Breastfeeding is the only source through which child gets all the nutrients and vitamins in the first six months of life.
Breast milk is definitely best not only for your baby but for you too. The benefits of breastfeeding extends beyond providing basic nutrition. Breast milk is also packed with disease-fighting substances that protect baby from illness. Several studies have shown that babies who breastfeed have better mental development, better jaw and tooth development and stronger immune systems. It also reported that later in life women who do not breastfeed are at higher risk for diabetes, osteoporosis, breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.
The two way benefits of breastfeeding are many.
Benefits for the baby: It helps reduce possibilities of getting certain diseases like
- Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea and vomiting)
- Atopic disease (including eczema and asthma)
- Urinary tract infections
- Respiratory infections (pneumonia, cough and cold)
- Obesity in childhood and later life
- Type 1 and 2 diabetes in childhood or later life
- Some childhood cancers (leukemia and lymphoma)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Heart disease and liver disease in adulthood
Other than these benefits, breast milk contains various important components to protect and build the baby’s immune system. The unique quality of breast milk is that it changes from feed to feed to suit each baby’s needs, making it the ideal food to promote healthy growth and development.
Benefits for the mother: Many research results shows that breastfeeding has significant health benefits for mothers also. It
- Helps the uterus to return to its pre-pregnant state faster
- Reduce the risk of mothers with gestational diabetes developing type 2 diabetes
- Reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and pre-menopausal breast cancer
- May reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Helps in healing after baby’s birth and avoid severe post partum bleeding
- Assists returning more quickly to pre pregnancy weight, by burning 500 extra calories per day
- Ensures stronger bones later in life
- Build a strong emotional bond with their babies
- Helps to space children
With the advancement in health science over the past decades, importance of breastfeeding and recommendations for this practice is increasing. WHO ( World Health organization) says that breastfeeding reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood for both child and mother. Overall, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the recommended for feeding infants. It is later on followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate foods for up to two years or beyond.
To help mothers to provide exclusive breastfeeding for six months, WHO and UNICEF recommend following tips:
- Initiation of breastfeeding should be done within the first hour of life
- Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water
- Breastfeeding should be available on demand of child- that is, as often as the child wants, day and night
- There should be no use of bottles, teats or pacifiers
Breast milk is the natural first food for babies. It provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life. It further continues to provide up to half of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year. This extends up to providing one-third nutrition during the second year of life.
Breastfeeding is a natural act. Mothers and other caregivers require active support to strengthen maternity practices to support it. It should be the duty of the society as a whole to support the mother in all fronts to sustain a healthy breastfeeding to her child. It ensure better health of the child, the future of any society and of mother who is the bearer of this future.