When a baby is born, the mother goes through a surge of emotions. She is elated to see the tiny little being who had occupied her womb for nine long months. After those few moments of bonding, comes a very important ritual known as breastfeeding, also called nursing, wherein babies and young children are fed milk from a woman’s breast. The baby is brought close to the mother’s chest and it instinctively starts suckling at her breast.
Breastfeeding a baby is entirely the mother’s choice, however, the WHO urges new mothers to feed their children at least for the first six months and then supplementing it with solids as well. But, it is recommended to breastfeed babies till they turn two, as it is the most important source of nutrition for a baby. Termed as nature’s perfect baby food, it contains immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes that scientists too, haven’t been able to replicate yet.
Breastmilk is nothing less than a miracle, as it undergoes various changes as per the child’s requirement. The first form of milk produced by a mother’s body is Colostrum, which is yellowish in colour and is vital to building immunity in the baby. It is enriched with proteins and antibodies which is a blessing for newborn babies. This milk is thicker in nature and the quantity may seem less but, it is more than enough to fill your baby’s tiny tummy. Mature milk which is less concentrated comes in around 48 to 72 hours after birth. At the beginning of a feed, your breasts produce thirst-quenching higher water content milk (known as ‘foremilk’), which is gradually followed by thick, creamy higher fat content milk (sometimes called ‘hindmilk’), full of the fatty acids your baby’s growing brain and body need. As days pass and as per your baby’s bodily requirement, your body starts producing milk. This may take a few weeks though as during the initial days, your baby’s hunger keeps varying.
Women have been feeding their babies since the beginning of time. It is only because of the host of positives that it has. Breastfeeding has a gamut of benefits for both the baby and the mother. The list is exhaustive and I have tried to include as many as I can.
How the baby benefits from it:
Protects against allergies
If there is a family history of this, then feeding your baby is your best bet. The reason is that the proteins in breastmilk are much easier to digest for the baby than any other alternate source of milk.
Strengthens the digestive system
Breastfed babies have lesser incidents of an upset tummy or constipation owing to the fact that breastmilk is very easy to digest.
Breastmilk contains a hormone named Melatonin that helps induce and regulate sleep. Suckling onto breastmilk helps the baby sleep peacefully even at odd hours of the day and night. It is seen that many a time babies fall asleep while feeding itself. So, it is a boon for the mothers as well helping them to get their much-needed rest.
The incidences of pneumonia, colds, and viruses are reduced among breastfed babies. Formula fed babies who are three times more likely to be affected by ear infections and five times more likely to suffer from pneumonia and lower respiratory tract infection.
Research shows that babies who are breastfed respond better to vaccinations.
Prevents obesity in babies
Studies show that breastfed babies are less likely to be obese later in life.
Helps in bonding
The skin to skin contact that the mother shares with her child during breastfeeding is one of the major ways of bonding with the child during its early days. It gives a feeling of comfort and security to the baby.
How the mother benefits from it:
Not only the baby but, the mother also experiences an array of benefits through breastfeeding.
Reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer
It is a proven fact that mothers who have breastfed their children are less likely to suffer from these ailments.
Losing the stubborn pregnancy weight
A nursing mother tends to burn around 300 to 500 calories a day in the production of breastmilk itself. So, this is the most healthy way of losing weight. Speeds up the process of shrinking the uterus to the pre-pregnancy size.
Heals your body after delivery
The oxytocin released when your baby nurses help your uterus contract, reducing post-delivery blood loss. Plus, breastfeeding will help your uterus return to its normal size more quickly-at about six weeks postpartum compared with 10 weeks if you don't breastfeed.
A very silly point but, something worth pondering. Formula is surely expensive and babies at their initial months are fed almost round the clock. So, just imagine how much money you end up saving when you breastfeed.
Helps mothers relax
A cranky baby can be easily pacified with breastfeeding. The assurance and comfort that your baby receives when held close helps it calm down. So, the mother too isn’t very stressed.
Makes weaning easier
It is a known fact that post 6 months your baby will be introduced to semi-solid food. Breastfeeding makes this transition easier as babies don’t readily accept solids. Mixing breastmilk in cereals and purees will give them a burst of various flavours in turn making this transition easier.
The ABCs of Breastfeeding
For a first time mommy, the below-listed points are of utmost importance.
Pick up cues on your baby’s hunger signals. Feeding your baby whenever he is hungry is very important. Even if it means nursing round the clock. Infants have tiny tummies so, they don’t tend to drink much during a single feed. The hunger signs can be sucking fingers, making sucking noises and moving towards your breast.
As mentioned earlier, infants may need to be nursed often and at times feeds may last anywhere in between 5 mins to 20 mins. Do not rush your baby. It needs truckloads of patience but, it is for your child’s well being.
This is one of the most important points to be kept in mind by nursing mothers. Nursing throughout the day is not at all an easy task so, make sure that you do everything that it takes to make yourself comfortable during every feed. Nowadays, there are a lot of things available in the market like nursing pillows, armrests etc.
Breastfeeding is the greatest gift that a mother can give her child so, please try and breastfeed your baby for as long as possible.