So, remove phones, tablets, computers, toys and TVs at meal times. The baby needs to concentrate during this new eating experience.
  • Don’t expect a regular pattern; sometimes babies will eat more, other times less. A milk bottle will, for many, represent a comforter as well as a source of sustenance, so don’t be surprised if they prefer milk to solids when they’re feeling under-par or tired.

Huge care needs to be taken to avoid giving infants anything that’s going to represent a potential choking hazard.

Health & Safety Considerations

  • It goes without saying that food should be given to babies and infants at a suitable temperature. So, ensure that boiled vegetables, for example, are sufficiently cooled. Try them first yourself to make sure.
  • All eating sessions should be supervised by a parent or responsible adultHuge care needs to be taken to avoid giving infants anything that’s going to represent a potential choking hazard. Whole grapes, cherry tomatoes or anything else of a similar size would be examples of this as they are perfectly sized to block a baby’s airway if not first chopped up. Also avoid anything hard like nuts, raw vegetables or un-mashed apple and ensure that any pips/seeds/stones are removed from fruit and bones are removed from fish or meat.
  • Close adult supervision is always needed when infants are eating, particularly when they’re in the weaning process and don’t yet fully know what they’re doing.
  • Consult your GP or health visitor about weaning if your child was born prematurely.
  • Don’t add extra sugar or salt to your baby’s food, including during the cooking process. Avoid salty foods because salt is dangerous to babies. Avoid sugar because it can lead to a sweet tooth and that has many negative implications including tooth decay, weight issues, etc.
  • Food hygiene is, of course, essential during food preparation and while the child is eating. So ensure that hands, faces, plates, spoons, cups and surfaces (etc.) are clean.
  • Part of that is ensuring that the food itself is hygienic so, for example, fruit and vegetables must be washed. If serving raw fruit/veg, ensure they’re also peeled. If using eggs within baby foods, ensure they are stamped with the red ‘British Lion Code of Practice’ lion (to denote a low salmonella risk) and it’s safest if they are never served raw.
  • As babies are weaned off breast or formula milk, parents need to ensure that they are still benefiting from a balanced and varied diet. That’s true whether they are being brought up as meat eaters, vegetarians or vegans. Additional supplements may need to be considered for vegan diets, which may be low in vitamin B12, for example. GPs, health professionals and/or dieticians should certainly be consulted for advice before deciding to cut out dairy products from children’s diets, including milk once they are no longer taking breast milk or the recommended infant formula milk alternative up to the age of one. The NHS has more information about vegetarian and vegan diets for children here.
  • The NHS recommends that children aged between 6 months and 5 years of age take suitable Vitamin A, C and D supplements daily although babies drinking at least a pint of ‘first infant formula’ milk do not need the supplements as they’re included in the milk already.
  • Extreme care is needed by parents in relation to possible allergens. For this reason, it’s best to introduce only tiny amounts of possible allergens in the first instance, one at a time, so any adverse reaction can be spotted early. After all, this is the first time the baby is going to have eaten these new foods. The most common allergens are nuts, eggs, gluten, fish and cows’ milk. If in doubt or concerned about allergic reactions, consult your health worker or GP and, of course, call an ambulance immediately if your baby does have an adverse reaction to anything.

Going Forwards

By the age of 7 to 12 months, most babies will have transitioned to taking in 3 meals a day, along with their milk perhaps 4 times a day (reducing to 3 times a day at a year old). The ratio of solids to milk will then gradually decrease as the weeks go by. By the time they’re 12 months or older, they can also have two healthy snacks between meals.

Iron can be sought from fortified cereal, fish, milk, dark green vegetables, lentils and beans.Always try to maintain a varied diet for the infant, so they get all the vitamins and nutrients they need as they intake less and less milk. Ensure the foods contain sufficient iron, which can be sought from fortified cereal, fish, milk, dark green vegetables, lentils and beans. Giving them finger foods to hold and eat themselves is a great way to encourage them to feed themselves (under supervision, of course). As they grow older they can be encouraged to eat at the family table with parents/siblings and eventually upskill to using cutlery, along with eventually learning the rules around good table manners etc.

More information, including the types of food and milk that infants and toddlers can/should be having, can be found here.

We hope that you found our Rough Guide to Weaning useful. If so, please do feel free to share it on social media (copy this link) or to bookmark it for future reference.

A Streatham Nursery, Near Furzedown, Tooting & Balham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is a high quality pre-school and nursery in Streatham. If you’re looking for nurseries near Furzedown, Tooting or Balham, it’s very close by, so may also suit you if you live or work in those areas. To find out more about the nursery and the high quality childcare on offer for babies and children up to 5, please get in touch using one of the buttons below.

FREE Food, Milk & Vitamins! A Guide to the Healthy Start Scheme

FREE Food, Milk & Vitamins! A Guide to the Healthy Start Scheme

Healthy eating is also yummy!Are you pregnant, or a parent with a child under four? If so, your family may be eligible for free healthy food, milk and vitamin supplements. In England, some of these free items are available under the ‘Healthy Start’ scheme, which we’ll explain in this quick-start guide.

At time of writing, the free items are available through vouchers that can be redeemed in any of the 21,000 or so physical shops, supermarkets and pharmacies that have signed up to accept them. Each voucher is currently worth £3.10 and you can get 1 every week if you are pregnant or have a child aged between 1 and 4 years of age, or 2 vouchers per week if your child is under 1.

LATEST UPDATE: the NHS has also begun testing a new alternative where money is paid into your account instead of supplying vouchers. This beta test is running right now, on an invitation-only basis via a letter from the NHS. Hopefully it’ll be rolled out country-wide if successful. If so, it could cure the current issue whereby vouchers cannot be used to pay for food, vitamins and milk online. Clearly, that’s a significant issue in view of the pandemic and the move to shopping more online.

So, what free stuff can you get?

Vouchers are redeemable in thousands of shops, supermarkets & pharmaciesEligible individuals can get the following, absolutely free:

  • Cow’s milk;
  • Infant formula milk;
  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Pulses;
  • Free vitamin supplements for breastfeeding mums;
  • Free vitamin drops for young children (6 months to 4 years).

Free milk

This must be plain cow’s milk that’s also pasteurised, sterilised, UHT or long-life.

  • It can be skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole milk.
  • It can’t be flavoured, coloured, evaporated, condensed, powdered (except for infant formula milk), sold as a milkshake, vitamin-enriched or have anything else added to it.
  • It can’t be anything other than cow’s milk, for example soya milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, goat or sheep’s milk etc.).

Free infant formula milk

Fruit, vegetables & milkThe infant formula milk:

  • must state that it’s a nutritionally complete stage one formula milk that’s suitable for use from birth.
  • mustn’t be ‘follow-on’ milk.
  • must be based on cow’s milk. You can’t get formula milk based on soya milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, goat’s milk etc.

Free fruit & vegetables

The free fruit and vegetables:

  • can include any that are fresh, frozen or tinned.
  • can include any that are supplied loose, packaged, sliced, chopped, mixed, whole or supplied in water.
  • can include fruit in fruit juice.
  • can’t include any that have had fat, oil, salt, sugar or flavouring added.
  • can’t include any that have been dried, pre-cooked or made into things like smoothies.

Free pulses

The pulses, including things like lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas:

  • can include any that are fresh, dried or tinned.
  • can’t include any that have had fat, oil, salt, sugar or flavouring added.

Free vitamin supplements

Free vitamin supplements for pregnant women and children aged up to 4 years oldThese free vitamin supplements are important for pregnant women, breastfeeding mums, babies and young children because many are deficient in them at this stage in their lives.

For children aged up to 4, they are in drop form and contain vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D. They are suitable for vegetarians and do not contain milk, eggs, gluten, soya or peanuts. Each bottle should last for 8 weeks. Note that children who are consuming 500ml per day of nutritionally complete formula milk do not need the additional vitamin supplements.

For pregnant women and nursing mums, the supplements are in tablet form and contain vitamin C, vitamin D and folic acid. They are suitable for vegetarians and vegans and do not contain colouring, flavouring or preservatives. They also contain no gluten, wheat, salt, egg or fish. Eligible mothers are supplied with 8 weeks’ worth of tablets at a time.

The vitamin supplements are distributed to stockists by the NHS and are ‘Healthy Start’ branded. Only this brand is available free under the Healthy Start scheme.

Eligibility

Families can save a little on their shopping bills with Healthy Start couponsIn order to be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers, you need:

  • to be 10 or more weeks’ pregnant and/or
  • to have 1 or more children under 4.

Eligibility also requires that you must* be in receipt of at least one of the following:

  • Income Support;
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance;
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance;
  • Pension Credit;
  • Universal Credit (only for families earning £408 each month, or less, from employment);
  • Working Tax Credit (only for families receiving the 4 week ‘run-on’ payment after they’ve stopped qualifying for it);
  • Child Tax Credit (only for families with an income of £16,190 or less per annum).
    * Except if you’re under 18.

How to apply for the vouchers

Currently, most people need to apply for Healthy Start vouchers, by filling in an application form. Download the application form here, print it out and fill it in. It will also need to be signed by your registered doctor, health visitor, midwife or health professional. Then it will need to be posted (free) to the following address:

The Healthy Start scheme means free food, milk & vitamins for families

Freepost RRTR-SYAE-JKCR
Healthy Start Issuing Unit
PO Box 1067
Warrington
WA55 1EG

Call the Healthy Start helpline if you have any queries (0345 607 6823).

Childcare services in Streatham, London SW16

We hope that this guide is useful to pregnant ladies and parents of babies or under-fives. We are an outstanding nursery in Streatham, London SW16, offering exceptionally high quality childcare services for babies, toddlers and preschoolers within this age group. If you’d like to learn more about our nursery, please call 020 8677 9675 or send us a message here. We’ll answer any questions and would be happy to book you in for a nursery visit if you are considering a nursery place here for your baby or child. We’re convenient for those looking for nurseries near Streatham Hill, Streatham Common, Streatham Park, Upper Tooting, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown & Balham.