Breastfeeding allows you and your baby to emotionally bond in a special way that cannot be matched, since breastfeeding meets both the nutritional and nurturing needs. Nursing is a learned skill for both mother and baby that requires time and patience.
Your breast milk
Breast milk provides many health benefits and is the ideal first food for your baby. For the first six months of life, the American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP) recommends only breastfeeding your baby, unless there are specific medical reasons to give other foods or liquids. Only breastfeeding means just that. No other liquids or foods should be given to your baby, including water, sugar water, juice, formula, soups, rice cereal or pureed foods.
Check with your baby’s health care provider for advice about giving your baby vitamins or minerals and when to add other liquids and foods to your baby's diet.
While you were pregnant, your body was preparing a very special blend of nutrients to meet your baby’s needs. Colostrum (early breast milk) is the perfect starter food for your baby. This yellowish, creamy substance is found in the breasts during pregnancy and for a few days after delivery. Your colostrum provides all the nutrition your baby will need right after birth. It also provides important protection against bacteria and viruses. Colostrum acts as natural laxative (something that makes it easier to have bowel movements) to help clear the meconium (the dark sticky stool that is made while the baby is in the uterus) from your baby’s intestines.
The amount of breast milk you make will increase over the first few days after birth. Breast milk is the perfect balance of water and nutrients containing fats, sugars, proteins, minerals, vitamins, antibodies and enzymes. It is also designed to promote brain and body growth. As your baby grows older, your milk changes to meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
Breastfeeding also allows you and your baby to bond in a way that cannot be matched by bottle feeding. Breastfeeding meets both your baby’s nutritional and nurturing needs.
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Benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
- Breastfeeding provides frequent, close physical contact and helps mother and baby become better acquainted.
- Antibodies from the mother are passed through the milk giving breastfed babies greater resistance to infection, such as respiratory viruses. This protection cannot be duplicated by formula, which contains no human antibodies.
- Breast milk is absorbed quickly and causes less stomach upset, constipation and diarrhea than formula.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies.
- Breastfeeding may decrease the chance of your baby developing ear infections, diabetes, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis later in life.
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance of some childhood cancers, such as lymphomas.
- Breastfeeding reduces the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- Breastfeeding enhances the development of oral muscles and facial bones.
- Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of childhood obesity .
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Benefits of breastfeeding for you
- Breastfeeding after giving birth causes contractions of the uterus, which helps prevent heavy bleeding. During the six weeks after birth, the uterus continues to contract and shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size.
- Breastfeeding is economical. You do not have the added cost of formula and supplies (approximately $1,600 per year for formula alone).
- Breastfeeding is more convenient. There is nothing to mix, measure, wash or prepare.
- Breastfeeding may help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight sooner than if not breastfeeding, especially if you nurse your baby for six months.
- Breastfeeding delays the return of menstruation. (Talk with your health care provider about birth control.)
- Breastfeeding triggers the release of the hormone Prolactin, known as the “mothering hormone,” which promotes a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
- Prolactin also promotes a deeper sleep, which enables you to feel more rested in a shorter amount of time.
- Research shows that breastfeeding reduces the risks of breast and ovarian cancer and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Breastfeeding helps mothers miss less work because their babies get sick less often.
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American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) promotes the following breastfeeding guidelines:
- Breastfeed during the first hour after delivery.
- No supplements (such as water, glucose water or formula) should be given to breastfeeding newborns unless needed because of a medical condition.
- Newborns should be fed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing or rooting. Crying is a late sign of hunger.
- Feed the baby only breast milk for the first six months of life so your baby receives the ideal nutrition that supports optimal growth and development.
- A trained observer should evaluate breastfeeding within 24 to 48 hours after delivery and at a follow-up visit 48 to 72 hours after mother and baby leave the hospital.
- Expressing and storing breast milk are encouraged, so the baby can receive the stored breast milk instead of formula at times the mother and baby have to be apart.
- Breastfeeding is recommended for the first 12 months of life or longer if the mother and baby want to continue.
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Nature provides all that is necessary for the optimum survival and development of her children, if we diligently follow her rules we would reap the healthy benefits but when we veer from her course we face repercussions.
One important scenario that exemplifies this truism is breast feeding, in this era of convenience mothers can choose between giving their babies breast milk or formula, many opt for the latter stating work and convenience as their reason.
Studies show that breast feeding has a lot of advantages over feeding with formula for the baby, mother and society.
3-5 days after a baby is born, the mother’s mammary glands secrete a unique type of milk, colostrum, referred to as liquid gold because of its yellowish color. This thick milk contains vital nutrients and antibodies required by the child to grow and develop resistance to diseases, after this 3-5 days, the mammary gland of the mother begins to secrete another type of milk, less thick and yellow, containing fat, sugar, water, proteins, fats and all the antibodies and nutrients the child’s body needs.
Studies reveal that children fed breast milk at this important stage grow up healthier and stronger than children fed formula. They are able to naturally develop resistance to many illnesses including gastro-intestinal illness, allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, childhood cancers, respiratory and urinary tract infections and SIDS.
Another important advantage of breast milk over formula, breast milk is easily digestible by baby’s stomach, nature intended babies to be fed breast milk, therefore their stomachs are equipped with the right enzymes to properly break down and absorb breast milk. On the other hand formula, made of cow milk is new to the child’s system and their stomach have not developed the ability to properly digest and absorb cow milk, therefore there are complications in digestion and the baby loses out on important nutrients and antibodies needed for optimum health.
Opting for breast milk over formula has a lot of benefits for mothers too, studies shows that it reduces the risk of developing illnesses like diabetes, postpartum depression, and reduced risk of breast, ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancers.
The skin to skin contact between mother and child during breast feeding raises the mother’s oxytocin levels which helps the mother’s milk flow and make her calm, scientists say that during breast feeding the mother and child develop a special emotional bond that lasts lifelong.
Breast feeding is cheaper and more convenient for mothers than formula. By choosing breast milk mothers save money that hitherto would have be spent on formula, they also save time as breast milk does not need to be prepared.
The society benefits from mothers breast feeding rather than feeding children formula, the energy and resource used up in producing, packaging and distributing formula can be used for other purposes.
Mothers are more productive because them and their babies are healthy and would not need to take leave from work for health reasons as may be the case a mother who feeds her baby formula.
Government funds for supporting mothers with formula and taking care of them when health complications arise can be put to other use for the benefit of the society.
Nature is indeed perfect and works for us when we follow her rules.