Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies. It has the right amount of nutrients, is easily digested and readily available. However, the rate of breastfeeding is as low as 30% in some groups of women. While some women are unable to breastfeed, others simply choose not to. Yet studies show breastfeeding has major health benefits, for both the mother and her baby. Many medical experts strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months. Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter. But here are some benefits of Breastfeeding for both Mother and Baby:
Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat, everything your baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. During the first days after birth, the breasts produce a thick and yellowish fluid called colostrum. It’s high in protein, low in sugar and loaded with beneficial compounds. Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. What’s more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Colostrum is the ideal first milk and helps the newborn’s immature digestive tract develop. After the first few days, the breasts start producing larger amounts of milk as the baby’s stomach grows.
Other than all the essential nutrients, breast milk is also packed with antibodies components of the immune system that attack invading microorganisms that can cause all kinds of illnesses and diseases. Breast milk is loaded with antibodies, especially immunoglobin A, which can help prevent or fight illness in your baby. Numerous studies show that babies who are not breastfed are more vulnerable to health issues like pneumonia, diarrhoea and infection. Middle ear infections, respiratory tract infections, gut infections, allergies etc. These and many other serious problems can be kept away from striking simply by having your newborn’s immune system better with the help of breast milk.
Breastfeeding helps healthy weight gain and helps prevent childhood obesity. Studies show that obesity rates are 15–30% lower in breastfed babies, compared to formula-fed babies. This may be due to the development of different gut bacteria. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage. Babies fed on breast milk also have more leptin in their systems than formula-fed babies. Leptin is a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage.
While 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. Beginning around 3–6 months after delivery, mothers who breastfeed have been shown to lose more weight than mothers who don’t breastfeed. Breastfeeding may make weight loss harder for the first 3 months after delivery. However, it may actually help with weight loss after the first 3 months.
Breastfeeding seems to provide the mother with long-term protection against cancer and several diseases. The total time a woman spends breastfeeding is linked with a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer. In fact, women who breastfeed for more than 12 months during their lifetime have a 28% lower risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. Each year of breastfeeding is associated with a 4.3% decrease in breast cancer risk. Recent studies also indicate that breastfeeding may protect against metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems. Breastfeeding for more than one year is linked to a 28% lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It has also been linked to a reduced risk of several other diseases.
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