We are in the 21st century where technology has taken a place in people’s lives. Many women are busy with their phones/tablets/laptops and when outdoor, they are probably busy in their workplaces. This means that they are busy 24hrs a day seven days a week and get no time to breastfeed their children.
But did you know how important it is to breastfeed? Naturally, breastmilk nourishes the infant and when you breastfeed your child, there are other benefits extended to you as the mother and we will tell you all of them.
The benefits of breastfeeding for a baby
1. Cognitive benefits of breastfeeding
When you take time to breastfeed your baby as recommended, you help your infant on brain development and cognitive growth. If you are hearing this for the first time, we will mention a few here for you.
2. Better IQ
According to the research, infants who consume breastmilk usually develop higher intelligence quotient (IQ) and as they transition to school age, they always score better on IQ. Besides, the research confirms that infants breastfed in their late infancy into toddlerhood register a higher IQ scores meaning that there is a correlation between the IQ and the span of breastfeeding.
3. Healthy brain size
As the baby grows, the brain grows as well. Therefore, when you breastfeed your baby, you help his or her brains to develop at the right pace to the size proportion to the age.
4. Healthier neurons
Infants that are well breastfed have a higher density of white matter tissue in their brains which have longer neuron cells that help the brain parts to coordinate accordingly. This means that the white matter determines the quality of how a child thinks as well as the cognitive functions. It’s therefore important to breastfeed your baby as you give him/her 30% more white matter advantage over those fed on formula only.
5. It can speed up the development of the brain in preterm babies
At times, some women lose hope of their babies if born prematurely, but you can ensure he/she grows normally by breastfeeding them. Usually, the breast milk speeds up the development of the brain to ensure that the infant does not encounter cognitive milestone delay, and your infant can hardly face psychiatric disorders if well breastfed.
6. Reduced chances of ADHD
It is recommendable to breastfeed your infants for six months or more as this is the only way you can protect them against attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to the research, ADHD has no cure but only managed through medication, and if you don’t want your child to live on medication for the rest of their lives, ensure they get enough milk from you as possible.
Breastmilk is excellent in providing immunological advantages as it boosts your child’s immunity against pathogens.
1. Protects infants against general illness
Breastmilk is loaded with antibodies that protect the baby against general illnesses such as the common cold. For example, when a mother suffers from the common cold and breastfeeds the baby, the infant will automatically suffer from common cold as well. Breastfeeding will always protect your infant against bacterial infections like pneumonia and bacterial meningitis.
2. Protects against viral diseases
When you breastfeed your baby, you protect him or her against viruses such as varicella-zoster and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) thereby protecting them from shingles and chickenpox. According to the researchers, a mother can automatically pass viral immunity to the infant if she ever suffered chickenpox, and even though the immunity is passive, it helps bring down the chances of your infant contracting the illness.
3. Promotes the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria
When infants are born, their small intestines contain probiotic bacteria and even though the bacterial population is low, breast milk contains special sugars and fat responsible for stimulating the multiplication of good bacteria. An infant with a healthy intestinal bacteria population is well protected against any invasive bacteria like E. coli.
4. Few chances of allergies and autoimmune diseases
The breastmilk contains immunoglobulin which trains the immune system of the infant to be proficient in differentiating a pathogen from any harmless protein. This means that the infant will become less prone to conditions related to allergies such as asthma. When compared to a formula-fed infant, a well-breastfed infant has fewer chances of developing any allergic reaction. In addition, a well-breastfed infant has a lower risk of developing other autoimmune illnesses such as Crohn’s disease.
5. Breastfeeding reduces the risks of leukemia, SIDS, and diabetes
Infants who are well breastfed for at least six months have few chances of experiencing cancers such as leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Physical benefits of breastfeeding
1. The infant has few chances of developing obesity
When an infant is well breastfed, he or she maintains a healthier weight up to adulthood, meaning that the chances of developing obesity in toddlerhood and later in life are minimal.
2. Enhances timely growth and development
It is natural that for a baby to be considered growing normally, he or she must attain a specific developmental milestone. Infants that have been fed six months and more register a better run at physical growth and reach the expected milestone in time than those fed on formula only.
3. Enhances better teeth development with less dental problems
When an infant is well breastfed, primary teeth grow normally and healthy thereby reducing any chance of teeth complications. In addition, feeding on mother’s milk reduces chances of tooth decay simply because the milk does not have sugars likely to harm an infant’s teeth like the one found in the formula.
The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother
There is a notion that breast milk only benefits the infants and the benefits we examined are immeasurable. However, science has also proven that breastfeeding a baby benefits the mother and we will examine how.
1. Quick postpartum recovery
It goes without saying that delivery is not a walk in the park as it comes with loads of challenges and immeasurable pain. If you want to recover fast even after a cesarean-section, opt to breast your baby accordingly. The reason behind the recovery is that when nipples are suckled, a hormone called oxytocin is released and helps the uterus to recover faster and lets it regain its original shape.
2. Helps you to lose pregnancy fat
During pregnancy, the female body accumulates excess fat and when you breastfeed your baby, the milk uses additional calories meaning that the chances of returning to your pre-pregnancy weight and height are very fast.
3. Lowers chances of developing ovarian and breast cancer
According to research, women who breastfeed their babies exclusively have a lower risk of getting ovarian and breast cancer. To be precise, breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing breast cancer by 50% especially if you breastfeed for two years of life. In other studies, breastfeeding a baby for at least one year reduces the chances of developing ovarian cancer and these benefits will last for a lifetime.
4. Reduces risks of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
According to the research, when you exclusively breastfeed your baby, you reduce chances of developing cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, high blood pressure (hypertension), and type 2 diabetes.
5. Reduces chances of bone diseases
It has been proven that women who breastfeed their infants for at least thirteen months, they lower chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis by half throughout their lives. In addition, breastfeeding reduces the chances of developing osteoporosis.
Emotional and psychological benefits
1. You get happiness and satisfaction
As stated, when an infant suckles the breasts, a hormone called oxytocin is released which helps a mother to develop a happy feeling and relax. Oxytocin has also been proven to enhance a sense of love and attachment between the baby and the mother. Suckling the breast also releases prolactin, a hormone responsible for stimulating milk production in the breasts and its flow from the nipple. A mother can feel relaxed and concentrated on her baby during nursing all thanks to prolactin.
2. Enhances a strong bond with the baby
When a mother is breastfeeding her baby, there is a skin-to-skin contact which makes the mother experience maternal pride, and the baby feels secure. And when this feeling is experienced in the early stages of life, the mother develops strong ties with the child which is extended into adulthood.
3. Better stress resistance
A study found out that the blood of breastfeeding mothers has low levels of stress hormones. This clearly shows that when you breastfeed your baby, chances are that you’ll have a higher resistance to stress.
4. Low chances of developing postpartum depression
Breastfeeding your baby after delivery is associated with lower chances of developing postpartum depression thanks to oxytocin which makes you feel good always. In addition, breastfeeding mothers develop a better quality of psychological health compared to those that feed their infants on formula.
5. Helps you to become better parents
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), fathers play a vital role in providing a conducive feeding environment for the mothers. With an active encouraging partner, a lactating mother can breastfeed her child for a long-term and infants in turn benefit from tremendous health benefits.
Financial, economic, and environmental benefits
1. Breastfeeding is pocket-friendly
Breastfeeding is free and available all the time. However, a formula is expensive and as the infant grows, there is an urgent need to purchase even more expensive formula because their dietary requirements also change. Besides, breastfeeding relieves you the responsibilities of carrying extra baggage when traveling.
2. It’s good for the economy
Breastfeeding infants exclusively for the first six months could save $3.6 billion worldwide. The money saved can be used later for better education or on vaccination. According to other studies, exclusive breastfeeding could save $14 billion on the cost of pediatric healthcare worldwide.
3. Less environmental waste
When mothers opt to breastfeed their children, there is a less environmental waste because there are no leftover cans and measuring cups.
How Long to Breastfeed to Get Benefits?
Even though there is no specific period in which you are supposed to breastfeed your baby, you can make a decision on how long you want it to be but take note of the following;
Exclusively for the first six months
Medical expert and pediatrics across the world recommend an exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and then combine solid foods with breastmilk for up to 12 months.
Don’t stop even after 12 months
According to AAP, you are supposed to continue breastfeeding your baby even after 12 months. Even though toddlers get nutrients from solid food, he can still benefit from breast milk’s antibodies.
You can extend up to two years and above
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that breastmilk is a natural food thereby recommending mothers to breastfeed up to two years and more. In fact, a third of your baby’s nutritional requirement comes from the mother’s milk.
Are there any disadvantages of breastfeeding?
It is evident that there is no specific period to breastfeed your baby. And given that the breastmilk is loaded with benefits for both the baby and the mother, let your baby enjoy your milk for up to three years. However, it goes without saying that anything with advantages has disadvantages, and we will find out the disadvantages of breastfeeding.
Pain, soreness, and dry nipples
Breastfeeding comes with challenges and for the first ten days, mothers can experience soreness and pain as a result of infection and poor latching. When you realize that your breasts are latching, seek professional help from a lactation specialist. Also, when nipples become dry, they crack causing discomfort.
Restriction of mother’s diet and medications
When breastfeeding, you must be willing to sacrifice some of your best food and drink for your baby’s sake, and some of the things to cut include caffeine and alcohol. Even though it’s possible to manage dietary changes, vital medicines could be a problem and you are recommended to consult your doctor about the safety of the medicines you take.
Breasts may become saggy
When breastfeeding, it goes without saying that breasts change their shape. However, even though suckling loosens breasts tissues, AAP confirms that when women stop breastfeeding, their breasts return to their normal shape.
Breastfeeding can interfere with work
The biggest challenge comes in when choosing between breastfeeding and working. However, it all depends on the employer and the local legislation that allocates breastfeeding facilities in the workplaces. According to WHO and UNICEF, it’s recommendable to provide breastfeeding resources as they encourage lactating mothers to continue working and at the same time breastfeed their babies.
The baby could bite when teething
Teething comes with challenges and in most cases, you’ll find the baby nipping the breast, which may force the mother to shift to feeding their babies on formula. The good news is that when you dissuade your infant by saying ‘No’ and then you unlatch when she or he bites, he will understand your command and never bite again.
It’s always awkward to breastfeed in public
Feeding can be done anywhere but a bunch of women always feel shy and awkward breastfeeding in public. If you are not comfortable breastfeeding your child in the presence of many people, you can express breastmilk and carry it in a bottle or use a nursing dress to feed your baby in public.
A situation when the baby is not breastfed
It is evident that breastmilk is loaded with benefits for both the mother and the child. However, breastfeeding could not be an option in any of the following situations and conditions.
- Situations where the infant is suffering from galactosemia which is a hereditary disorder that prevents the digestive system of the infant from digesting the sugar referred to as galactose found in human milk
- Situations where a mother is HIV positive
- Situations where women are undergoing chemotherapy for treating cancer
- Where women are suffering from hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis
Babies come with a bundle of joy and the majority of women always celebrate holding their babies with their hands. However, it’s not about delivering but raising the child that matters. It is evident that mother’s milk is loaded with benefits.
It provides immunity through antibodies, its safe and as your baby gets nourished, you also benefit a lot as the mother. Therefore, it’s very important to breast your child for as long as three years.