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Breastfeeding Benefits For Baby & Mom by Adess Mwale, RN

Breast milk provides the best nutrition for babies

It is recommended that babies are exclusively breastfed for at least six months

Breast milk contains everything a baby needs for the first six months of life, in all the right proportions. It’s composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life.

During the first days after birth, your breasts produce a thick yellowish fluid called colostrum. It is high in protein, low in sugar and loaded with beneficial compounds. It is truly a wonder food with antibodies that are unavailable in infant formula. .

Breast milk contains important antibodies

Breast milk is loaded with antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and certain illnesses, which is important during the early months of an infant’s life..

This particularly applies to colostrum, the first milk a postpartum woman produces. Colostrum provides high amounts of immunoglobulin A (IgA), as well as several other antibodies.

When a woman is  exposed to viruses or bacteria, she will  produce antibodies that transfer  into the milk. This creates protective immunity for a baby.

Formula doesn’t provide antibody protection for babies.

Breastfeeding may reduce disease risk

Exclusive breastfeeding, meaning that the infant receives only breast milk, is particularly beneficial.

It may reduce your baby’s risk for many illnesses and diseases, including:

  • Middle ear infections.Breastfeeding, particularly exclusive breastfeeding, protects children from developing  against middle ear, throat, and sinus infections beyond infancy and throughout childhood.
  • Respiratory tract infections.Breastfeeding can protect against multiple respiratory and acute gastrointestinal illnesses.
  • Colds and infections.Babies exclusively breastfed for six months may have a lower risk of developing serious colds,ear and throat infections.
  • Gut infections.Breastfeeding is linked with a reduction in gut infections such as  Crohn’s disease , inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Intestinal tissue damage.Feeding preterm babies breast milk is linked with a reduction in the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Allergic diseases.Breastfeeding is linked to a reduced risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema.
  • Breastfeeding is linked to a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes and non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes.
  • Childhood leukemia.Breastfeeding is linked to a reduction in the risk for childhood leukaemia

Breast milk promotes baby’s healthy weight

Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight gain and helps prevent childhood obesity.

This may be due to the development of different gut bacteria. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage.

Babies fed breast milk also have more of a hormone called leptin in their systems than formula-fed babies. Leptin is a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage that signals satiation and prevents overfeeding..

Breastfed babies also self-regulate their milk intake. They’re better at eating only until they’ve satisfied their hunger, which helps them develop healthier feedings patterns.

Breastfeeding benefits for the mother

Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract.  During pregnancy, your uterus grows 500 times it’s prepregnancy size, expanding from the size of a pear to filling almost the entire space of your abdomen.

After delivery, your uterus goes through a process called involution, which helps it return to its previous size. Oxytocin, a hormone that increases throughout pregnancy, helps drive this process.

Your body secretes high amounts of oxytocin during labour to help deliver the baby and reduce bleeding.

Oxytocin also increases during breastfeeding. It encourages uterine contractions and reduces bleeding, helping the uterus return to its previous size.

Studies have also shown that mothers who breastfeed generally have less blood loss after delivery and faster involution of the uterus. Don’t be too surprised if you have similar feelings to contractions after the baby is born and while you are breastfeeding. This can be explained by the presence of oxytocin doing it’s job to involute the uterus.

Breastfeeding reduces your disease risk,  Breastfeeding seems to provide you with long term protection against cancer and several diseases.

The total time a woman spends breastfeeding is linked with a reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Women who breastfeed have a lower risk for:

  • high blood pressure
  • arthritis
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

It saves time and money to top the list, breastfeeding is mostly free,by choosing to breastfeed, you won’t have to:

  • spend money on formula
  • calculate how much your baby needs to drink daily
  • spend time cleaning and sterilizing bottles
  • mix and warm up bottles in the middle of the night (or day)
  • figure out ways to warm up bottles while on the go
  • The good news is, breast milk is always at the right temperature and ready for your baby to drink. 

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