The benefits of Breastfeeding
From a new-born first cry to its first smile, to its first steps, through all its growth and developmental milestones, beginning to describe them is such a huge phenomenon and experiencing it is worthy of every moment. Back in the day, it was the norm to breastfeed a new-born from birth to at least several months before introducing other feeds. Some situations can prevent it, like the inability of the mother to breastfeed as a result of being ill or not being able to secrete breast milk. Nowadays, the norm keeps dwindling, especially in many civilized and urbanized areas due to exploring other means like formula feeding or feeding with breast milk via expression, as evidenced by statistics.
When pregnancy occurs, specific physiological changes occur to prepare the body for its duration, as well as the arrival of the new-born. One of those changes involves the preparation of the breast for lactation (production of breast milk) through hormonal secretion and regulations. This goes to show that the creation of breastfeeding is a natural process, and breastfeeding is a necessity that must be carried out, except during circumstances that prevent it from happening. Why is there an emphasis on breastfeeding? After all, other methods seek to feed the new-born adequately and works quite well.
Breastfeeding is the process of feeding a new-born with breast milk directly from the female breast. Breastfeeding is crucial for the survival of infants in most situations in developing countries: however, for optimal growth and development of an infant, it is required that a new-born is breastfed. Breast milk contains nutrients that are essential for growth and development and serves as protection against infections and allergies. While a new-born should take adequate breast milk for at least six (6) months only (exclusive breastfeeding), when combined with other foods, up to two years: the most important thing is that the baby is fed with breast milk to optimize his or her growth and development.
As important as giving breast milk to an infant is, so is feeding directly from the breast (breastfeeding); this is why breastfeeding has benefits over artificial feeding and formula feeding. Breastfeeding is different from other forms and types of feeding a new-born and has many benefits, which encourages this act. What are the benefits of breastfeeding? Let’s find out, shall we?
The benefits of breastfeeding can be categorized in three, as breastfeeding involves both the mother and the new-born. Hence, it benefits both mother and new-born, as well as both of them at the same time.
The benefits of breastfeeding to the new-born.
1. It is a secured and perfect method of feeding for a new-born
Breastfeeding is the secured method of feeding for an infant as the baby’s body prefers breast milk to any other type of feed in the first few days and weeks of birth. The infant body is known to easily digest breast milk and what better method to provide breast milk than through breastfeeding. It is secured as it is easy and suitable for a child to be breastfed than given expressed milk or formula. The availability and timely feeding of a new-born become easier through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding gives new-born the perfect feeding regimen that is beneficial in every area and necessary for their growth and development. Breast milk the product of breastfeeding, and it has lots of functions for an infant. What are the benefits of breast milk in an infant?
- It serves as gold milk in the first few days after birth. Gold milk, also known as colostrum is the first milk that the breast produces once a child is born. This colostrum is thick and sometimes yellowish; hence, the name “Gold Milk.” This gold milk is high in proteins, vitamins, and antibodies that are essential for sustaining the new-born for the first few days after birth. With breastfeeding, the new-born has easy access to colostrum and can utilize it for his or her survival.
- It is a perfect blend of nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development of the new-born. The breast milk is produced through hormonal secretion that converts the body nutrients in the mother’s body as milk for the baby. Every available nutrient in the mother’s body is passed unto the baby as milk that is easily digested by the baby. This makes it perfect for seeking adequate nutrition for the baby without worrying about the process of taking it in, or how suitable it is for the baby. Nutrients in breast milk include protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, water (basically all the classes of food that are required for a balanced diet.
- It protects against diseases through the antibodies that it contains. With breast milk comes antibodies from the mother, and these antibodies fight against diseases and infections in the body of the infant. These antibodies serve as immunity for the baby and help prevent infant diseases as well as reduce risk to some diseases. Examples of illnesses that breast milk helps prevent or reduce the risk of contracting to include middle ear infections, respiratory tract infections, colds, infections, digestive tract infections, allergic diseases, celiac disease, diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) etcetera.
- Adequate for the cell communication and immune system formation of the new-born. For growth and development, there is a need for cell communication to occur, and with breast milk, the baby can achieve that. Babies are prone to infections and diseases since their immune system or immunity isn’t developed enough to fight them. Breast milk provides cytokines, which are unique proteins, to form the immune system of the new-born and make it ready to protect the baby against all sorts.
2. It offers emotional security to an infant
A new-born feels lost and confused in a new world from the womb, in which it spent nine (9) months. For the baby to adapt and feel safe, it requires emotional stability for reassurance and ease of handling loss. This emotional stability is provided by bonding created from breastfeeding by the mother, which is both sensitive and hormonal. A closeness that the baby needs is enhanced with frequent breastfeeding of the baby by the mother. Only breastfeeding can achieve this like no other method of feeding employs such closeness that provides the bond for emotional security for the new-born. This skin-to-skin contact helps to ease the transition from the womb to the real world for the baby. It also allows the baby to develop a closeness with the mother from birth, which will foster familial relationships in the long-run.
3. Breastfeeding enhances the neurological development of a child
The breast milk provides adequate polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help to develop the brain and the nervous system of the infant. This process is enhanced by the easy access to breast milk and the emotional growth from the emotional security provided by breastfeeding. With neurological development comes achievement of neurological developmental milestones of the baby, from being able to respond to reflexes and stimuli effectively to be able to seek out familiar faces, to walking, to talking, etcetera. These processes are necessary for a child to show that he or she is indeed growing and developing and exhibiting the stages of living. Research has shown that regular breastfeeding may improve the higher intelligent quotient (IQ) of a child.
4. Breastfeeding enhances psychosocial development
The psychological and social development of any human starts from birth, and the earlier it is appropriately developed, the better for the person. A child’s ability to socialize or recognize certain people or activities comes from his or her psychosocial development. The bond created from frequent feeding, as well as specific nutrients from breastfeeding, helps to enhance the process of psychosocial development in a child. This enables a child to be at the same level of psychology and socialization as his or her peers.
With the above being said, you can now attest to how beneficial breastfeeding is for a new-born. How about the mums? How is breastfeeding beneficial to them? Let’s check it out.
Benefits of breastfeeding to the mother
1. Best love you can give to your child
The process of pregnancy up to childbirth can be quite daunting for mothers, especially first-time mothers. However, the stress is completely forgotten as soon as the baby is shown to the mother. A mother will never resist the opportunity to show her child how much love she has for him or her. This love is often shown through care for the child and wanting to be close to the child. The best kind of love a mother can give her child, especially when she has the means to, is to breastfeed the child. Through breastfeeding, the mother develops a bond with the infant, which enables her to care for the baby appropriately. While breastfeeding, she shares the nutrients, antibodies, and warmth in her body with her baby. She also ensures that her baby is well fed at all times, by frequently breastfeeding him or her. What other types of love can there be from a mother-to-a-newborn, than this?
2. Reduces the risks of postpartum depression
Many mums develop what is known as postpartum depression, which occurs shortly after birth. This postnatal depression results in the mother being detached from her baby: not wanting anything to do with the baby. Research has shown that mothers who breastfeed their child after birth have low risks of developing postpartum depression. Breastfeeding encourages the maternal caregiving role and creates bonding that eliminates detachment in the mother.
3. Brings about gynecological changes in the mother
Gynecology involves the anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, and management of the female reproductive system. Specific processes like menstruation, breast enlargement, and so on occur, and during pregnancy, specific changes occur to these processes. When a woman is pregnant, menstruation ceases until the birth of the child. For this to continue, it is encouraged that the mother continuously breastfeeds her child for a long time. It helps to serve as birth control in this way, which helps to space children and can be used as family planning without using other methods. It has been proven to be effective in many women, though, in some, it wasn’t; however, the possibility is high.
Changes like the uterus contracting back to almost or totally its original shape and size are also possible with continuous breastfeeding. Oxytocin produced during labor is responsible for the contraction of the uterus. Breastfeeding also increases the secretion of oxytocin in the body, thereby encouraging contraction and involution of the uterus back to normal. Weight gained during pregnancy can be a turn-off for lots of mothers, and this makes them try out several means of shedding off the additional weight. Breastfeeding can help reduce weight gain as the body keeps on burning fats from the processes of lactation and breastfeeding.
4. Beneficial health-wise and financially
Breastfeeding has been researched to reduce the risks of ovarian cancer and breast cancer in mothers. Recent studies also show that metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart and other health diseases, can be prevented by breastfeeding. In many parts of the world, especially in developing countries, the cost of feeding a new-born is high, and breastfeeding is the solution. Breastfeeding is cost-effective, readily available, environmentally friendly, and an easy-way-out for feeding new-born. This is the ultimate baby-care goal; a mother can achieve with the support of her family.
Breastfeeding also has its effects on both mother and child simultaneously, and they are:
- It creates a mother-child bond necessary for future familial relationships.
- Breastfeeding releases endorphins, which is a hormone that promotes a feeling of relaxation and well-being in both mother and baby. It also serves as an ideal pain-reliever for the new-born.
- It reduces risks of detachment for the mother and abandonment for the baby.
There is a joy that comes with the birth of a new life, and to make the happiness long-lasting, the new-born should grow healthy for him/herself, his/her family, and the world at large. Breastfeeding promotes such growth and should be highly encouraged at all times.