Breastfeeding is a wonderful opportunity for a mother to bond with her baby. It helps foster a life-long emotional bond between the mother and the newborn. It is also the best nutrition your baby can receive in the first six months of her life. Breast milk is truly the elixir of health and longevity for a newborn.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced right after child-birth is the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
Important Nutritional Elements in Breast Milk
Breast milk contains essential proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats and sugars which perform a number of important functions in the baby’s body.
Carbohydrates: Lactose, the main carbohydrate in mother’s milk helps build immunity and supports absorption of essential minerals.
Proteins: Breast milk contains several types of proteins which inhibit growth of bacteria in the intestines, protect the baby against E Coli, allergies and viral infections, and promote growth of good bacteria required by the body to fight harmful bacteria.
Vitamins & Minerals: Support physical and cognitive development, build immunity, and help build healthy bones.
Fatty acids: Support development of the brain, vision and the nervous system.
Hormones: Researchers have found that breast milk contains a variety of important hormones including thyroid hormones, cortisol, melatonin and oxytocin.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mother and Baby
Breast milk is loaded with nutrients required for optimal development of your baby. Doctors across the world recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years or more.
Some important benefits of breast milk are:
- Protects the baby against stomach infections, ear infections, allergies, diarrhea and respiratory problems.
- Reduces the baby’s risk of developing serious health conditions including diabetes, asthma and obesity in later life.
- It has been seen that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is less common in babies who are breastfed.
- Breast-fed children are known to have better dental health as compared to formula-fed infants.
- There is evidence that children who were breast-fed have a lower risk of psychological, behavioral and learning problems.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother
- Helps shrink the mother’s uterus to its original shape and also plays a role in ending post-delivery bleeding.
- Lowers risk of post-partum hemorrhage by releasing oxytocin, a hormone which helps in the recovery of the uterus.
- Helps the mother lose weight as it takes approximately 20 calories to produce one ounce of breast milk.
- Known to reduce risk of osteoporosis, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and pre- menopausal breast cancer in later life.
Maternal Vaccinations during Breastfeeding
Mother’s immunization acts as a bonus protection for the baby as antibodies produced in the mother’s body are secreted in breast milk. The following vaccinations are recommended to safeguard the health of nursing mother and baby:
Influenza, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, IPV, measles, mumps, rabies, typhoid, tuberculosis, MMR, varicella and cholera. Do consult your doctor before getting any vaccination.