Parents of babies born this year are being advised that breastfeeding is one of the best ways to build a baby’s immune system and keep them healthy now and in the future.
Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Strategic Breastfeeding Lead Jane Dickens says: “Breastfeeding may be a technique as old as the human race itself, but mum’s milk is packed full of antibodies which help protect your baby from illnesses. Some of the benefits of breast milk last for life – but right now, breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do to offer your baby protection from infection.”
Every breast feed is of benefit, but even just a few feeds help to boost a baby’s immune system. Colostrum, or first milk, given to a baby in the first few days of life, is especially beneficial. And whether or not a mother is able to continue to breastfeed, developing a loving interaction through close contact is important for both mum and baby’s wellbeing.
Jane explains: “The theme for this year’s Baby Week Bradford (9-13 November) led by Better Start Bradford, is ‘Why Wellbeing Matters’. Wellbeing combines physical and emotional aspects. Whether you breast feed or not, being close to your baby with skin-to-skin contact and a loving interaction is really important.
“It helps your baby relax and supports building healthy brain pathways. It also helps you to bond and build a relationship together. It’s good for you and your baby’s mental health and emotionally beneficial for both of you too.”
Jane is keen to point out that during the current pandemic, mums can be reassured that even if they are COVID-19 positive they can breastfeed. She says: “There is no evidence a baby can become infected with COVID-19 from their mum’s milk. In fact, there’s some evidence that mum’s body will make antibodies to protect her baby against COVID-19. So, if you are a mum with COVID-19, keeping baby close is as important as ever – just wear a face covering and practice hand hygiene as normal.”
Local services to help with mums are still available even during lockdown. Health visitors can be contacted Monday to Friday on 01274 221223, or for tips, techniques and encouragement from mums who’ve been there, Bradford Breastfeeding Buddies offer a virtual support group on a Tuesday and Friday, or a 1-2-1 video call. If you need support in a language other than English, Better Start Bradford’s Breastfeeding team offers telephone and email support and advice in several languages.
For lots of useful, reliable, NHS information on feeding, caring for a crying baby, safe sleep, a baby’s development and much more visit Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust’s Family Health services’ website ‘Better lives, healthy futures’. Bradford Council’s website also has helpful information about infant feeding.
Jane is keen to emphasize that local mums should always seek help if they need it. “Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but it doesn’t always come naturally – many new mums need help. If you have worries or concerns about breastfeeding or bottle feeding, or anything else concerning your baby, then please pick up the phone. In this lockdown and beyond, all our services are very much #StillHereToHelp – we’re just using the phone and modern technology to deliver them.”