When I held my little one in my arms on the day when he came into this world, I thanked God for the greatest gift he ever blessed me with. Since then he had to undergo many tests to prove that he was fit enough to survive in this world. Vaccinations started as soon as a day passed, making him stronger as time passed by. But what my doctor always stressed on me was that my child had to be breast fed properly since the time he was born. He was given the challenge to learn this art, which was not easy, and he accepted it and in no time he learnt and there initiated the greatest bond on the earth –“The mother and the child bond which is the purest bond God ever created.” This post describes the benefits of Breastfeeding.
As a doting mother, I had to go through the routine of every mother such as sleepless nights, healthy diet, getting power naps only when the powerful child is asleep, but what most fascinated me was the emotional bonding I built with my child when I breast fed him. He has come from my flesh and blood (although may be not my blood group;) and the umbilical cord that connected us both which when was removed made him physically independent. My mother, grandmother, relatives and friends gave me suggestions, advises on how to breast feed and increase lactation.
Nowadays, many new moms are trained on how to feed their new-born baby at the hospital itself after their baby’s birth by the lactation consultants’. This one-time instruction might be of great help but only with experience the mother and the baby can learn this blissful art! A lot of patience and practice is required which will create that pleasant atmosphere the mother and baby would be craving for!
Mothers will lactate by nature, by default when the baby is born, but it will take some time to produce breast milk. Mothers get different advises from different people about how long to feed, when to introduce solid foods and start weaning. But one should always go with their instinct as there are many benefits of breast feeding. Extended breast feeding does no harm but at least 6 months is a must. Having said that lets discuss some of the special benefits of breastfeeding.
Colostrum is the first thing that comes in the breast milk which is produced between 1-7 days and may appear as clear fluid or a deep golden color. When you feed your baby colostrum, you are giving your baby its first vaccination. This is the most important benefits of breastfeeding. In the olden days the colostrum was discarded and was not fed to the new borns since people then had no idea about its great benefits.
Some of the great benefits of colostrum are listed below:
- Colostrum contains antibodies to protect the newborn against diseases. Protein concentration in colostrum is higher than in milk. Though it is small in quantity, it has high concentrations of nutrients and antibodies.
- Immunoglobulin A is the major immunoglobulin present in colostrum.
- It contains antimicrobial peptides and other bio active molecule, including growth factors which are important for nutrition, growth and development of newborn infants.
- Function of colostrum is to clear excess bilirubin, a waste-product of dead RBCs, which is produced in large quantities at birth due to blood volume reduction from the infant’s body and helps prevent jaundice.
- The protein present in colostrum is easily digested and absorbed by the body, especially by the rapidly developing brain.
- It also provides factors that promote maturation of the gut and good digestion.
- It is the most superior and well-designed nutrition for your baby in the first few days of life.
Breast milk – The Superior nutrition
The breast milk provides one of the best nutrition to the baby.
After the production of colostrum, the milk secreted is known as the transitional milk which is produced between 8- 20 days. Mature milk is produced from 20 days after birth. Mature milk continues to provide immune factors and other important components to the baby.
Breast milk contains all the nutrients the infant needs for proper growth and development.
These nutrients include:
- Free water
- Carbohydrates – The principal carbohydrate of human milk is lactose.
- Minerals, vitamins, and trace elements.
Breast milk can be provided exclusively for around the first 6 months, meeting all the nutritional needs of the baby. Breast milk is still very important beyond the first 6 months. Even though we introduce solid foods, breast milk continues to provide important nutrients and growth factors up to 2 years. The WHO recommends that breast milk should be continued to be part of a child’s diet, up to 2 years of age and beyond.
The other benefits of breastfeeding include:
- It provides the calories and nutrients that are adequate for your baby.
- Breast milk passes antibodies to your baby.
- Breastfeeding promotes brain development.
Breast milk is a great way to improve and increase immunity in kids, because it contains antibodies and white blood cells, which boost the immune system and help the body to fight against diseases.
Breast milk is a perfect food that cannot be replicated. Mother’s milk is custom-made for the baby. A research says it matches 50% of the baby’s genetic material.
It provides resistance in the following ways:
- Breast milk protects the child against ear infections, allergies, cold etc.
- There is an increased resistance to infections
- Resistance to nappy rashes and thrush
- Lesser problems associated with stomach and constipation
Some of the diseases the breast milk protects the babies are:
- Haemophilus influenzae type B
- Pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae
- Infant botulism
- Urinary tract infections
- coli infections
- Respiratory syncytial virus
- Reduces Risk of SIDS
The breast milk is unadulterated. The other forms of milk (cow/goat/sheep) might be adulterated since they get in contact with the outer environment after being milked.
Breast feeding is the purest form of feeding as it does not come in contact with outer environment. It is always clean and ready and at the right temperature.
According to Katie Hinde (a biologist and associate professor at the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the School of Human Evolution & Social Change at Arizona State University)
When a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. This “baby spit backwash,” as she delightfully describes it, contains information about the baby’s immune status. Everything scientists know about physiology indicates that baby spit backwash is one of the ways that breast milk adjusts its immunological composition. If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection.
This is one of the reasons why most of our elders don’t recommend our babies to be bottle fed.
During breast-feeding, baby saliva reacts with breast milk to produce reactive oxygen species. Breast milk with saliva produces a potent combination of stimulatory and inhibitory metabolites which increases immunity.
So, it’s an advice to all the mothers to breast feed your babies as much as possible and not use any external medium so that it benefits your baby the most.
Overall Development (Physical and Emotional)
Breast milk contains antibodies that protects against diseases, especially against diarrhea and respiratory infections. Breast milk provides the right balance of nutrients. It is the most natural and nutritious way to improve your baby’s development.
Let’s discuss some of the important aspects:
- The skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant leads to better psycho motor, emotional and social development of the baby.
- Breastfeeding promotes adequate growth and development, and prevents stunting.
- Breastfeeding promotes the proper development of baby’s jaw and teeth.
- Babies benefit emotionally, because they are held more during breastfeeding which promotes mother-baby bonding.
- In the long term, breastfed babies have a decreased risk of malnutrition, obesity and heart disease compared to formula fed babies.
- The act of breastfeeding and the skin-to-skin contact involved releases the hormones serotonin and oxytocin in both the mum and the baby, which encourages a strong emotional bond between them.
- Breast fed children are also protected against mental health problems.
Most of the mums discontinue breastfeeding after 6 months due to their commitments for instance if they are working moms or due to several other reasons. But it’s always advisable to breast feed your baby as long as you can, it’s just that the more you breast feed the more you will contribute to your child’s overall development and moreover enhancing your child’s immunity.
Extended breastfeeding is overlooked by many mothers but knowing its benefits can help changing their mindset. Some of the benefits of Breastfeeding are:
- Breastfed babies tend to have higher IQs due to good brain development early in life.
- Breastfed children are healthier overall.
- When the child is upset, hurt, frightened, or sick, it’s the best way to comfort him. It works like a great healer!
- Usually a sick child will accept breast milk when he refuses other foods. Breast milk also does wonders in recovering your baby faster when your kid has encountered any health upsets.
Trust me I have experienced this when my kid was 1.5 years old and he was suffering from severe cold and fever, he was only on ORS electrolyte solution and my breast milk.
Another instance which I would like to quote is my kid has hurt his lips while playing around many times and bleeding never stopped easily until I breast fed him which also healed his lips and the pain naturally.
So the down line mantra is – The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effects.
Calcium starts deteriorating when we breast feed so we are always advised to include calcium rich foods in our diet. Hence mothers who decide to extend breast feeding should have proper diet so that calcium and other vitamins which are required for the body are met accordingly. Consultation of doctor is a must if you wish to consume calcium supplements too.
Nursing helps to ease a temper tantrum, put a child to sleep easily and makes the child comfortable. It provides security and stability and increases the mother child bonding during the period of rapid growth and development.
The breast fed toddlers are lesser hyperactive. Breast feeding does not make your kid an expert in everything nor an all rounder but the research says that it’s the best nutrition ever for the baby, helps fight infection, promotes brain development, and may even increase academic performance and IQ.
Go ahead and nurse your baby for as long as it feels right to you. Your child would not obviously ask you to breast feed till he/she turns 10 years old! So, hold on, enjoy every happy moment of nursing as the saying goes “Breast feeding is 90% determination and 10% milk production”
Happy Parenting with Budding Star