This blog will help you understand the benefits of breast feeding better & help you make the right choice for your baby. A new mother is often bombarded with several “to-do’s” and “not-to-do’s” when she announces her pregnancy. And the list only extends once she announces her delivery. People strongly advocate exclusive breast feeding the child for atleast six months. Albeit there are some who would recommend you to introduce water, milk & other formula foods earlier than what doctors suggest, it is solely at your discretion to follow your heart.
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Well, for those who have already passed this stage of raising toddlers & trudging back to normalcy after spending painful sleepless nights with sore nipples, the next few minutes will delight you as a proud parent & reinforce your belief that you have rendered the best possible nutrition to your kid.
The following benefits will convince one that mother’s milk is a lifetime treasure that only a mother can give to her darling child. This can be continued until about 2 years along with gradual introduction of foods in the palate. However, due to some unavoidable circumstances or health issues some babies cannot be exclusively breast-fed & formula foods have to be introduced early in life. So, do not fret. Do not worry. What your baby requires the most is abundance of love & care – which every mother does. Look at the brighter side of things & give the best possible nutrition through other means.
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For better understanding let’s segregate the benefits of breast-feeding into two different categories –
- For the baby
- For the mother
Benefits of breast-feeding for the baby
Best food for the baby
Mother’s milk has all the essential nutrients in the right proportions to ensure overall development of the baby. While cow’s milk has higher fat content, thus accelerating growth, it is difficult to digest & can induce the possibility of infections & indigestion in the baby.
A new born child is vulnerable to infections although the family takes many precautions to protect the child. Breast milk is loaded with anti-bodies to fight most infections that an infant encounters in the formative years of it’s life. Rich in WBC’s (White Blood Corpuscles), it can devour harmful germs & bacteria that might cause diseases or infections. Colostrum, which is the first form of milk produced during pregnancy & early stages of delivery is an indispensable meal for your new born. Immunoglobulin (IgA) protects the baby against viral infections that may cause sudden death in infants (SIDS).
Mother’s milk is very easy to digest & contains healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract and gut which aids digestion. It acts like a natural laxative which helps combat gastric problems, flatulence, diarrhea & constipation when semi-solid & formula foods are introduced early in life.
Breast milk has all the hormones in the right proportion to help living a healthy stress-free life. It contains hormones that contribute to the well-being of the baby. It is difficult to deal with hormonal imbalances later in life which maybe a ripple effect of that caused in the early stages of childhood.
Mother’s milk is a wholesome meal for your tiny tot. At the onset it is slightly watery(fore-milk) but as the baby starts drinking gradually, it gets thicker(hind-milk) which fills the baby’s stomach. The nutrition derived from breast milk is better absorbed & better digested relative to top-foods.
Dealing with diseases/health issues
It is scientifically proven that those children who are breast fed are healthier than those who are not. Allergies, asthma, reduced ear infections, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, skin infections, cavities & other ailments like obesity & diabetes are curbed if the infant is breast-fed. These children are also shielded from cold, fever & pneumonia as well. Can it get better?
Builds a healthy appetite
A child learns to acquire a taste for most foods since the baby gets introduced to a myriad of flavours through mother’s milk. Hence, it is important for the mother to incorporate a variety of healthy foods in her diet.
Manage hunger pangs
For ideal weight & growth of the baby, he should drink milk only as much he is hungry. When a baby is on formula foods, we tend to over-feed our child. Over-feeding the baby may cause indigestion, obesity, vomiting & other related problems.
Say Cheese :)
As your baby keeps drinking milk, the movement causes ideal development of facial muscles & perfect alignment of upper & lower jaws. So, say cheese to a beautiful smile & healthy wee-aligned teeth.
It is proven that exclusive breast fed children have a higher “Intelligence Quotient” than those who are not. And this is simply because the baby derives all the essential nutrients from the mother’s milk which is quintessential for the over-all brain development of the child in it’s tender years.
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Benefits of breast-feeding for the mother
They say a new born-child learns two things from the womb – drink milk from it’s mother’s bosom & suck it’s fingers(thumb). Breast feeding creates an unexplained, irreplaceable & unconditional bond with your child that makes your child feel protected & loved.
Post-pregnancy weight loss
It may interest you to know that a woman burns about 2 calories every 3ml milk fed to the baby. Thus, if the weaning mother feeds about 600ml everyday she is burning a whooping 400 calories everyday. While the so-called “figure-conscious” women are apprehensive about feeding the baby fearing a big torso or breast, the fact remains unchanged that breast feeding helps in weight reduction. The act of breast feeding releases “oxytocin” which causes the uterus to contract by about 40% faster than those who do not.
Health benefits for the mother
Breast feeding can prevent breast & ovarian cancer and osteoporosis in women. The body tends to absorb calcium more efficiently & hence the bones get denser & stronger gradually. As mentioned earlier, it converts carbohydrates & fats into nutritious milk which helps in weight-loss & checks diabetes & obesity later in life.
Much needed relaxation
Since the baby is breast-fed frequently at short intervals, although tiring at times, this ensures the mother is given some rest to peacefully feed the child. Also feeding your baby with formula foods & juices is more time consuming. And think of the mess, sticky bibs & those incredibly cute but anxious fingers reaching out for the bowl, kicking things around which eventually lead to a sponge bath & a change of dress; which obviously requires a lot of effort & well, the unconquered clock keeps ticking.
Well, nurturing a child can get heavy on the pockets at times. While formula foods are getting expensive by the day, it is more economic to breast feed the baby. Formula foods can cost 3000 to 4000 every month. Although, the mother has to incorporate healthy fruits, veggies & nuts in her diet to ensure sufficient & good quality milk production, this will only benefit her over-all well-being & aid in faster recovery.
Delays menstrual cycle
Breast feeding can delay periods upto 6 months or more in some cases. The hormone “prolactin” is produced while breast feeding act like a contraceptive & ensures the occurrence of accidental pregnancy ruled out. While juggling between house chores & nurturing a toddler who is hands-full, life can’t get better when we don’t have to deal with the mood-swings, irregular periods, profuse bleeding, prolonged periods & anything that one would expect post-pregnancy. Life is good. Isn’t it?
Dealing with bad odours
Mother’s milk is so pure that the baby poop of an infant who is exclusively breast fed hardly stinks. Once you start the baby on formula feed, the feces start giving away smelly odours & is a lot more thicker (semi-solid) which is difficult to clean (can’t really ignore the soiled nappies).
And let there be happiness :)
To some, this maynot be a tangible, real benefit. But, it is indeed one of the most important benefits of breast feeding. Feeding the baby gives the mother a feeling of satisfaction, of contentment, of pride & of happiness. An unmatched feeling of empowerment that she is able to give her child the best possible nutrition. When the mother is relaxed the production & flow of milk is regulated. Under stress, the hormones play a whimsical game & hamper with the production of milk. So, enjoy your motherhood. :)
There is nothing more convenient than feeding your baby. No sterilization, no mid night boiling, no necessity to carry a dozen containers & feeding essentials while travelling. You can simply feed your baby anytime – no risk of infections.
Tailored to baby’s requirement
It’s a miracle that mother’s milk is adaptive to the child’s hunger & growth. The colostrum is high in protein. Gradually the milk becomes high in sugar, protein & volume to meet the demanding requirements of the baby.
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Can Breast Feeding Mothers Take Medicines?
It’s true that drugs present in your blood will get into your breast milk. However, the quantity that gets transferred defers from one medication to another. In most cases, medications have low levels of transfer; but like all things, there are some exceptions. These exceptions get concentrated in your breast milk and may even affect your milk supply. This means you may have to consider each drug separately. Make sure to check with your healthcare specialist before taking over-the-counter medicines or prescriptions.
Cold Medicine While Breast Feeding
The age and health factor
Newborns, premature babies, and medically unstable babies or infants having poorly functioning kidneys are at the greatest risk of being affected by medication in breast milk. However, if you use the medication in the first three to four days after childbirth, it will be transferred at very low levels to your baby, owing to the limited quantity of milk you’re producing. Healthy babies who are 6 months and older are at the lowest risk as they can metabolize drugs efficiently.
Furthermore, women who breast-feed their children more than a year after childbirth produce lesser milk, and subsequently, the amount of medication transferred to milk is reduced.
Medication, breast-feeding, or both.
While most medications are considered safe, a few may not be recommended during breast-feeding. Sometimes, it is very important that you continue your medication; however, if you must breast-feed your child, your healthcare specialist will prescribe a safer alternative. Otherwise, you will be advised to continue breast-feeding only when the medication is at a low level in your milk. You may be advised to take your medication just after feeding. The instance where your doctor may forbid you to breast-feed temporarily or permanently is very rare and usually depends upon the duration for which you need to take medication.
Store it away for a later day
If your doctor has suggested that you may have to stop breast-feeding and shift to bottle-feeding for a while, don’t panic. Use the time to store away your milk using a breast pump. Do not use the milk that is pumped while you’re on your medication. However, you may consult your doctor to know if your medication is harmless. Until you do so, label the container of your milk and store it separately.
If, after all these measures, your little one shows signs of having a reaction, you must inform your doctor. The signs and symptoms to watch out for in your baby include fussiness, rashes, or a change in eating and sleeping habits.
A doting mom to an angel, Social Media Specialist & Professional Blogger. She loves to share her thoughts with other parents in the same turbulent boat. She absolutely loves & adores her family & is learning to strike a good work-life balance. When she is not writing, cooking or busy taking care of her toddler, she probably is dancing to some good desi music!