Time and again, science has upheld the importance of breastfeeding for both moms and their babies. Breast milk gives the best nutrition for newborns and strengthens the bond between mother and child.
Expanded Breastfeeding Law in the Philippines
In signing the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 into law, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made it the state’s policy to promote breastfeeding. The act highlights the importance of breastfeeding by making room in national policy for the establishment of breastfeeding stations, and the promotion of continuous education and training on how to nurse infants.
What is the Importance of Breastfeeding?
The advantage of mother’s milk for babies underscores the importance of breastfeeding. Breast milk is considered the best and most complete nourishment for babies for the following reasons:
Breast milk has all the nutrients
With the exception of Vitamin D, breast milk contains all the vital nutrients that your baby needs to survive for the first six months. Colostrum, a thick, yellowish fluid that the breasts produce during the first few days after childbirth, is rich in protein and other healthy compounds. It is also low in sugar and helps develop the infant’s immature digestive tract.
Breast milk is rich in antibodies
The importance of breastfeeding for babies is such that taking it shields the baby from viruses and bacteria. Colostrum is loaded with immunoglobulin A (IgA), which prevents the baby from catching an illness by protecting the baby’s nose, throat, and digestive system.
The mother passes on antibodies she produces when she is ill to her nursing infant. Thus, breastfeeding moms with the flu may provide their babies with the means to combat the disease. Studies also show that babies who are not breastfed are more prone to pneumonia, diarrhea, and infections.
Breastfeeding may decrease the incidence of illness
The importance of breastfeeding for babies is seen in how it helps fight:
- Middle ear infection
- Respiratory tract infection
- Gut infection
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Intestinal tissue damage
- Allergy due to asthma
- Atopic dermatitis and eczema
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Childhood leukemia
Breast milk reduces obesity
Breastfed babies are less overweight than formula-fed ones. Each month of breastfeeding lowers your child’s risk of obesity by four percent. Breast milk has gut bacteria that influence fat storage, as well as leptin that controls appetite. Breastfed babies also tend to develop healthy eating habits; they control their milk intake and eat only when hungry.
Breastfeeding may boost IQ
Breastfed babies have higher intelligence test scores and less behavioral and learning problems as they grow older. This may be due to the physical intimacy between mother and child. Similarly, breastfed preterm babies show long-term brain development.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms
Moms can also benefit from breastfeeding for the following reasons:
Lactating seems to help new moms lose weight
After three months, nursing moms burn more fat than those who do not breastfeed.
Breastfeeding aids the uterus in contracting
When a child breastfeeds, the mother’s body produces oxytocin, a hormone that reduces bleeding after childbirth and helps the uterus return to its previous size.
Breastfeeding reduces postpartum depression
Oxytocin in nursing moms fights anxiety. The hormone also promotes care, relaxation, and mother-child bonding. A study shows that moms who do not breastfeed are thrice more likely to commit child abuse and neglect than those who nurse their baby.
Breastfeeding may delay menstruation
This pause in ovulation and menstruation stresses the importance of breastfeeding in spacing pregnancies. Some women have even used this as a birth control measure, though this may not be foolproof.
Breastfeeding saves time, effort, and money
Breast milk is free. You do not have to get up in the middle of the night to prepare infant formula, sterilize baby bottles, and warm them. Breast milk always has the right temperature for babies.
How Do I Stay Healthy While Breastfeeding?
The importance of breastfeeding is such that every nursing mom must prioritize her health and nutrition. Make it a habit to:
- Choose food that gives you additional healthy calories. You need 450 to 500 more calories a day if you are breastfeeding.
- Eat protein-rich foods, like lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, low-mercury seafood, fruits, and vegetables.
- Eat different kinds of food to help your baby adjust to solid food later in life.
- Drink when you feel thirsty, especially when your urine turns dark yellow. Drink a glass of water while breastfeeding.
- Stay away from sugary drinks and excess caffeine.
- Consume iron-rich food like lentils, enriched cereals, leafy green vegetables, peas, and dried fruit like raisins. Help your body absorb it by taking foods rich in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, along with food loaded with iron.
- Ask your doctor about supplements for vitamins B-12 and vitamin D.
Is Your Baby Getting Enough Milk?
As babies get their nourishment from breast milk in the first six months of their lives, it is important that the mother produces enough high quality milk. Here are the signs of a healthy breastfeeding baby:
- Weight gain
- They are breastfeeding 8 to 12 times daily, or around every two to three hours. This may increase during growth spurts.
- Your baby is swallowing. You will notice a ripple under your baby’s chin or lower jaw.
- You will notice a gentle pulling sensation on your breast during breastfeeding, which is different from a pinching, biting sensation on the nipple.
- The number of wet diapers rises daily during the first few days after birth. On day five, you will see six wet diapers and three bowel movements daily. The baby’s stool is dark and sticky for the first few days, and seedy, loose, and golden yellow after.
- Your baby is active and alert.
How Do I Begin Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding, especially for first-time moms, can be a challenge. But it is worth considering because of the importance of breastfeeding. Here is how you can go about it:
- Get comfortable. Use pillows to prop yourself up and bring your baby close to your breast. Do not lean forward to bring your breast to your newborn. Hold your baby skin-to-skin.
- Hold your baby’s head with one hand and support your breast with the other. Tickle your baby’s lower lip with your nipple so your newborn is urged to latch. The baby will latch on to the darker area around the nipple. Your baby will suck and swallow rhythmically.
- Most newborns will suck every two to three hours for the first few weeks. They will show hunger by stirring, becoming restless, or sucking and moving their lip.
- Feed your baby from the first breast thoroughly, until it feels soft—usually for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Burp the baby. See if the baby will latch onto the other breast. Your baby will latch on if they are still hungry. If your baby always feeds on one breast for the first few weeks, pump the other breast and conserve your milk supply.
The importance of breastfeeding is undeniable. It is vital to a baby’s survival and to a mother’s physical and mental health.
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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.