There’s a popular saying that “Breastfeeding is the best feeding”. Quite rightly so, too, seeing the myriad benefits of breastfeeding. It is a natural source of nutrition for you baby and benefits both child and the mother. Apart from satisfying your baby’s vitamin and nutrient needs in the first six months, breast milk contains substances that help fight diseases and build their immunity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding your child for the first six months, at least. Lactation consultant and breastfeeding expert, Amy Spangler, once said, “While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby”.
Here are some of the reasons why breastfeeding is good for the child, as well as for the mother:
Benefits of breastfeeding for the baby
- Babies have lower risk of illness
“The incidences of pneumonia, colds, and viruses are reduced among breastfed babies,” says Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at University of Rochester School of Medicine. Studies around the world have found that exclusive breastfeeding (i.e no formula, water or solid food) for six months protects children from cold, stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infection, pneumonia, and meningitis etc. Gastrointestinal infections like diarrhea are also less common.
- Protects babies from developing allergies
According to La Leche League, certain immune factors such as secretory IgA, available only in breast milk, provide a layer of protection to the baby’s intestinal tract and prevent an allergic reaction to food. Human milk and colostrum have antibodies that fight germs and help baby to remain allergy-free.
- Lowers your baby’s risk of SIDS
A German study found that breastfeeding lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The research indicated that exclusive breastfeeding at the age of 1 month reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by half.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer
Research has found that breastfeeding helps mothers to lower their risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. Breastfeeding women experience hormonal changes. This causes delay in menstrual periods and reduce a woman’s lifetime exposure to hormones like estrogen, which promote cancer cell growth.
- Reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer
Estrogen levels are lower during lactation. This is because breastfeeding prevents ovulation and results in lesser exposure to estrogen. Thus, the lining of the uterus and breast tissue aren’t stimulated as much, which lowers the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
- Aids in quicker recovery and promotes Postpartum weight loss
Breastfeeding helps new moms recover faster. Nursing releases oxytocin, which helps the uterus contract and reduces postpartum blood loss. Thus, the uterus is back to its normal size more quickly – at about six weeks postpartum, compared to 10 weeks if you don’t breastfeed. Breastfeeding also helps moms in losing their “baby weight” faster.
Even though exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by pediatricians and lactation experts worldwide, it might not be the obvious choice for many new moms. There might be many reasons for anxious new mothers to not breastfeed. At KIMS Cuddles, our team of lactation experts helps ease you into the breastfeeding process.
Several cultures have their own myths which might discourage some mothers from nursing. Here are some popular misconceptions, and facts to counter them:
- Myth: Your milk supply is low
Fact: If your baby is nursing all day, it doesn’t mean you aren’t producing enough. Sometimes your baby might just want to be close and feel comforted by your touch. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process – the more you nurse, the more milk you produce.
- Myth: Breastfeeding is painful
Fact: It is normal for new breastfeeding moms to feel a slightly tingling sensation in the beginning. But if you’re experiencing pain, bleeding or cracked nipples, there are high chances of improper latch or tongue-tie. You can seek the expert opinion of the lactation consultants and KIMS Cuddles to rectify this.
- Myths: You must set a breastfeeding schedule for your child
Fact: Sometimes, well-meaning family and friends suggest feeding newborns at an interval of 2 to 3 hours. The truth is – every baby is different. Breastmilk digests very quickly and thus newborn nurses almost all the time. They could be hungry or might just be craving the sucking action. So, don’t follow a set pattern – feed on demand.
- Myth: Certain foods might make your baby gassy
Fact: Many new moms stay away from beans, lentils or any kind of gas-inducing, spicy foods. However, there is no evidence to indicate that gas molecules from some foods can pass through breast milk. Babies can taste certain foods through the breastmilk, which might be the cause for your baby to seem irritable or uninterested in nursing.
Now that you know the benefits and myths associated with the benefits of breastfeeding, you can opt whether you want to breastfeed and continue it for the recommended duration of six months (or longer). If you face any problems with breastfeeding, the lactation consultants at KIMS Cuddles will provide you with adequate support.
*The opinions expressed in this article are not to be substituted for medical advice under any circumstance