Importance of mother’s milk
Breastfeeding is a wonderful act of intimacy between a mother and her newborn child. According to Grantly Dick-Read, a renowned British obstetrician and a leading advocate of natural childbirth, “A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three”. Undeniably, mother’s milk indeed provides many benefits to both mother and her newborn baby.
The best source of vital nutrients
The very first breast milk produced by a mother just after delivery is a pale yellow liquid called, Colostrum. It is a rich in proteins, minerals, salt, vitamin A, and nitrogen. It even contains white blood cells and a number of antibodies. When compared with mature milk it has less fat and sugar.
Mature milk is produced after a couple of days of birth (2-4days). It is produced in larger amounts than colostrum. This is also rich in vital vitamins and other nutrients. The nutrient composition of breast milk changes dynamically to suit different nutritional requirements of the baby as it continues to grow.
Human breast milk mainly has two types of proteins; whey protein (60%) and casein protein (40%). They are available in the perfect balance facilitating proper digestion. Artificial milk usually contains high amounts of casein protein making it hard to be digested.
In addition, there are some specific proteins in breast milk, which brings special benefits to the baby.
Lactoferrin: Inhibits the growth of iron-dependent bacteria like coliforms and yeasts in the digestive tract.
Lysozyme: Promotes anti-inflammation and ensures a healthy intestinal flora.
Secretory IgA: Improves immunity.
Bifidus factor: Facilitates the growth of lactobacillus, protective bacteria against harmful microorganisms.
Lactose is the main carbohydrate found in mother’s milk and it provides the necessary amount of calories for the baby other than fats. It also promotes absorption of calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium.
Human milk contains a number of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They fulfill the primary calorie requirements of the baby. They are also important for the development of the brain, retina, and the nervous system and they facilitate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins into the body.
Breast milk is rich in both fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (B, C). However, the specific amounts and types of vitamins available in breast milk are directly proportional to their availability in the mother’s body. Therefore, it is really important that a mother receives proper nutrition during the period of breastfeeding.
Protection against various diseases and infections
Breast milk, especially colostrum, is rich in various immunoglobulin or antibodies including secretory IgA. They protect the newborn from surrounding pathogens like bacteria and viruses until the baby’s immune system is mature enough to take over the responsibility.
In addition, according to a number of scientific findings, consuming breast milk significantly reduces the risks of many diseases from affecting the baby. Such diseases include; respiratory tract infections, ear infections, digestive tract infections, Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), inflammatory bowel disease, childhood leukemia, diabetes, and much more.
It is also believed that breast feeding can protect your baby from developing allergic conditions.
Other benefits of breast feeding to the baby:
Increases the IQ and makes him/her smarter.
Helps to gain weight in a healthy manner.
Breast feeding as a way of bonding
Breast feeding is one of the purest acts of mothering and nursing. When a baby is thrust upon the breasts of a mother, a strong bond of affection, understanding, and closeness is created. The physical presence of the mother provides a sense of protection or assurance for the baby who is in the process of adapting to the new environment around him which is quite different from the mother’s womb.
Furthermore, scientists have discovered that breastfeeding can induce the release of hormones that can promote motherly feelings of love and affection towards the baby. As a result, the mother becomes more attached to the baby and gets more involved in the whole concept of motherhood.
Benefits of breast feeding for the mother
The newborn child is not the only one who is benefited by breastfeeding. It brings favorable outcomes for the mother as well.
Breastfeeding is the best way to lose extra weight gained during pregnancy in an effortless way.
The Oxytocin hormone secreted during breastfeeding helps your uterus regain its normal shape and size.
Breastfeeding lowers the risk of depression.
Breastfeeding delays ovulation and menstruation.
It reduces the risk of breast cancers in the future.
Important Tips on Breast feeding
The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends that;
Breastfeeding should be commenced within one hour of birth
It is mandatory to continue breastfeeding for at least six months and can be continued up to two years or beyond if possible.
To fulfill the growing energy requirements of the baby, solid foods should be gradually introduced from six months onwards along with breastfeeding.