It not only benefits your baby but is also proven to be beneficial to mothers.
Unfortunately, many women choose not to breastfeed their babies for various reasons. Some mothers find it overwhelming to handle a new baby, family responsibilities, a home, and the additional stress of work or school. Some avoid breastfeeding because it causes discomfort, while others have had previous bad experiences or are misinformed. Many believe that the first milk immediately after delivery called ‘colostrum’ should be discarded, but it’s only a myth. In reality, this milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies. Breast milk should be fed to babies for at least six months after birth.
Here are some benefits of breastfeeding that prove how important it is for you and your baby.
- Developmental benefits
Breast milk has proven to have developmental benefits for newborn babies. Since it has all the nutrients your baby needs in the right proportions and the correct composition, it helps in the baby’s growth. The composition of the milk changes and adapts to the maturity of the baby. So, a preterm baby’s milk will differ from that of a term baby, such that its nutritive values change to suit the growth for that age.
An exclusively breastfed baby has a 15-30% less chance of being obese later in life. Exclusively breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop behavioral and learning problems, with these effects being significantly seen in preterm babies. It also helps maintain a healthy weight of your baby.
- Protection from infections and allergies
Your body makes enormous amounts of antibodies right after delivery, helping you fight diseases, infections, and allergies. These antibodies get transferred to your baby through breast milk and form a layer around the baby’s nose, throat, and digestive system, protecting it from the flu and other diseases. It is also observed that breastfed babies have a 50% lower incidence of ear infections and a 72% lower risk of hospitalization due to pneumonia and bronchitis. Breastfed babies have a 27% reduction in the development of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema, and this protective effect increases to 42% in babies who have a family history of these diseases. If a baby is exclusively breastfed for 3 to 4 months, the baby is at a lower risk of contracting allergies and infections. Breastfeeding causes a 64% reduction in gastrointestinal infections, and this protection lasts for up to two months even after breastfeeding is stopped.
- Helps you lose weight
It is said that breast milk production helps burn 400-500 calories a day, making it easier for new mothers to lose baby weight after delivery quicker. The effect is seen after three months of delivery.
- Meets all nutritional needs
Your baby requires various nutrients to grow, and breast milk has them all in the right proportions. During the first few days post-delivery, colostrum is secreted as thick yellow milk. This has all the essential nutrients for your baby’s digestive and immune system to develop. It also acts as the first immunization for the baby due to its high antibody content.
- Long term benefits
Breastfeeding decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast and ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis after the age of forty. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of pre and postmenopausal breast cancer in women. This is because of hormonal changes during breastfeeding that delay menstruation. Delayed menstruation reduces exposure to hormones like estrogen that promote breast cancer growth.
- Delays periods and reduces the risk of postpartum depression
Breastfeeding temporarily pauses ovulation and menstruation, which might act as natural birth control. This pause will ensure enough gap between pregnancies and relieve you from menstrual pain while you take care of your newborn baby.
Breastfeeding increases the secretion of oxytocin, a hormone that has long term anti-anxiety effects and encourages bonding by affecting specific areas of the brain that promote nurturing and relaxation.
- Brings you close to your baby and saves time and money
Breastfeeding is available free of cost, at all times, and at the perfect composition for a baby’s growth. By choosing to breastfeed, you save money on formula, time on cleaning, and sterilizing bottles. You also tend to reduce frequent visits to the doctor as the child is healthier than a formula-fed baby.
While there’s no doubt that every woman shares a special connection with her baby, breastfeeding brings you physically closer to your little one. The skin-to-skin contact can be very reassuring. It also gives you the perfect reason to kick back and relax while your baby gets all the nutrition it needs.
Special thanks to Dr. Sonali Tank (MD (pediatrics), DCh, DNB) for the expert advice.