Breastfeeding has a wide range of benefits not only for the infant but also for the mother. Apart from helping meet the nutrition requirement, breast milk protects the child from various infections and illnesses.
After giving birth, the first milk is called colostrum. Colostrum is thick and yellow and helps in the development of the newborn’s digestive tract. Colostrum is also higher in protein and low in sugar and a little can hold on the baby’s hunger for long. It is therefore highly recommended that the baby is breastfed at least for a period of six months.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby
Breast milk is the perfect baby food. Breast milk contains healthy enzymes and immunity-boosting antibodies, which prove to be of big help in building a baby’s health and immune system. Some of the breastfeeding benefits for the baby are:
Breast Milk Protects the Baby from Diseases. As the breast milk boosts the baby’s immune system, it helps the body fight against any kind of infection or allergy, which comes through. Illnesses like a stomach viral infection, respiratory disease, ear infection, and meningitis are less likely to occur in the babies who are breastfed. Breastfeeding also protects the baby from the disease which can strike later in the life, such as diabetes type 1 and type 2, high cholesterol and bowel diseases.
Breastfeeding/ Breast Milk Protects against Allergies & Eczema. Breastfed infants are at a lesser risk of developing allergic reactions when compared with those babies fed on a cow or soy milk. According to researches, the IgA immune factor gives a protective layer to the baby’s intestinal tract, preventing allergic reactions. In cases where the protective lining is missing, inflammation can take place easily and the wall of baby’s intestine can become leaky.
Breastfeeding/ Breast Milk Benefits Baby’s Brain Power. Breastfeeding plays a significant role in the cognitive development of the baby. The fatty acid in the breast milk helps in giving a boost to the child’s intelligence and making them smarter.
Breastfeeding/ Breast Milk Lowers the Risk of SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) risk is lesser in infants who are breastfed at one month of age.
Breastfeeding/ Breast Milk Prevents Obesity. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of a child becoming overweight later in his life. The mother gets to know when the baby is full, and therefore does not over-feed the child. It is also observed that longer the baby is breastfed, the stronger are the chances of the baby not becoming obese later on.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Mother
Breastfeeding does not only benefit the baby but the benefits extend to the mother as well. Breastfeeding gives a boost to the mother’s health in the following ways.
Breastfeeding Reduces the Mother’s Stress Level. While breastfeeding, a hormone known as oxytocin is released, which has a relaxing and nurturing effect on the mother. This is why most of the mothers feel relaxed when breastfeeding their baby. Certain studies suggest that the female who breastfeed have decreased risk of suffering from postpartum depression when compared to those mothers who do not breastfeed.
Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers by Lowering The Risk Of Ovarian & Breast Cancer. Females who breastfeed have a lower risk of suffering from ovarian and breast cancer later in their life. It is because lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen produced by the body, which helps in preventing breast and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding Promotes Weight Loss In Mothers. Breastfeeding helps a nursing mother to lose the pregnancy weight faster. Milk production leads to burning down of around 300-500 calories in a day, which in turn helps lose the pregnancy weight faster.
Breastfeeding Heals The Body Post Delivery. The oxytocin released while breastfeeding contracts the uterus and helps it return to the pre-pregnancy size faster. Breastfeeding also reduces post-delivery blood loss in the mother. This is why mild contractions are felt while nursing the child for the first few weeks.
Breastfeeding Lowers the Risk of Osteoporosis. During pregnancy and while lactation, the body absorbs more calcium. This reduces the risk of osteoporosis in the females who breastfeed the baby.
Apart from all these benefits breastfeeding help build a stronger bond between the mother and her child. During breastfeeding, they exchange cuddles, looks, noise, and love with each other. Breastfeeding gives them closeness with each other. Therefore as long as you feel comfortable, give yourself and your baby a chance to get healthy and know each other more and get benefited with breastfeeding.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (2021). Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics, 145(3), e2021052918. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2021-052918 Link: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/145/3/e20210529
Victora, C. G., Bahl, R., Barros, A. J. D., França, G. V. A., Horton, S., Krasevec, J., Murch, S., Sankar, M. J., Walker, N., Rollins, N. C., & the Lancet Breastfeeding Series Group. (2016). Breastfeeding in the 21st century: Epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet, 387(10017), 475-490. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01024-7 Link: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)01024-7/fulltext
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021). Breastfeeding: The Benefits for Baby and Mom. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/breastfeeding-and-health-outcomes.html
Stuebe, A. M. (2009). The risks of not breastfeeding for mothers and infants. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2(4), 222–231. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812877/
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). (2019). Postnatal care up to 8 weeks after birth. NICE guideline [NG194]. Link: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng194/chapter/Recommendations#postnatal-care
World Health Organization (WHO). (2021). Infant and Young Child Feeding: Model Chapter for Textbooks for Medical Students and Allied Health Professionals. Link: https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/207471