Why Breastfeeding is Important for the Mother and the Baby? All you Need to Know!7 minute
According to a report by the United Nations (UN), close to one lakh children die in India due to illnesses and diseases that could have been prevented through breastfeeding. If you’re a new mother and are contemplating whether you should breastfeed your baby or not, you’re not alone. Though it is a personal decision which only you can make, the benefits are endless. Every year, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1 – 7 August in more than 120 countries. The annual celebration aims at promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months owing to the tremendous benefits it provides. The importance of breastfeeding is not just for the baby alone but the mother too.
Think of it as a vaccine for your newborn and nature’s perfect food. Just as cow’s milk is an ideal source of nourishment for calves, your breast milk too is exquisitely crafted to meet the myriad nutritional demands of your new born baby. It is a shot of nourishment your baby needs until they are two years old or until both the mom and baby decide to call it quits. The sooner you start breastfeeding your baby, the bigger the benefits. Experts recommend starting as early as one hour after birth. Motherhood is indeed a blessing.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Baby
- Best Nourishment
Mother’s milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby. When a baby is born, their digestive system is extremely delicate. During such times, they need something that is easy to digest and therefore breast milk fits the bill. It has the perfect mix of fat, minerals and protein that makes it easier to absorb than a cow’s milk formula. Besides having all the nutrients in the right proportion, the composition of breast milk changes as per the baby’s needs. During the initial few days after birth, your breasts will produce a thick and yellowish fluid called colostrum. It is truly a wonder food for your baby as it is high in protein and low in sugar. Once the baby’s digestive tract develops, the breasts produce a larger amount of milk.
- Shield against Infections
During the first six months, your milk is rich in antibodies. Each time your baby nurses, he/she gets a healthy dose of nutrition. These antibodies protect the babies from contracting any infection which further strengthens their immunity. It acts as a shield against ear infections, colds, stomach ailments, respiratory tract infections and other common childhood-linked illnesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, make sure you take all the hygiene precautions before breastfeeding your baby. This can boost their immunity.
- Promotes Healthy Weight Gain
A baby who is breastfed is likely to develop a healthy weight. They usually tend to stop feeding when they’re full. On the other hand, bottle-fed infants are forced to drink until the bottle is empty. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood obesity. This also helps the baby develop healthy eating patterns as they grow.
- A naturally safe meal that is easy on your baby’s tummy
With breastfed milk, mothers don’t need to worry about contamination. It’s always sterile. Spoilage can only occur in cases of pumped milk which sits out or is refrigerated for too long. Otherwise, breast milk is the best choice for your baby. It is designed for them and their little tummies. Since the milk is easy to digest, they’re less likely to suffer from constipation or diarrhoea.
- Boosts IQ
Several studies reveal that the IQ is higher in breastfed babies than those who’ve been given the bottle. While there is very slight research on this, the main difference may be due to physical touch and skin-on-skin contact with the mom. The thought of feeling nurtured and safe enhances intellectual development in the baby. The nutrient content of breastfed milk is also higher than formula which plays a crucial role in brain development.
Your baby isn’t the only one experiencing the perks of breastfeeding. As important is breastfeeding for your baby, it can also benefit you. Let’s explore them.
Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother
- Promotes Weight Loss
Most women tend to gain weight during pregnancy. The only way to shed those extra kilos is by breastfeeding your baby. During the process, mothers tend to lose some calories. Each time a baby sucks on your breast, a “feel good” hormone encourages the uterus to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. This helps you lose baby weight faster. Also, breastfeeding burns 300 to 500 extra calories every day. In just three months of lactation, mothers have seen a visible difference in their weight.
- A good time to bond with your baby
We’ve all heard of postpartum depression (PPD). It happens right after childbirth. Mothers who breastfeed their babies are more likely to come out of this depression phase quicker. The physical and emotional connection you get from nursing your baby is ultimate. You can also look at it as a good time to bond with your baby.
- Reduces Risk of Diseases
Breastfeeding and early lactation lower the risk of many illnesses and diseases in new mothers. It provides you with long-term protection against breast cancer, endometrial cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and any kind of heart disease.
- Keeps Periods away for longer
Most breastfeeding moms don’t see their period coming back for at least six months after giving birth. In some cases, it can even take longer. Continued breastfeeding is nature’s way of pausing ovulation and menstruation. This gives you enough time to enjoy with your newborn and one thing less to worry about. If you’re hoping to get pregnant again very soon, you should talk to your gynaecologist.
- It’s Free & Convenient
Though this isn’t really a major breastfeeding benefit for the mother directly, it is considered one. Nursing your baby isn’t complicated. The milk comes for free barring any additional breast pumps or tools you purchase. Besides that, breastfeeding is convenient. You don’t have to worry about the temperature of the milk, cleaning up or sterilizing bottles, calculating the amount of milk your baby needs to drink daily or figuring out how to warm milk on the go. Breastfeeding is instant. All you need is a baby feeding pillow, an easy-access nightie and a clean, hygienic place. Before you know, you’ll become a nursing pro.
Hence, these are the numerous benefits of breastfeeding for the baby and you. As a new mother, it’s normal to be anxious for your baby. You would want to ensure that your baby gets all the necessary nutrients. To help you get off to a good start, here are a few breastfeeding tips that will come handy.
So, you’ve just delivered your first baby. Now what? You’re supposed to nurse him/her but don’t know how to go about it? Well, breastfeeding isn’t something that comes naturally to all new mothers. A good practice would be to do all your homework before the baby is about to arrive. This will at least ensure you’re well prepared. You can also order your breast pump, feeding pillow and maternity wear well in advance. Once you have all your supplies at hand, the next step would be to get on the job. To ensure your breastfeeding days are fruitful and calm, we’ve rounded up some tips that you should follow:
- Breastfeeding diet: As a breastfeeding mother, you will have to take special care of your diet and watch what you eat. This affects your quality of milk. Most doctors recommend getting a balance of iron, folic and calcium supplements. Additionally, make sure you get vitamin B, vitamin C and zinc supplements in plenty too. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and medicine. If you find certain foods affecting your baby, keep it off your diet to see if it makes a difference.
- Breastfeeding length: The WHO recommends breastfeeding your baby for at least six months. However, 12-24 months is generally recommended or as long as both the mother and baby desire. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you might want to breastfeed your baby for longer. If you have to get back to work once your maternity leave is over, you can stop the practice.
- Anticipate your baby’s needs: Don’t wait to feed your baby till they cry. There are a few tell-tale signs that indicate your baby is hungry. If they open and close their mouth, stick out their tongue or suck on whatever is near, it means they need to be fed. Your baby will be happy if you only offer them your breast rather than them struggling to get your attention.
- Relax: Don’t look at breastfeeding as a chore. Instead, see it as an enjoyable process. Your baby can tell when you’re comfortable and relaxed. This will help the baby latch on correctly too. Ensure your surrounding environment is peaceful and hygienic. This is the best time to bond with your little bundle of joy.
- Care for your skin: The skin around your breasts is very delicate. With continued feeding, it may become dry, chapped and might even cry over time. This can make feeding a painful experience. Therefore, ensure your breasts are clean all the time by not over-washing and using a gentle cleanser. After each feed, pat them dry with a soft cloth. Let them air out periodically. Also, remember to wash your hands before each feeding.
- Don’t stress, you have enough milk: A lot of new mothers’ stress that they will run out of milk for their baby. Well, milk production depends upon your baby’s needs. Each time they suck, they further stimulate more milk production. From the beginning of your pregnancy, your breasts are conditioned to produce milk. So, don’t worry as you will have enough milk to fulfil your baby’s nutrition demands.
Breastfeeding can be overwhelming at times. However, when you put the above tips into practice, it will not seem like a chore. You will instead enjoy your time with your little one. After a month of breastfeeding, evaluate the signs and if all is going well, continue your practice. Make sure you stay hydrated and never hesitate to ask for help or seek professional advice. Breastfeeding is not an embarrassing process. Seeking the right guide will ensure your baby thrives.