Experts Column

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the most common and the most important and beneficial way of feeding a new born baby. Breastfeeding provides numerous benefits for both mother and baby. It has the right amount of nutrients, gets digested easily and is also readily available anytime of the day. Breast milk also provides an abundance of nutrients, enzymes, antioxidants, immune properties, and antibodies to the baby from the mother. Breast milk naturally comprises of certain substances that soothe infants.

Here are some science-based benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mother:

1. Nutritional benefits for baby

Breast milk contains every nutrient in right proportion that a baby needs in the first 6-8 months. It is rich in protein, low in sugar and is loaded with numerous beneficial compounds. It is truly considered as a wonder food for babies.

2. Breast Milk contains important antibodies

The antibodies present in the breast milk helps the child to fight off viruses and infections easily, which is crucial in the first few months. Formula milk doesn’t provide such antibodies and that is why non-breastfed babies are more vulnerable to illnesses like infection, diarrhoea, and pneumonia.

3. Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight of the baby

Breast milk promotes healthy weight gain of the baby and also prevents childhood obesity. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of bacteria that are beneficial for the gut. It doesn’t let the fat to gather in the body and hence, prevents the baby from being overweight and obese.

4. Breastfeeding promotes brain growth in babies

Breast milk is scientifically known to promote brain development in babies. This may be due to the nutrient content as well as the physical intimacy associated with breastfeeding.

5. Breastfeeding helps the mothers to lose post pregnancy weight (Nutritional benefits of breastfeeding for mothers)

Breastfeeding burns more calories and help the new mothers in losing weight after pregnancy. A notable change in fat burning can be observed after 3 months of lactation in breastfeeding moms than in those who do not breastfeed.

6. Breastfeeding helps in the contraction of the uterus

During pregnancy, the uterus of the mothers grows from the size of a pear to the size of your whole abdomen. After delivery, your uterus start getting back to its original size but it may take some time. Breastfeeding helps in faster contraction of the uterus.

7. Breastfeeding mothers have lower risk of depression

Mothers who breastfeed are known to have lower risks of getting postpartum depression as compared to those who do not breastfeed.

8. Breastfeeding helps in reducing the risks of diseases in mothers

Breastfeeding provides long-term prevention to mothers from a number of diseases like high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood fats.

 

Weaning

Weaning, the process of introducing solid foods to the baby, is important after 6-7 months of age as the baby begin to need extra nutrients like iron and zinc, that are not found in milk. Small portions of solid food help to provide these nutrients to the baby.

Start looking for signs that show a baby developmentally ready for solid foods. These may include:

  • Good head control
  • Sitting up
  • Baby is willing to chew
  • Can hold food in the mouth
  • Baby is curious at meal times
  • Can pick up food and put it in the mouth

There’s no one appropriate way to start weaning. There are two approaches that one can follow. They are:

Baby-led weaning: In this approach, babies are encouraged to self-feed themselves by giving them solid foods like finger foods so they can explore solid foods themselves.

Traditional Weaning: In this approach, you gradually introduce semi-solids to the baby in the form of purees, soups, etc. before starting with solid foods.

 

Supporting mothers who cannot breastfeed

There may be many reasons why a mother is unable to breastfeed a baby, either by choice or due to the circumstances. However, they may feel disappointed at some point of time. Here are some advices to those mothers:

  • Give yourself a break.
  • Talk about your feelings with your close ones.
  • Consult a lactation expert about your troubles.
  • Search for donated breast milk.

Advices to family members:

  • Allow the new mother to get some break. If she is unable to breastfeed sue to certain circumstances since pregnancy, they may be quite stressed.
  • Show some support. Ensure them that you are there with them.
  • Encourage them to share their feelings.
  • Spend more time with them. They may need your love.