Making a decision to breastfeed is a very personal matter and choice. But before making that choice it is important to know everything related to it. After all, it’s about you and your baby’s health.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for first six months not only because it is best for your baby but also because benefits of Breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. It contains all the vitamins and nutrients that the baby needs in first six months of life and also has disease-fighting substances that protect the newly-born from illness.
Breastfeeding benefits to Baby
- Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen.
- The main immune factor at work here is a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) that’s present in large amounts in colostrum, the first milk your body produces for your baby. (Secretory IgA is present in lower concentrations in mature breast milk.) The substance guards against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat.
- Your breast milk is specifically tailored to your baby. Your body responds to pathogens (virus and bacteria) that are in your body and makes secretory IgA that’s specific to those pathogens, creating protection for your baby based on whatever you’re exposed to.
- Breastfeeding’s protection against illness lasts beyond your baby’s breastfeeding stage, too. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of developing certain childhood cancers.
- Breastfeeding may also help children avoid a host of diseases that strike later in life, such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, pre-mature babies given breast milk are less likely to have high blood pressure by the time they’re teenagers.
- Breastfeeding can protect your baby from developing allergies. Babies who are fed a formula based on cow’s milk or soy tend to have more allergic reactions than breastfed babies because they don’t get layer of protection, so they’re more vulnerable to inflammation, allergies, and other eventual health issues.
Breastfeeding benefits to Mother
- Breastfeeding helps a woman to lose weight after birth. Mothers burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk. In fact, some of the weight gained during pregnancy serves as an energy source for lactation.
- Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
- When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective — more effective than a diaphragm or condom. Scientists believe this process prevents more births worldwide than all forms of contraception combined. In Africa, breastfeeding prevents an estimated average of four births per woman, and in Bangladesh it prevents an estimated average of 6.5 births per woman.
- Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.
- Diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum goes down.
- Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.
- Women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
- The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby.
- A woman’s ability to produce all of the nutrients that her child needs can provide her with a sense of confidence. Researchers have pointed out that the bond of a nursing mother and child is stronger than any other human contact. Holding the child to her breast provides most mothers with a more powerful psychological experience than carrying the fetus inside her uterus. The relationship between mother and child is rooted in the interactions of breastfeeding. This feeling sets the health and psychological foundation for years to come.
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