Mothers all over the world have been reminded about the importance of breastfeeding as the best way to promote the health for their babies.
The World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) held every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 120 countries, was an opportunity to promote exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of the baby’s life. The week was first celebrated in 1992, and mothers around the world have been educated on the benefits of breastfeeding.
Male parents and employers are also asked to support and encourage the feeding of infants in the first six months after birth. World Health Organization (WHO) and health experts particularly, Pediatricians agree that the practice yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia, fostering growth and development.
This year, the WHO is also encouraging people to “Support mothers to breastfeed anytime, anywhere, and society has a role to play in making our communities more breastfeeding-friendly.”
Statistics from the UNICEF in 2015 shows that only half of the infants population around the world are breastfed , leading to the malnutrition and child mortality due to weakness against diseases.
Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.
That’s one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). And scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding is good for your health, too.
Let’s have a look at some of the most important benefits breastfeeding offers you and your baby.
- A healthier baby “The incidences of pneumonia, colds and viruses are reduced among breastfed babies,” says infant-nutrition expert Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and OB-GYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., and the author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession (Elsevier-Mosby). Gastrointestinal infections like diarrhea—which can be devastating, especially in developing countries—are also less common.
Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen. Exclusive breastfeeding (meaning no solid food, formula, or water) for at least six months seems to offer the most protection.
- Nutrients and Protection
Breast milk is the best food to help your baby to grow and develop. It is custom-made by each mother for her own baby, and contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Remarkably, as your baby grows, your milk will also change to keep up with your baby’s needs. Human milk is also easier than formula for your baby to digest, which means less mess and fuss!
Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that help prevent disease and may reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies. After birth, your first milk, called Colostrum, offers vital early protection and helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by coating your baby’s digestive system. This early protection is even more important if your baby is born prematurely – Colostrum protects!
- Stronger bones
According to Lawrence, women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis. “When a woman is pregnant and lactating, her body absorbs calcium much more efficiently,” she explains. “So while some bones, particularly those in the spine and hips, may be a bit less dense at weaning, six months later, they are denser than before pregnancy.”
4. Breastfeeding may boost your child’s intelligence
Various researchers have found a connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development. In a study of more than 17,000 infants followed from birth to 6 1/2 years, researchers concluded from IQ scores and other intelligence tests that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding significantly improves cognitive development.
Another study of almost 4,000 children showed that babies who were breastfed had significantly higher scores on a vocabulary test at 5 years of age than children who were not breastfed. And the scores were higher the longer they had been nursed.
- A menstruation vacation
Breastfeeding your baby around the clock—no bottles or formula— will delay ovulation, which means delayed menstruation. “Breastfeeding causes the release of prolactin, which keeps estrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered,” Kelly explains.
“When your prolactin levels drop, those two hormones can kick back in, which means ovulation—and, hence, menstruation—occurs.”
Even if you do breastfeed exclusively, your prolactin levels will eventually drop over the course of several months. Many moms who solely nurse will see their periods return between six and eight months after delivery, Kelly adds; others don’t for a full year.
6. Convenient and Portable
Breast milk is always safe, fresh and exactly the right temperature. It’s ready for baby at a moment’s notice, and you don’t have to heat it, boil water, or
sterilized bottles. This makes night time feeding a lot easier.
Since breast milk is always with you, travelling and shopping with your baby is simpler, with no equipment to carry or refrigeration needed.
7. Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of some types of cancer
Numerous studies have found that the longer women breastfeed, the more they’re protected against breast and ovarian cancer. For breast cancer, nursing for at least a year appears to have the most protective effect.
It’s not entirely clear how breastfeeding helps, but it may have to do with the structural changes in breast tissue caused by breastfeeding and the fact that lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen your body produces. Researchers think the effect on ovarian cancer may be related to estrogen suppression as well. Breastfeeding can also decrease your baby’s risk of some childhood cancers.
- Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby
Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body. “It is now well established that oxytocin, as well as stimulating uterine contractions and milk ejection, promotes the development of maternal behavior and also bonding between mother and offspring.”Uvnas-Moberg, Eriksson: Breastfeeding: physiological, endocrine and behavioral adaptations caused by oxytocin and local neurogenic activity in the nipple and mammary gland.: Acta Paediatrica, 1996 May, 85(5):525-30
- Breastfeeding satisfies baby’s emotional needs
All babies need to be held. Studies have shown that premature babies are more likely to die if they are not held or stroked. There is no more comforting feeling for an infant of any age than being held close and cuddled while breastfeeding. While many bottle-feeding parents are aware of the importance of cradling their babies while offering the bottle, some are not. Even for parents with good intentions, there is always the temptation to prop up a bottle next to the child, or, when the baby is a little older, to let the child hold his/her own bottle and sit alone. This is emotionally unsatisfying to baby, and can be dangerous physically. An unsupervised child can choke. Also, propping up bottles over night leads to tooth decay.
- Less time off work
Your baby will be ill less often, so that means fewer sick days for you.
- Breast feeding saves money
If you mostly nurse and use baby foods only in a pinch, you should be able to pocket at least an extra from $134 to $400 per month. That’s even if you buy a breast pump.
- Breast milk is always ready and comes in a nicer package than formula does
I will leave you to be the judge about that.
- Benefits for all
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, the United States would save about $13 billion per year in medical costs if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfed their newborns for at least six months.
14. Breastfeeding can be blissfully convenient.
No frantic runs to the store. No futzing around at an ungodly hour to whip up a bottle. No clean-up. Many moms just roll over (especially if their baby is in a co-sleeper) and nurse in a soporific state. The milk from a mother is instantly available and delivered warm. Plus, feeding supplies are one less thing to shove into that bursting diaper bag.
- Travel can be easier too.
Stuck in a plane for hours? Your baby will never run out of food. And once the two of you find a groove, nursing in a carrier can be particularly handy, as I’ve found, while you chase a big sibling around the playground.
- Suckling helps shrink mother’s uterus after childbirth
“Nursing will help you to regain your figure more quickly, since the process of lactation causes the uterus (which has increased during pregnancy to about 20 times its normal size) to shrink more quickly to its pre-pregnancy size.”
The Complete Book of Breastfeeding M.S. Eiger. MD, S. Wendkos Olds
Copyright 1972, 1987 Comstock, Inc., Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
708 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
The uterus of the non-breastfeeding mother will never shrink back to its pre-pregnant size. It will always remain slightly enlarged.
Chua S, Arulkumaran S, Lim I et al. “Influence of breastfeeding and nipple stimulation on postpartum uterine activity.”
Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1994; 101:804-805
- Nursing helps mom lose weight after baby is born
Breastfeeding requires an average of 500 extra calories per day. Dewey KG, Heinig MJ, Nommwen LA. Maternal weight-loss patterns during prolonged lactation.
Am J Clin Nutr 1993;58:162-166
Mothers who breastfed exclusively or partially had significantly larger reductions in hip circumference and were less above their pre-pregnancy weights at 1 month post partum than mothers who fed formula exclusively.” Kramer, F., “Breastfeeding reduces maternal lower body fat.” J. Am Diet Assoc 1993; 93(4):429-33
- Formula feeding may increase risk of sudden infant death syndrome (S.I.D.S.)
Ford RPK, Taylor BJ, Mitchell EA, et al. “Breastfeeding and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Int J. Epidemiol. 1993;22:885-890
Mitchell EA, Taylor BJ, Ford RPK, et al. “Four modifiable and other major risk factors for cot death: the New Zealand Study”.
J Paediatr Child Health. 1992;28:S3-S8
Scragg LK, Mitchell EA, Tonkin SL, et al. Evaluation of the cot death prevention programme in South Auckland.
NZ Med J. 1993;106:8-10
- Breastfeeding protects baby against vision defects
Birch E, et al. “Breastfeeding and optimal visual development.” J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus 1993;30:33-8
In a study in Bangladesh, breastfeeding was a protective factor for night blindness among preschool-aged children in both rural and urban areas. Breast milk is generally the main, if not the only source, of vitamin A during a child’s first 24 months of life (or for the duration of breastfeeding). Bloem, M. et al. “The role of universal distribution of vitamin A capsules in combatting vitamin A deficiency in Bangladesh.: Am J Epidemiol 1995; 142(8): 843-55
- Breastfeeding results in less sick days for parents
Since breastfed babies are statistically healthier than their formula fed peers, the parents of breastfed babies spend less time out of work taking care of sick children.
- Long-term protection, too Breastfeed your baby and you reduce his risk of developing chronic conditions, such as type I diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.