Today, most mothers choose to breastfeed their children. Breastfeeding is a topic that has had much research done, and is extensively popularized. All world health organizations agree that it is very important for the health of both the baby and the mother. Its benefits are multiple and integral for the healthy development of a child.
Breast milk – Nutrition Facts
The entire nutritive value of breast milk is not yet fully understood. Breast milk is made from nutrients in the blood and nutrient stores of the mother, and is heavily affected by the mother’s nutrition and life-style. Breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby’s growth and development. It also contains cells from the mother’s blood which are linked to the immune system, which provide initial protection for a baby. The exact composition changes as the baby grows, to adapt to the needs of the growing infant.
Difference between formula and breast milk
Although widely believed to be the same, breast milk and formula have vast differences. While baby formula can provide some of the essential nutrients, it has nowhere as close as much diverse nutrients as breast milk. Breast milk has an ever changing composition, one which adapts to the needs of the growing infant, which formula does not. Breast milk contains immune factors, especially in the first week after birth, which builds up a passive immune system for the baby and prevents infections from arising. The immune factors in breast milk also coat the newborn baby’s intestines, crating the basis for gut flora to develop, which formula does not provide.
Health benefits of breastfeeding
Health benefits of breastfeeding are to both mother and the child. Amongst various breastfeeding benefits, some of the benefits of breastfeeding are discussed here.
Breast milk is complete nutrition to infant
Breast milk has an ideal composition for a baby’s diet. It contains the ideal amount of fats, sugars, protein and water to provide the growing baby with all the nutrients it needs. It is created by the mother’s body in response to the needs of the baby, and its composition changes over time as the baby grows to adapt to the new needs. It also contains vitamins and minerals derived directly from the mother’s blood. It also contains digestive enzymes which help the baby digest the milk properly and get all the nutrients from it.
Breastfeeding essential to develop infant immunity
During the first few days after giving birth the breasts actually don’t produce milk, but colostrum. Colostrum is a substance that contains more sugar when compared to breast milk, an less fat and protein. But the thing that really sets it apart is its content in immune factors. Colostrum is intended to provide the baby with a passive immunity the first few days, until it can properly develop. Colostrum contains immune cells and enzymes that coat the baby’s guts and protect it against bacteria, as well as boosting the baby’s initial immunity to all kinds of infection. It has been found to be very important to the baby’s survival rate, as initial breastfeeding, for the first week can severely reduce the chance of infections. It has also been shown that initial breastfeeding also reduces chances of baby’s developing allergies.
Breast milk essential for Brain development
Breastfeeding has been found to have a crucial effect on the development of the baby’s brain. Formula does not provide the same benefits. Some studies correlate the level of IQ in later life as well as a better academic performance with how long the baby has been breast fed.
Breastmilk is anyway convenient for mother
Breast milk is an easy and portable source of food for your baby. It requires no additional appliances or bottles; it is always fresh and easy to carry around, considering it is stored in the mother’s body. Being sterile to being with, it has virtually no chance of contamination or spoilage and is always clean and instant. If you care for your baby yourself, and need to carry it around doing chores, then breast milk is the easiest way of feeding it. There is no need to sterilize bottles, cook formula, buy formula or clean anything; it is fast, efficient and simple.
Breastfeeding reduces risk of Obesity in child
Pediatricians recommend breast feeding as a measure against child obesity. Mother’s milk contains just the right amounts of nutrients that change and adapt to a baby’s needs. This prevents the baby from eating too much and becoming overweight. Obesity in baby’s has been linked to higher chances of developing diabetes and related diseases. Formula does not have the ability to adapt to a child’s needs, and overfeeding with formula is always a possibility.
Breastfeeding good for Post partum weight loss
Breastfeeding expends about 500 kcal each day, which is the same amount that vigorous exercise burns. It helps the mother loose all that excess weight from the pregnancy and burns away fat stores very effectively.
Reduced risk of other diseases in breast feeding mothers
Mother has enormous benefits from breastfeeding as well, besides weight loss. Regular breastfeeding prevents milk lumps forming in the breast and causing problems. Breast feeding also reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer. It may even reduce chances of osteoporosis for mothers.
Benefits of Oxytocin to mother
During breastfeeding a hormone is released, called oxytocin, which influence the mood of the mother, relaxing her. It has been shown that mothers who breast feed regularly have less chance of depression and mood swings. Oxytocin can also affect blood pressure by regulating it. Oxytocin helps the uterus return to its previous state after giving birth, and helps reduce post-birth bleeding.
Breastfeeding is a natural contraceptive
Oxytocin also work as birth control hormone. Breast feeding can protect woman from becoming pregnant again.
Breastfeeding prevents breast from becoming saggy
It is often believed by young mothers that breastfeeding will make their breasts saggy, but that has no basis. Breastfeeding has been shown to help with the healthy development of milk-glands, which can do exactly the opposite, make sure that your breasts do not become saggy after breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding and diabetes
If you are diabetic, Breastfeeding can improve your health. Breastfeeding also helps protect infant from juvenile diabetes.
Breastfeeding is free
Lastly, breast milk is free; while formula can cost up to thousands of dollars for the entire period of the baby’s development. It saves quite a lot of money, both for the formula and equipment itself, as well as medical bills, because breastfeeding will reduce chances of your baby getting an infection.
When should you stop breastfeeding?
Doctors have differing opinions on the duration of breastfeeding, and some say that the minimum a child should be breastfed is 6 month, and some claim that it should last as long as two years.
New benefits for breastfeeding are discovered all the time, with new research providing more insight into the mechanism and use of breastfeeding. A recent research has, for example, related reduced risk of fever and inflammation after immunization by vaccines with breastfeeding, meaning that baby’s who have been breastfed are less likely to react unfavorably to vaccines.
Breastfeeding is the best way to bond with your baby. Continue to enjoy benefits of breastfeeding while sharing protection and nutrients to your child.Image Credits: Poppy Marrins Blog, Flickr - Aurimas Mikalauskas