The benefits of breastfeeding range from the emotional, physical and psychological for both you and your child. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exclusive breastfeeding is recommended to be carried out up to six months of age, and if possible, continued up till two years of age along with other appropriate complementary foods.
Breastfeeding is a personal choice. It is an experience which strengthens the emotional bond between both mother and child. However, it is by no means a walk in the park. Importantly, breastfeeding may not be an option for every woman due to certain personal or medical reasons. It is always recommended that you consult your doctor if you have any questions regarding a health-related issue.
The benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Breastfeeding is a good way of providing your baby with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Breast milk provides your child with the ideal mix of vitamins, protein and fat – everything they need to grow, in an easily digestible formula. So, no need to stress over measuring cups and specific ratios!
Breastfeeding has been linked to:
1) Better immune systems – Breast milk contains natural antibodies and hormones which help to protect your baby against viruses and bacteria. Early breast milk – colostrum – is the thick and yellowish milk which is produced just after birth and it is high in carbohydrates and protein. Colostrum is high in immunoglobulin A antibodies, which help protect the surface of your baby’s throat, lungs and intestines. In addition to colostrum, breast milk contains special components known as growth modulators which can help your baby’s digestive system adjust to food.
A University of Illinois study has found that the composition of breast milk adjusts as your baby grows, thereby adapting to the nutritional needs of your child at each stage. In the long run, this means a stronger immune system and a better ability to fend off health problems such as food allergies and asthma.
2) Fewer cases of infection, illness and diarrhea – With breastfeeding, there is also a lower risk of introducing bacteria into your baby’s system via improperly-sterilized feeding bottles. This benefit brings with it fewer trips to the doctor apart from the regular check-ups. So, less stress for mother and child, great news for the whole family.
3) Better weight gain – In addition to gaining the correct amount of weight, a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that breastfeeding may reduce the likelihood of babies being overweight in later childhood.
What about the benefits of breastfeeding to mom?
Every mom out there will know that breastfeeding can take more than a little effort, especially in the beginning! From figuring out the best position for breastfeeding to knowing whether or not your child has had enough milk, these questions are a separate blog post altogether. However, many moms acknowledge that breastfeeding is a great way to relax quietly with your child and strengthen the beautiful emotional bond between mother and child, and that in itself is priceless.
One concern among many moms out there is, “How do I get back in shape after pregnancy?” Well guess what, in addition to exercise, breastfeeding’s got that covered too! Breastfeeding can help moms:
1) Lose pregnancy weight – Breastfeeding burns calories and this of course helps you lose your pregnancy weight faster.
2) Get back in shape from within – Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps to return your uterus to its pre-pregnancy size and also reduce the risk of uterine bleeding after birth. Oxytocin is an important hormone in our bodies and plays a key role during labor and childbirth. Specifically, this is the hormone that causes the contractions during the second and third stages of labor. On a lighter note, oxytocin is also known as the “love hormone” as it is linked to feelings of contentment, calmness and security.
3) Stay healthier in the long run – Medical research has shown that breastfeeding is linked to short- and long-term health benefits. One large study published in Psychological Medicine reported that mothers who breastfed were less likely to develop postpartum depression. In addition, data from the long-term Nurses Health Study has shown that women who breast feed for at least 12 months over the course of their life may reduce their risk of developing arthritis by 20 percent. Breastfeeding may also benefit your heart, and has been linked to a reduction in hypertension and heart disease.
So, we’ve laid out the facts. There are clear benefits of breastfeeding to both you and your child, but there are also many challenges. Ultimately, the choice of how to feed your child lies with you, as the saying goes, “Mother knows best!”
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.