Have you ever been in a situation where you know so much about a topic that it becomes difficult for you to put the information down in words in a compressed form? I’m currently in this situation. What I currently know about the benefits of breastfeeding is mind-blowing. I always aim to break down information into the most basic and relatable form so my audience can easily understand and digest it. It seems ironical that writing about the benefits of breastfeeding is difficult for me right? But it’s true! I’m going to try really hard in this article to explain to you why breastfeeding is very beneficial for you and your baby. I only ask one thing of you, please share this article with as many people as you possibly can. Deal? Great. Let’s begin
Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Baby
I’m going to divide this section into two:
a) Things we know breast milk can do for your baby
b) things we think breastmilk ‘may’ do for your baby.
There’s still a lot of research on breast milk and some of what we know today, we didn’t know 20-50 years ago.
- THINGS WE KNOW BREAST MILK CAN DO FOR YOUR BABY
- Perfect Composition of Nutrients for Optimal growth of infants. Breastmilk is complete nutrition. It contains all the basic classes of food; carbohydrate, protein, fat, water, minerals and vitamins in proportions that is best for your infant. Breast milk is a living fluid just like your blood and contains living factors such as stem cells, good bacteria, immunoglobulins, hormones, prostaglandins and immune factors. The composition of breastmilk changes to meet the needs of your child. For example, the breast milk composition of a mum whose baby is preterm is higher in short, medium and long-chain triglycerides which are very important for brain growth and for weight gain. These two outcomes are essential for the survival of a premature baby. Not only does your milk change as your baby grows, but it also changes from one feed to another aiming to meet the needs of your child.
- Prevention or Reduction in incidence of diarrhoea and other infections: Several studies have shown that breastfed babies have substantial protection from diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal diseases. This isn’t so much of a surprise since breastmilk contains as many germ-fighting cells (leukocytes) as the blood. It also contains other protective molecules including:
–Lactoferrin: a protein that absorbs iron in the gastrointestinal tract that is needed by harmful bacteria for survival. It is particularly effective against E.coli
–Oligosaccharides – these are complex bacteria that act as decoys for bad bacteria. They are indigestible by babies and only end up in baby’s poop. This is their sole purpose
–lysozyme: an enzyme that acts by stopping the growth of bacteria. It is 3 times more in breast milk than in cow’s milk. This enzyme increases in concentration at 6 months which is about the time babies start solids (not a coincidence).
These are a few molecules present in breastmilk that help to prevent diarrhoea and other infections including respiratory tract infections
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk for SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the unexplained death, during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. Studies have shown that ANY amount of breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in SIDS. One of the reasons isn’t too far-fetched. Breastfed babies tend to wake more often through the night to feed than formula-fed babies, allowing the mum to check on the wellbeing of the infant.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in preterm infants: According to Medscape, NEC is damage to the intestinal tract that typically occurs in the second to the third week of the life of a premature and formula-fed baby. Breastfed infants significantly show a lower incidence of NEC.
- Breastfed babies have also been shown to have a lower risk for developing childhood leukaemia which is a type of cancer.
- THINGS WE KNOW BREAST MILK MAY DO FOR YOUR BABY
These are a list of things that research hasn’t been able to prove beyond a doubt, that breastfeeding can be beneficial for. These include:
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Higher IQ in childhood and adolescence
- Reduced risk of obesity
While research is still ongoing, there has been some evidence to show a link between breastfeeding and the above. In all, the benefits of breastfeeding for your baby are endless and this is only a summary of some of the most important benefits your milk can offer your child.
Benefits Of Breastfeeding To Mums
Yep! Breastfeeding is beneficial to Mama too. Here’s how:
- Breastfeeding Lowers the risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancer. Studies have shown that a longer duration of breastfeeding (6 to 12 months) can reduce the risk of having these cancers by up to 28%. Breastfeeding can help to prevent ovulation which in turn lowers your risk for ovarian cancer. The hormonal changes experienced during breastfeeding reduces exposure to oestrogen, which is a hormone that plays a role in both cancers
- Breastfeeding can act as a natural Contraceptive for you: Lactational Amenorrhea Method is a recognised form of contraception. It requires four conditions for it to be effective. a) breastfeeding is done very frequently; at least 4hourly during the day and 6hourly at night b) no supplementation with formula, water or other foods c) your period hasn’t returned yet d) your baby is less than six months. I personally had no issues using it and didn’t get my period back till 14 months postpartum (best vacation ever!)
- Breastfeeding may also lower the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
Breastfeeding can definitely be challenging but the benefits make it worthwhile. Let me just chip in that breastfeeding also has a societal and environmental impact. It is safe, doesn’t produce any waste and can help to reduce infant mortality and disease worldwide. There are fewer hospital admissions when babies are breastfed, allowing the family to direct cost to other needs including education and feeding. The cost of not breastfeeding Is high and is often felt by communities who are less well to do. We all should advocate for breastfeeding.
Please feel free to drop comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!