After childbirth, many women face two major decisions when it comes to taking care of their infants – breastfeed or just use formula milk. Many modern women avoid breastfeeding due to various factors namely tight working schedules, social prejudice, lack of knowledge about breastfeeding, insufficient milk secretion, etc.
While any decision might seem good or bad, only a mother knows what’s best for her and her baby. However, several health organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, Health Canada and American Academy of Pediatrics have been encouraging breastfeeding for decades and continue to promote breast milk as the best food for the baby during the first six months of life.
If you believe modern civilization has got nothing to do with breastfeeding, here are some reasons why breast milk is beneficial to you and your baby.
Perfect Recipe for a Hungry Baby
Often referred to as “Liquid gold for the baby,” breast milk has been proved to be the best baby nourishment. It contains fat, which is vital to your baby because most of the essential vitamins and nutrients come from fat. It provides the necessary calories that your baby requires. Again, the rate of secretion of breast milk increases as the baby grows. After six months, safe and proper additional foods and beverages should supplement breast milk.
Perfect Composition of Antibodies
Medical studies have shown that breast milk contains precious antibodies that protect your little angel from various diseases. The larger the infection-fighting antibodies’ bank the stronger the baby’s immune system, helping fight bacteria and viruses that may cause kidney infections, childhood lymphoma, diarrhea, pneumonia, septicemia, gastroenteritis, botulism, ear or respiratory infections, meningitis, crohn’s disease, necrotizing entercolitis, etc.
Research has also proved that children who’re adequately breastfed are less likely to suffer from childhood obesity, allergic reactions, dental problems, childhood asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, SIDS, pyloric stenosis, inguinal hernia, acute appendicitis, iron deficiency anemia, just to name a few.
Unlike baby formula used by many “civilized” mothers, breast milk is the healthiest food a baby could consume in its early life. Besides containing infection-fighting antibodies, mother’s milk is also digested very fast, reducing incidences of constipation or diarrhea. This not only makes your baby happy but also reduces your health bill.
Healthy and Joyful Mum
Breastfeeding also has a wealth of benefits for the mother. Firstly, it facilitates the shrinkage of your uterus and hence your lower abdomen, helping you regain that perfect body shape you had before becoming pregnant. When you breastfeed, the pituitary gland releases oxytocin, a hormone which helps shrink the breasts and uterus.
Secondly, breastfeeding uses up to about 500 extra calories per day, helping you regain your pre-pregnancy body faster. Moreover, research has shown that breastfeeding mothers have lower risk of getting ovarian, uterine, and breast cancers, as well as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and anaemia.
Strengthening the Mother-Baby Bond
Breastfeeding also promotes the formation of a very strong bond between you and your baby. As mentioned earlier, oxytocin is secreted during breastfeeding. This hormone encourages the bond between you and your baby. It’s the beginning of a nurturing relationship which will last forever. This is especially important because it helps the baby adjust to life outside the womb, a transition which is definitely huge for the baby, both emotionally and physically.
While breastfeeding can’t guarantee that your baby will be the next Leonardo Da Vinci; it has been scientifically proven that breastfed babies generally have higher IQ’s. The milk contains specific proteins that improve baby’s brain and nervous development.
The Cost and Time Factor
It’s important to mention that breast milk is readily available at all times and always at the right temperature. 1 oz of infant formula can cost as much as 1 USD, and can be a heavy burden to bear especially considering that your baby consumes nothing else but milk for the first few months of life. Again, breastfeeding is very convenient and no hassle of sterilizing/boiling bottles.
Who can Breastfeed?
Any woman has the ability to breastfeed, and it’s very rare to come across some physical problem that prevents breastfeeding. Size of breasts doesn’t affect the amount of milk produced. Even with inverted nipples, you can still breastfeed with some help.
How to Ensure Adequate Production of Breast Milk?
Many women believe that there is a biological reason for inadequate milk secretion and are discouraged and give up breastfeeding. Any breastfeeding mother should increase their intake of proteins, vitamins and micro-nutrients. Include milk, eggs and a lot of fresh fruits in your daily diet.
Breastfeeding can make you thirsty so ensure adequate intake of water. You can also purchase food supplements containing vitamin D, iron and calcium. However, don’t consume any food supplement before consulting your doctor.
Risks Associated With Breastfeeding
It’s important to delve into a few risks that are associated with mother’s milk. Almost everything that the mother consumes is passed on to her baby via breast milk. Therefore, avoid using drugs, alcohol or anything else which would definitely harm your baby. In case of an illness, inform your doctor that you’re breastfeeding. This will enable them prescribe the right medication to you.
Common Problems during Breastfeeding
If you’re a new mother, breastfeeding might be a difficult task at the beginning. The delivery process has already depleted your energy and your body is experiencing postnatal hormonal changes that occur immediately after giving birth. Until you’ve become used to breastfeeding, you may suffer from full breasts (usually 3-4 days after delivery), breast engorgement, sore or fissured nipples, etc.
To help you, there’s a wide variety of smoothing creams on the market that are safe to use while breastfeeding. Consult your doctor to find out which cream is perfect for you. You should also remember to offer both breasts at each feeding. During the next feeding, the second breast becomes the first breast. If you follow that sequence you’ll never complain of a full breast.
You’ve most likely heard many pediatricians say that breastfeeding is the best nutrition for new babies. Nature has designed the mother’s milk in such a way that it contains sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and fluids that infants require. No artificial milk can ever substitute breast milk.