Breastfeeding is the perfect healthy start for a baby, that will last a lifetime. Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is the feeding of babies and young children with milk from a woman's breast. It not only has many health benefits for the baby but also helps the mother and the family.
Breastfeeding is highly recommended and should start within the first hour of a baby's life. It can be continued up to 2 years of age. In the early days of breastfeeding, a newborn baby primarily gets colostrum, a thick liquid rich in antibodies in the breast milk.
However, currently, there is a growing trend across the world, in which mothers are preferring not to breastfeed the babies. They are instead opting for instant formulas (top feed). This is certainly wrong and can prove to be harmful to the baby’s health. Deciding not to breastfeed can also have detrimental effects on the mother’s health.
Infant formulas can be hard for the baby, especially for the premature ones, to digest. It is claimed that a mother’s breast milk is more nutritious and a better option. In this article, we will look at the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, their mothers, and the family.
Benefits of Breastfeeding For Babies
Breast milk (also known as mother's milk, is the milk produced by mammary glands located in the breast of a human female) contains healthy bacteria, antibodies, white blood cells, antimicrobials, cell wall protectors, immunoglobulins, proteins, enzymes and, hormones that protect babies from illnesses. It also helps them fight a variety of commonly occurring diseases.
It is easily digested and does not lead to constipation, diarrhea, or upset stomach in babies.
Breastfeeding ensures that babies get enough nutrients for their growing brains.
Breast milk is a living fluid that contains germ-killing substances. The live bacteria moderates and flourishes the healthy gut flora of a baby.
Incidence of diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infection is far lesser in exclusively breastfed babies. Babies do not need anything else to eat or drink for the first 6 months if, given adequate and liberal breast milk.
Breastfeeding creates a healthy bond between the mother and the baby. It provides a secure and safe feeling to the babies. Additionally, breastfed babies grow emotionally well.
Breastfeeding protects babies from asthma to some extent. The occurrence and severity of asthma in children and adults who were breastfed in their infancy is less.
Breastfeeding protects babies from obesity. Studies claim that breastfeeding can cut the chances of a child becoming obese by up to 25%. Breastfed babies are also less likely to get diabetes in their adulthood.
Health Benefits For The Breastfeeding Mother
Breastfeeding has some real benefits for moms. Apart from physical health benefits, there is also an emotional satisfaction attached to breastfeeding.
It helps in weight loss. Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding helps mothers lose weight gained during pregnancy. Breastfeeding typically helps a woman burn about 500 to 700 calories per day, thus, aiding post-pregnancy weight loss.
Breastfeeding prevents and lowers the risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, or ovarian cancer in mothers, in the future.
Breastfeeding is good for the mother’s heart. It lowers the risk of hypertension and heart diseases.
Most mothers experience emotional fulfillment and joy while nursing their babies. This is due to the release of hormones such as prolactin which produces a peaceful, nurturing sensation that allows the mom to relax and focus on the child, and oxytocin which promotes a strong sense of love and attachment between the two of them.
Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of Postpartum Depression (PPD) in new moms. PPD is the depression that occurs in mothers after childbirth, characterized by feelings of sadness, fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty in sleeping, and trouble bonding with their babies.
How Does Breastfeeding Benefit the Family?
Breastfeeding saves money. Infant formula milk/food is very costly, especially in developing countries. Opting for the latter can add financial stress to the family. Also, babies that are breastfed may fall sick less often, which can help keep the baby's healthcare (treatment and hospitalizations) costs lower.
It saves time for the mother and the family. When the baby is hungry or crying, it is easier to breastfeed than to get up and prepare formula milk. This comes in handy, especially at night.
Breastfeeding does not generate waste. Formula cans and bottle supplies create more trash and plastic waste that is harmful to the environment.
Preparing formula milk needs hygienic conditions which are difficult for a large number of families to follow and maintain.
Every baby is unique, so is a mother. Remember, the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond infancy. Talking to a gynaecologist/paediatrician will help understand breastfeeding better.
Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.