The world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week from the 1st to 7th of August every year. We here at MYDAWA would like to help our readers commemorate this occasion with information and benefits arising from breastfeeding.
It has been said that breast milk is the best food for babies as they benefit from both the milk and breastfeeding in many important ways.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends breastfeeding for at least six months from birth to two years and beyond but have we ever sought to find out why? Well, it is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and if it was scaled up universally, nearly 850,000 children’s lives would be saved on an annual basis – this makes for a very valid reason to promote breastfeeding.
The health benefits of breastfeeding
Apart from being a source of nourishment, breast milk offers protection to your baby. This is because breast milk has a series of ingredients such as beneficial bacteria, stem cells, white blood cells, enzymes, hormones and other antibodies which are helpful in preventing disease and fighting infection, contributing to normal healthy development.
Babies breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their lives are less likely to be stricken by a number of ailments such as ear and throat infections, colds as well as diarrhoea and gastroenteritis.
Even where babies or their mothers fall ill, the protective components in the mother’s milk tend to increase because the mother’s body will produce specific antibodies to fight against the infection that the baby might have picked up.
Apart from providing nutrition and immunity, breastfeeding has a calming effect on babies as it soothes and comforts them whenever they are sick, in pain or upset.
How breastfeeding impact’s baby’s sleep
In the months after birth, babies will wake up during the night for milk. Unlike formula-fed babies, those who have been breastfed will return to sleep sooner. This is because the oxytocin that is produced by the baby’s body during breastfeeding is sleep inducing. There are also other hormones and nucleotides in a mother’s breast milk that are key in aiding the baby’s sleep-wake patterns (circadian rhythms).
It’s impact on baby’s brain development
The first two years of a baby’s life are associated with rapid growth of the brain. Baby’s daily experiences play a great role in shaping brain growth as well.
There is increased multiplication and inter-connectivity of the baby’s brain cells during this period of rapid growth.
Every time a baby interacts with their environment, the brain makes a new connection.
The ingredients in breast milk support healthy brain development and because breast milk is digested faster, breastfed babies have the tendency to feed more often and therefore have more interactions with their caregivers.
The different dynamics of breastfeeding such as skin contact, fluctuations in milk flow, and the closeness between mother and baby, is usually a more interesting and interactive experience than bottle-feeding. This is nature’s way of insuring that babies get the stimulation they need for optimal benefits from breastfeeding and brain development.
Long term benefits of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is not just beneficial for the first six months of baby’s life. The longer a baby continues to have breast milk, the more the health advantages.
Further research shows that children who were breastfed as babies are at a lower risk of suffering from strains of cancer such as leukaemia and lymphoma. They are also at lower risk of becoming obese or developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes as adults
Every breastfeeding session leads to an increase of oxytocin in both mother and baby. Oxytocin is universally known as the love hormone and is released during sex, childbirth and lactation.
Lowers the risk of depression
Breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop postpartum depression due to increased amounts of oxytocin which encourage caregiving, relaxation and bonding between mother and child.
Helps in weight loss
Some women seem to gain weight during breastfeeding, others seem to effortlessly lose weight.
Although breastfeeding increases a mother’s energy demands by about 500 calories per day, the body’s hormonal balance is very different from normal.
Because of these hormonal changes, lactating women have an increased appetite and may be more prone to storing fat for milk production.
For the first 3 months after delivery, breastfeeding mothers may lose less weight than women who don’t breastfeed, and they may even gain weight.
However, after 3 months of lactation, they will likely experience an increase in fat burning and an eventual drop in weight over time.
How long should breastfeeding go on?
This is an often asked question. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond. This recommendation is based on evidence that points to the fact that breastfeeding is very beneficial to a child’s development during and beyond the first 1000 days of their lives.
There is also an emerging trend where mothers are choosing to embrace full term breastfeeding by letting their child decide the right time to stop.
Remember, it is entirely ok if mothers are unable to breastfeed for one reason or another. Feeding babies with formula still provides babies with all the nutrients they need.
We would also like you to know that we have a wide array of products that promote wellness for mother and baby that are accessible here.4