Breast milk is not only beneficial for your baby’s mental and physical development but also wonderful for mothers too. Here we take you through the benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby.
The phrase "breast milk is nature's perfect nourishment" is no lie. Breast milk is expertly crafted to fulfill the nutritional needs of a baby just as cow's milk is the ideal source of food for calves. Breast milk brings your baby a lot of advantages- lower risk of gut infections? Yes! Reduced ear infections? Of course! Reduced respiratory tract infections? Check! Lower risk for allergic diseases? Yep!
It is recommended to breastfeed a baby exclusively for the first 6 months of their life. Some mothers can even choose to continue nursing even when the child is eating solid food up until the age of 2 to reap the benefits of the liquid gold.
You're probably buried in information if you've been thinking about not breastfeeding your newborn. Although it's a decision only you can make, the advantages seem to be endless.
On the other hand, you may be trying to breastfeed but are finding it difficult. If that’s the case, we’ve included links below where you can get help and support.
Benefits of breast milk for your baby
It protects your preemie from serious illnesses
Breast milk offers your preemie the best protection against illnesses like chronic lung infections, sepsis, and *necrotizing enterocolitis. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, premature newborns are more likely to leave the hospital sooner. Breast milk not only provides nutrition, but it also works as a medical intervention that is beneficial in the longer run.
* Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious gastrointestinal issue that can lead to a hole in your baby's intestine.
Chock full of antibodies
Everything a baby requires in the appropriate amounts for the first six months of life is present in breast milk. In fact it's made up of different ingredients depending on the baby's changing needs, especially in the first month of life a baby needs milk that is full of components like enzymes and antioxidants that are easily absorbed, and antibodies from the mother.
Your breasts produce colostrum, a thick yellowish fluid, in the early days after birth. It has a lot of healthy properties and is richer in protein and lower in sugar than full milk. Colostrum supports the development of your newborn's developing digestive system and as your baby's tummy grows your breasts begin producing more milk. It is a true miracle food that cannot be replaced by formula.
The only thing missing from your magical liquid gold is vitamin D, which is why it is recommended to give your baby vitamin D drops.
In those delicate, early months, antibodies found in breast milk are crucial for helping your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. This is especially true of the first milk colostrum.
Immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as several other antibodies, are abundant in colostrum. Antibodies from the first drop of colostrum to disease-specific antibodies a mom will make after being exposed to viruses or bacteria end up in the milk. By creating a barrier in the baby's nose, throat, and digestive tract, IgA guards against illness. Babies' antibodies are not protected by formula. According to a number of studies, babies who are not breastfed are more susceptible to infections, diarrhea, stomach bugs, allergies, and other health problems.
Provides excellent nourishment
Breast milk is created specifically for a baby's developing digestive system. The micronutrients in breast milk are readily absorbed, and its protein and fat are easier for your infant to digest than those in formula milk. And unlike formula, which stays the same from can to can and feeding to feeding, your body alters the content of the milk it produces in response to your baby's demands. For example, when a baby is sick they pass on a cue through their saliva that sends a signal to the mother’s body to produce milk with specific antibodies to help fight the illness.
Promotes better sleep and reduces the risk of SIDS
According to research, there is a nearly 50% reduction in the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) while breastfeeding for at least two months. Although the exact causes are unknown, it is believed that breastfed newborns wake up from sleep to feed more easily. Additional immunological protection might also play an important role in this.
You may have heard that babies who are fed formula sleep longer, however, it appears that this is a misconception. Research shows that babies who are breastfed or given formula are just as likely to wake up at night to drink milk. However, breastfed babies return to sleep more quickly.
Your infant will be drowsy after breastfeeding since breast milk releases the hormone oxytocin into the body. Additionally, additional hormones and nucleotides in your milk assist in the development of a baby's healthy circadian rhythms (sleep-wake patterns).
Helps with healthier weight gain
Breastfed children and adults are more likely to have normal weight and body composition because it lets your baby’s appetite call the shots. Babies can control their food intake starting at a very young age when they are breastfed, even more so than when they are given breast milk in a bottle. An explanation for this is that the baby-led nature of breastfeeding encourages appetite regulation as the infant has increased control of the amount of milk they consume. They can eat when they're hungry, stop when they're full, and take a break if they'd like, all of which can assist to establish long-lasting healthy eating habits.
Breastfeeding benefits for mothers
Promotes faster weight loss
Breastfeeding helps in burning calories. Mothers who breastfeed their children burn about 500 calories a day to build and maintain an active milk supply.
Help with postpartum healing
Due to the hormone oxytocin's production, breastfeeding mothers experience greater sleep after giving birth, which helps them heal more quickly. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers lose weight quicker since breastfeeding burns roughly 20 calories per ounce every day. This also helps maintain a healthy weight down the road.
Encourages the uterus to contract
Your uterus grows significantly throughout pregnancy, going from the size of a pear to nearly taking up the entire area of your belly.
After delivery your uterus undergoes a process known as involution which aids the uterus in getting back to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding increases the production of a hormone called oxytocin which places an important role in this process.
Lowers risk of PPD
According to this study women who breastfeed appear to be less likely to experience postpartum depression than mothers who wean early or do not nurse. However, those who experience postpartum depression early after delivery are also more likely to have trouble breastfeeding and do so for a shorter duration.
Helps with bonding
Of course, babies who are bottle-fed develop a bond with their mothers as well, but a newborn finds comfort and develops an emotional and physical connection in the skin-to-skin contact required for breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding lowers the risk of diseases
Research shows that breastfeeding can provide long-term protection against ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer down the road. Additionally, it may reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions in the future, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Saves time and money and is environmentally friendly
Breast milk doesn't need to be prepared or purchased, unlike formula. Because there are no formula cans or bottles to wash, breastfeeding is also excellent for the environment. It's nice to not have to pack and carry a bag full of feeding supplies when you pick up the baby and head out, whether it's for a short trip or a longer one.
Having trouble breastfeeding? We've included links below to help you on your journey:
HSE Breastfeeding Resource Centre
Advice and support on starting breastfeeding, hygiene tips and common breastfeeding questions answered.
La Leche League of Ireland
La Leche League (LLL) is a voluntary organisation which provides information and support to women who want to breastfeed their babies.
Cuidiú provide support and education for parents and parenthood. They host breastfeeding support groups and coffee mornings and have over 200 trained breastfeeding counsellors.
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