Breastfeeding benefits for infants and mothers

Every health expert will tell you that there are many breastfeeding benefits for you and the kid.Breastfeeding your baby not only provides a great opportunity to interact, it also creates a lasting bond with the child. Health experts say that there are only two nutritious and safe feeding choices for babies less than 6 months old: breast milk or infant formula. Breast milk is considered the most nutritious food for infants while infant formula is the only safe and nutritious alternative.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should breastfeed your infant exclusively for about 6 months. Breastfeeding should be continued for 6 months but can be complemented with solid foods.

While there are many breastfeeding benefits, the most important is that breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby’s digestive system. Breast milk comes with all the nutrients needed by your baby. And though infant formulas try to imitate breast milk, none of them can match its exact composition.

Breastfeeding advantages for infants include:

Ideal nutrition for your child
Breast milk contains the perfect combination of nutrients for your infant. These include proteins, vitamins and fat-literally, everything the child needs to thrive. Apart from containing all the important nutrients that promote growth and development of the baby, breast milk is full of antibodies. These help in protecting babies from a wide range of illnesses including diarrhea and respiratory infections. Studies show that breastfeeding newborns are less likely to develop certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and allergies.

Colostrum, the yellowish fluid produced by breasts for the first few days after delivery is ideal for giving your baby a head start in life. The fluid contains many valuable proteins that are essential for the development of a strong immune system.

Let-down reflex
Breastfeeding improves the let-down effect which in turn increases the amount of milk available to the infant. When the baby sucks, milk stored in the breasts is squeezed down the ducts towards the nipples. This is what is referred to as the let-down reflex. While some women say that they experience a tingling effect during the process, others do not feel anything.

As the milk flows down, the baby’s rapid sucks will change to rhythmic swallows. Most of the time, infants pause after the initial suck as they wait for more milk to be delivered.
In some instances, you will notice your let-down reflex responding to your baby’s crying. The milk may also start flowing when you take a warm bath.

Skin-to-skin
Skin to skin contact is one of the top breastfeeding benefits for infants. This is critical for baby especially immediately after birth since it keeps newborns warm and steadies their breathing. In addition, skin-to-skin contact is great for bonding with your baby and is ideal for breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding benefits for the mother include:

Weight loss
Breastfeeding is not only beneficial to the infant, it is also great for the mother. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers lose extra weight more easily after pregnancy compared to women who do not breastfeed.

Reduce uterine bleeding and prevent postpartum depression
Breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin, a feel-good or love hormone which promotes contraction of the uterus after birth. When the uterus contracts and returns to pre-pregnancy size which reduces the risk of postpartum bleeding.

Apart from helping mothers avoid postpartum bleeding, oxytocin helps breastfeeding mothers to relax which helps in reducing high blood pressure. According to the National Institute of Health, women who do not breastfeed or ceased breastfeeding early run the risk of experiencing postpartum depression.

Reduces risk of ovarian and breast cancer
Studies show that women who breastfeed for an extended period of time are less likely to develop ovarian and breast cancer, unlike mothers who do not breastfeed. Though it is not yet clear how breastfeeding helps in preventing breast cancer, scientists suggest that it could be due to structural changes caused by breastfeeding.

Saves you time and money
Breast milk comes at the right temperature, right mix and is easily available on demand. Unlike formula milk which requires warming and sterilized bottles, breast milk is safe and perfect for your infant. In addition, breastfeeding gives you time to relax and enjoy undisturbed moments with your infant.

The above are just some of the top breastfeeding benefits for infants as well as mothers which indicate that breastfeeding is still fashionable and important even in the modern age. So, never feel ashamed to breastfeed your baby even in public. And in spite of what some people might think about this natural process, nothing gives your infant a head start in life like nursing your baby at the breast.

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