The benefits of breast-feeding for both mums and babies are often seen as hard to overstate: Research suggests breast-fed infants will go on to have lower risks of developing health conditions like asthma and Type 2 diabetes, while other research shows that mums who breast-feed end up with a lower risk of certain types of breast cancer.
All of this is why experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and The American Academy of Paediatrics encourage new mothers to breast-feed their newborns exclusively for the first six months of life.
But while we're often told that "breast is best" — and while there are undoubtable benefits to breast-feeding — new research reveals that it may not actually lead to more intelligent children.
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, breast-feeding may not have very much impact when it comes to children's long-term cognitive development and behaviour.
The choice whether to breastfeed or not, then, comes down to the individual and what best suits them.
However if you do choose to breastfeed, it's important to know that while breastfeeding is a natural process, it's not always easy to figure out how to do it. “The most important thing for mums to know is that breast-feeding is difficult, and it is a learning process,” says Fahimeh Sasan, DO and assistant professor of Obstetrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. “For first-time mums, it can take several weeks to master the process.”
So if you’re having a hard time, don’t worry — you aren’t alone. We spoke to some experts to get some insight on what to expect, and some practical tips for making it easier.