Breastfeeding is the most normal method of feeding young infants. Breast milk has all the nutrients infants need for growth and development. Almost all mothers can breastfeed their babies provided they have all the information they need and the support of their family, health care system and the entire society.
Breastfeeding is thought to be the ideal source of nutrition for infants from birth to 1 year according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Benefits of breastfeeding
The first milk that a mother secretes after delivering the baby is called colostrum. It is thick in consistency when compared to milk and yellow in colour. This colostrum is made during pregnancy and just after birth. Colostrum is rich in nutrients required by the newborn baby and also is endowed with antibodies which protect the infant from infections. Colostrum also helps the newborn baby’s digestive system to grow and function.
Colostrum by the third to fifth day after the baby is born gives way to mature milk. The mature breast milk has the exact amounts of macronutrients needed by the baby. It contains just the required amount of fat, sugar, protein, and water for the baby to grow. Inconsistency, it is thinner than colostrum but has nutrients and antibodies for the baby to grow in a healthy manner.
Breast milk contains not only nutrients abut other compounds also, such as
- Live antibodies.
These components come from the mother and are easily absorbed by the baby’s digestive system. The mothers mature immune system produces antibodies to the foreign bodies/germs the mother and baby are exposed to. These antibodies pass into the breast milk and when the baby is fed with breast milk the baby is ready to fight off infections or any foreign bodies. Breast milk also contains components which calm the baby.
- Breast milk is easy to digest for the newborn.
- As the baby starts growing the breast milk nutrients are altered to suit the baby’s needs.
- Once the mother and baby get the hang of breastfeeding it becomes very easy for the mother. There is no cumbersome job of sterilizing the bottles, mixing the formula. Breastfeeding is hygienic.
- Breastfed babies have a stronger immune system. Fewer cases of diarrhea, constipation, reflux problems, and gastroenteritis.
- Cost wise also breastfeeding is advantageous. There is no need to buy formula, bottles, etc. Breastfed babies fall sick less often so that also reduces the burden on the pocket.
- The rate of infant mortality and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) both are lower among breastfed babies.
- Because of breastfeeding, there is an emotional bond which strengthens between the mother and baby.
Due to several reasons such as working away from home, or thinking that the baby is not getting enough milk or for some other reason mothers to tend to not exclusively feed their baby on breast milk. This is a gift you are going to give your baby which lasts a long time because they get a healthy start in their life. Except under grave situations where a mother cannot feed the baby with breast milk, remember that your baby is the healthiest when fed with breastmilk exclusively till at least 6 months of age.