BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING

“My baby enjoys it when I breastfeed him. I feel a unique bond between him and me,” said Rose, a middle-aged mother to her physician. This child was her second, and is currently 4 months old. This benefit is not only to the mother, but also to the child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding is essential for a minimum of 6 months and appropriate solid foods can be introduced between 6 months to 1 year. Breastfeeding is also encouraged as a complement to solid foods even after the first year of life.

The benefits of breastfeeding are general divided into two categories which are:

Benefits to the Child:

• Nutrition: Breast milk serves as the ideal nutrition for infants. This is a perfect combination of vitamins, protein and fat – every nutrient essential for the growth of the baby. Breast milk especially the first milk secreted from the mother (colostrum) is more easily digestible than infant formulas.

• Immunity: Not only is breast milk very nutritious and healthy for the infant, it is fortified with antibodies and immune cells. These elements help protect the infant from viral and bacterial infections. Risk of allergies and asthma is reduced due to breastfeeding. Recent studies suggest that infants breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula are less prone to ear infections, respiratory diseases, and diarrhea. They also have lesser hospitalizations.

• Mental and Emotional Development: Increased intelligence quotient (IQ) scores in childhood have been linked to breastfeeding. Moreover, even as the child develops better cognitively later in childhood, the physical closeness between the child and the mother, creates a sense of security and belonginess. This bond between mother and child, develops even better when there is prolong skin-to-skin contact and eye contact.

• Other benefits to the child include: reduced risk of diabetes, obesity and cancers.

Benefits to the Mother:

• Weight loss: When breastfeeding, calories are lost and this eventually leads to a reduction in post-pregnancy weight. An average of 300-500 calories is lost when breastfeeding. This is normally dependent on how much the baby eats. Since breastmilk is rich in calories, most of the calories present in the mother are transferred to the child via the breastmilk.

• Quick recovery after delivery: Breastfeeding helps mothers to recover from delivery by the release of particular hormones. Oxytocin, a hormone released for uterine contractions during labor is produced. This hormone assists the uterus return to its normal size and it reduces uterine bleeding after birth.

• Reduced cancer risk: Recent research has proven that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. This long-term health benefit is enhanced by a healthy varied diet rich in vitamins, minerals and energy-giving foods. In addition, it lowers the risk of osteoporosis, especially when the diet of the mother is rich in vitamin D and calcium.

• Cost-effective: In other parts of the world, buying formulas, sterilizing nipples or warming bottles is a major problem. However, when a mother breastfeeds her child, it saves the mother time and money. These resources can be used for other necessities which would help in the normal upkeep and development of the infant.

• Bonding and relaxation: Breastfeeding helps reduce anxiety and depression present in mothers after delivery. It also creates quality time for the mother and child to relax and bond properly.

KEY POINTS

• Breastfeeding provides long-term health benefits to the mother
• Breastfeeding boosts your child’s IQ scores.
• For quicker recovery after delivery, breastfeed your child.
• Breastfeeding helps mothers bond and feel close to their babies.
• Breastfeeding protects your baby against infections.