What are the benefits of breastfeeding? To breastfeed or use a bottle is one of the big decisions all new mothers face, and until your first baby arrives, you will never understand what breastfeeding feels like.
Furthermore, even for mothers who have breastfed their first baby, the experience is not certainly the same for subsequent babies. So, with this said, are there reasons why this process is highly advocated for by social and legal pressures?
So, what are the benefits of breastfeeding? Let’s find out…
Breastfeeding has innumerable benefits both for the infant and the mother. Sadly, studies have shown that a lot of mothers are not aware of the exclusive benefits of this infant nursing process. Despite breast milk being a dynamic liquid in the sense that it changes according to environmental exposures, age of the child, the health of the mother and time of the day, its composition and benefits remain constant. If you would want to know why breast milk is referred to as ‘liquid gold’, keep reading.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for the infant?
*Provides perfect nutrition
This is arguably the most basic but very critical benefit of breastfeeding for the child. The breast milk comes loaded with a perfect combination of fats, proteins, carbohydrates and fluids that the infant needs. As the baby grows, the breast milk composition adjusts to being compatible with the baby’s growing body parts such as the kidneys.
The good thing with breast milk is that it is very stable. This means that despite its exposure, or the health condition of the mother, its composition does not change.
Did you know that your baby’s brain grows rapidly in the first six months to a point that its matter can double within this period? This, however, is only possible, if your child is sufficiently breastfed. Although the components of breast milk that positively affect brain growth and development have not yet been determined, some studies relate it to the long-chain fatty acids present in breast milk.
A lot of research is being done to support the breast milk-brain development topic. Some research findings have already shown that infants who are well breastfed have higher IQ than babies who depend entirely on a formula-based diet.
*Protection against diseases
Breast milk contains antibodies that protect the baby from infections. Colostrum, which is the thick milk produced shortly before the child is born is particularly loaded with antibodies to protect the crucial newly born baby from infections and allergies. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months have a low risk of suffering from infections and diseases such as flu, diarrhoea, chest infections and other respiratory infections common to infants.
*Improves your baby’s sleep
If you have had experience raising a child, you would agree with me that a baby goes to sleep seamlessly shortly after breastfeeding. This is in fact the technique that most mothers use when their babies wake up indefinitely during the night. On sufficient breastfeeding, a baby develops healthy sleep-wake patterns. This effect is related to the hormones and nucleotides present in breast milk.
*Can save the life of a premature baby
Pregnancy-related factors such as urinary tract infections, abnormal uterus, poor nutrition and smoking may lead to premature birth. Since premature babies are prone to fatal conditions such as chronic lung disease and sepsis, there is a need for their special monitoring. Here, research findings have again shown that exclusive breastfeeding is the best way to avoid these infections.
Other than prevention of these fatal diseases, breast milk helps the premature baby’s intestines develop fully, not mentioning the entire gastrointestinal tract.
Other benefits of breastfeeding for both the preemie and the fully developed infants include:
• Enhances teeth, jaw and bone development
• The contact between the mother and the child during breastfeeding leads to better emotional and social development of the child.
• Enhances the baby’s vaccines response
• Since breast milk is easy to digest, children use less energy for this process and hence remain generally healthy and active.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for the mother?
Although the benefits of breastfeeding tend to lean more on the child, it is essentially important for the mother. As a mother, if you sufficiently breastfed your child, here is how you will benefit:
*Reduces the risk of cancer
Studies show that breastfeeding for approximately one year can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This in many research findings is related to the hormonal change that occurs on breastfeeding. Also since breastfeeding suppresses ovulation, the mother is less exposed to hormones such as estrogen and in turn, reduces the risk of developing these cancers.
*Lowers the risk of heart diseases
Numerous studies have also shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of heart diseases and hypertension. Also, the bond developed between the mother and the child during breastfeeding creates a feel-good factor that to a lesser extent improves the heart health of the mother.
*Helps burn extra calories
The breastfeeding journey can also help a mother lose those extra calories unbeneficial for the body. With sufficient breastfeeding, a mother can lose at least 600 calories in a day.
*Reduces the risk of diabetes
Breastfeeding improves insulin sensitivity a factor that reduces the severity of type 2 diabetes for mothers who already have the disease and reduces the risk of contracting the disease for those who do not have it. The control of insulin is related in many studies to be from the interaction of hormones in the breast milk and those of the pancreas.
*Speeds up the process of recovering from childbirth
It surely takes time to heal from childbirth but the good thing is that this process can be fastened by breastfeeding. During breastfeeding, the hormone oxytocin is produced and this helps the uterus contract, a process that helps the uterus return to its normal size quickly. For mothers who went through C-section child delivery, breastfeeding helps manage the post-delivery pain.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding? The bottom line…
A lot of the decision making around breastfeeding comes down to what sort of parent you are, your parenting style, and how you wish to share the feeding process with your partner.
As science continues to discover other amazing benefits of breastfeeding, mothers should take the position that this is a very crucial process for them and their babies. Now that many groups are coming into the spotlight to advocate for breastfeeding, regulations being set to protect breastfeeding mothers and public accommodations set for breastfeeding, there is no reason why mothers should not tap into the benefits above. Although there will be effort and time that will go into breastfeeding, the long term benefits for both you and you baby are definitely worth it.