Every year, the first week of August is recognised as “World Breastfeeding Week,” lasting from the 1st to the 8th of August, to raise awareness about the importance and benefits of breastfeeding among communities worldwide. This year’s theme is to ” Step up Breastfeeding: Educate & support”.
Even with so many alternatives in the market, most of the doctors, medical experts and even lay people suggest breastfeeding. The reasons are many! Breastfeeding is essential for infant development. It provides your baby with the important nutrition required during the first year of life.
Spread your hand and place it against your baby’s soft tummy. See how small it is? Now you can imagine how fragile your baby’s digestive system is gently tucked inside that tiny, cute tummy right? This digestive system, like the rest of your baby, is developing and needs a lot of safe nutrition that is easily digestible and provides the maximum sustenance. And this is not found in the expensive, packaged formula that you can buy online, but in the mother’s breast milk, produced by your body to provide that perfect nutrition for your little one.
Breast milk is easily digestible by babies. Mother’s milk provides important nutrients and antibodies to their infants, strengthening their immune systems, preventing further illness, and even boosting cognitive development! Mothers should breastfeed their babies for the first 6 months unless there are unpreventable reasons. Human milk is vital for a child’s growth during the early years to fulfill its nutritional and immunological needs, which helps to prevent illness and infections in future as well.
Strengthening Your Bond With Your Baby
There is an intrinsic connection between a mother and her baby. Look back on the exhilarating nine months that passed before you held that little bundle of joy in your hands. Each trimester is different: shifting moods, morning sickness, aches, discomfort, and then, that first fleeting movement, that sudden rush of tenderness when you realize that there is a wee heart beating in unison with yours, that astounding miracle happening in your body. That is the first beautiful high of motherhood. You intuitively pick up and learn to understand your baby’s needs and wants. This special bond is what ensures that your baby has a safe and healthy life. Once the baby is born, this bond is further strengthened by the way you interact and engage with your baby. A key factor is nursing your baby. Frequent nursing/breastfeeding can promote the bonding and relationship between child and mother while reducing your baby’s anxiety and promoting a sense of security and belongingness. Doctors recommend breastfeeding for the first 6 months (solely) and continuing with supplementary feeding for 2 years and beyond. Moreover, you can nurse your baby anywhere, even while traveling without the hassle of preparing formula. Breastfeeding can also calm and comfort a baby while traveling.
Benefits for Infants
Breastfeeding ensures the child’s survival and health during the initial crucial days of birth. For infants, it is the safest meal that provides nutrients to develop protection against diseases such as
- Type 1 diabetes.
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Antibodies and strong immune system
- Less chances of Gastrointestinal infections such as constipation, diarrhea and gas reflux
- Few Colds and respiratory illnesses
- Low chances of ear infections,
- Promotes better brain and cognitive development
- Better vision
Benefits for mothers
Breastfeeding is also evidently helpful for mothers. It provides support for weight loss after delivery, and it is also helpful for physical and mental health. Breastfeeding provides benefits for mother by reducing risk and chances of several diseases such as
- Postpartum bleeding
- Urinary tract infections
- Postpartum depression
- Ovarian cancer.
- Breast cancer
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Osteoporosis with age
- Cardiovascular disease
The physical contact between mom and the baby makes the baby feel safe, warm, secure, and loved. Breastfeeding develops emotional and spiritual connection while also increasing levels of oxytocin that helps to feel mother relaxed and promotes milk flow.
Science Behind Breastfeeding
In mothers, milk production starts around the 4th week of pregnancy. There are three stages of breast milk production.
- For several 4-5 days after birth, yellow sticky milk is produced, which provides the most vital nutrients for the baby. It has a high number of white blood cells (WBC) and antibodies. It is important for the baby’s digestive system.
- Then the second stage arrives, known as transitional milk. It consists of high nutritional value in protein, fat, vitamins, and lactose. The colour starts changing from yellow to white.
- After the 2nd stage, mature milk begins to be produced and it stays consistent depending on the feeding pattern of the mother.
Breast Milk quality depends on the mothers diet. That’s why doctors advise people to have a balanced diet during pregnancy. Remember there is no special diet for breastfeeding only you need to eat healthy and nutritious food. You might need to eat some extra calories also.
Some harmful foods you should avoid during breastfeeding are smoke, alcohol or any harmful drugs. Also avoid taking medicine without prescription during breastfeeding.
Importance of Breastfeeding
Breastfed babies have improved physical and cognitive development. Healthcare and allied healthcare workers should help mothers to be prepared for breastfeeding pre and postpartum, allowing them to have support, and educate them during the early stage of parenthood.
Because breastfeeding offers infants the healthiest start possible, UNICEF suggests breastmilk:
- Beginning within an hour of delivery.
- Breastfeeding for the first six months only.
- Taking solid foods with breastmilk for at least two years.
For the wellbeing of the child, breast-milk substitutes should also be avoided if possible. It is important to create awareness to allow mothers to breastfeed anywhere and anytime.
At Aveksha Hospital, we offer all the parents comprehensive support throughout their parental journey. Our specialists, doctors, and nurses make sure that the mother and child receive the best care possible during pregnancy and delivery, as well as post delivery ; to breastfeeding and access to counseling and consultation services after birth.