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Benefits of Breastfeeding

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I'm pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery( B.A.M.S.) from the Rishikul Ayurvedic College at Haridwar, India.

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"Breastfeeding Is a Blessing to Mother and Child”

Breast milk is proven to be ideal for neonates and is the best gift that a mother can give her newborn. A loving source of nutrition and protection; the breast milk provides the perfect nutrition for infants. it has a neatly balanced mixture of vitamins, protein, and fat- everything the baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than the baby formula. Even though breast feeding is necessary for the betterment of the babies’ health and is a the mother’s personal decision; It is also one of that draws strong opinions from the family and society.

During early infancy, Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommend exclusive breast feeding as it provides adequate nutrition to the child and prevents and protects the infants from infections. Scientifically also breast feeding has been reported to reduce infant mortality rate by 13%. Just like the food we eat is a major component of our lives, it is extremely important to provide the newborn with a balanced, easily digestible, and enriching nutrition, for its well being and growth. Human food is made up of essential, natural substances called nutrients; consisting of the carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. All of these are required by the body to create life energy. The deficiency or excess of these nutrients leads to various diseases and ailments. For a newborn all of these essential nutrients are provided by the mother’s milk.

Amidst the varying ideals prevalent in the society these days; the doctors’ insist on an infant being exclusively breastfed till six months of age. During this time any additional food or supplements are not required or recommended as the breast milk is sufficient to fulfill the child’s dietary requirements and for strengthening its immune system. It is only after 6 months of initial breast feeding phase, that an infant is given complimentary food to ensure that the child receives enough energy, proteins, and overall nutrition to grow normally. And even after the initiation of complimentary feeding the mothers’ are advised to continue breastfeeding the baby up to 2 years of age to make sure that the baby grows up with the full spectrum of nutrition required for child development.

Benefits of Breast Milk for the Infant

1) Nutritional superiority:

~ Breast milk has all the essential nutrients needed for the normal growth of the baby and its optimally proportionate development.

~ It is easily digested and absorbed by the baby.

~ The composition of the mother milk is-

3%-5% fat

0.8% protein

6.9%-0.2% lactose (milk sugar)

~ Has a high concentration of lactose. Its monomer- Galactose is important for the formation of galactocerebroides (helps in formation of myelin in the brain). Lactose also helps in calcium absorption and hence is required for normal bone development.

~ The protein content of breast milk is lower than the cow’s milk, and most of it is in the form which is easily digested by the infant body.

~ It has proteins like taurine and cysteine, which are needed for proper development of the child’s brain. These proteins can only be supplied through breast milk as they are not present in animal milk, nor in baby formula.

~ Breast milk is rich in unsaturated fatty acids which are again required for the proper development of the child’s brain (myelination of nerve fibers) and omega2 and omega 6 fatty acids needed for the formation of cholesterol

~ Breast milk has bioavailable vitamins and minerals in large quantities.

2) Immunological Superiority:

~ Apart from being very nutritional for the newborn; breast milk also has a large number of protective agents necessary for the well being of the baby.

~ Immunoglobulin like IgA, macrophages, lymphocytes, and enzymes like lysozyme, interferons and Bifidus factor are among the many immunity providing agents.

~ Colostrum, the first milk of the new mother, is highly nutrient enriched and is loaded with IgA antibodies, and many other growth and repair factors, necessary for the well being of the baby.

3) High water content:

~ Breast milk has ~88% water. Which is why a breast fed baby is adequately hydrated and does not require any additional water supplement.

4) Breast milk is loaded with growth promoting factors, hormones and enzymes, required for the overall growth of the baby- both physically and mentally. Babies that are breast fed are at a lower risk of catching allergies, infection. They also are less likely to get diabetes , heart disease or lactose intolerance later in their lives.

5) Breast feeding in newborns ensures better bonding with their mothers’ and have a better mental and emotional development.

Benefits of Breast Milk for the Mother

Breastfeeding has an impressive list of health benefits, both for the baby and for the mother. Even though the major social views on the idea of nursing the child are contradictory; it is safe to say that breastfeeding should be a must practice for every new mother.

1) Mothers’ who start breast feeding right after the child’s birth are at lower risk of postpartum hemorrhage, as it helps in uterine involution (the process through which the uterus returns to its normal size after delivery), reducing the female mortality rate during/ after childbirth.

2) Oxytocin, a hormone increasingly released through the pregnancy, helps in the process of involution. It increase uterine muscle movement and contraction; and hence it plays an important role in stemming bleeding in the uterus. Breastfeeding increases the secretion of Oxytocin.

3) Up to 15% of mothers are prone to develop Postpartum Depression, which can lead to the mother being aloof towards her child. Breastfeeding promotes secretion of hormones that encourage the new mother to bond with her child and develop maternal feelings.

4) Breastfeeding reduces the risk of the mother developing certain cancers and other diseases, in long-term. It also lowers the risk of high blood pressure, and heart diseases.

5) Breast feeding the baby is the easiest way to lose most of the weight gained during the pregnancy; for some women. Nursing the baby increases the body’s metabolism by expending more energy and may help the women “get back in their pre-pregnancy shape”.

6) Lactational Amenorrhea: Continued exclusive breastfeeding results in suspension of menstrual cycle and acts as a contraception during the first 6 months after delivery. This pause in the ovulation and menstruation acts as a natural contraceptive and is possibly the nature’s way of ensuring some time between two kids.

7) Nursing the baby is above all convenient and time saving for the mother and good for the finances too. It is completely free and needs little to no effort. Mothers who choose to breast feed don’t need to spent money on baby formula and then spend much time cleaning and sterilizing bottles. The milk can be stored and warmed up for the baby at any time, without the fuss of mixing up the formula in right proportions. Saves the time that would have been otherwise spent pumping the milk.

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Breast feeding the child has innumerable benefits for both the child and the mother alike. Even then a lack of cultural support is evident in our modern society. The natural and nurturing act of breastfeeding in public is made out to be embarrassing for the mothers. The highly standardized workplaces have regulations forbidding mothers from feeding their babies, putting caring for their hungry infants at odds with their jobs. Most times separate cramped up rooms are allocated to lactating women for taking care of their child’s needs. Such norms create huge, unwanted fuss over something as natural and essential as nursing a baby and should be strictly changed and modified to normalize the process of breast feeding a child. In India, the Mothers’ Absolute Affection Programme, with the help of the ASHA workers, provide skilled support and information regarding the benefits and importance of initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of the baby’s life. WHO and UNICEF both promote the need of breastfeeding babies globally. Every year the World Breastfeeding Week is organized from August 1 to August 7 by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to promote and support Breast feeding worldwide and to help alleviate the negative norms attached to the caring gesture of nursing the baby. It’s slogan being-

‘SUPPORT BREASTFEEDING FOR A HEALTHIER PLANET'

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 S Ahlawat

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