Breastfeeding is absolutely one of the greatest gifts that a mother can give to her child. Not only does it provide much needed one on one time during those first crucial months of life, but nursing also provides both mother and child with protection against illness. Breastfeeding certainly has challenges, but with support, these obstacles can be overcome and the breastfeeding benefits make it so worthwhile to persevere.
Breastfeeding Benefits – The Early Days
During pregnancy, Mum’s body naturally produces the very first breast milk that her child will receive. This particular type of milk, known as colostrum, is what the little one receives for a few days after birth. It is a yellowish color with a thick consistency and is especially suited to provide baby with the perfect amount of nourishment for their tiny belly. Also, colostrum is rich with antibodies and nutrients that protect the baby from illness and help to boost the immune system.
Colostrum is provided to the baby for the first three to five days of life. Eventually, mother’s body will produce mature milk instead. This milk is thinner than baby’s first milk and typically has a less yellowish color, as well. Just like colostrum, mature milk provides baby with the proper amount of antibodies and nutrients to protect them from illness. Actually, breast milk is composed perfectly of sugar, water, fat, and protein to meet baby’s needs exactly.
The Many Ways Babies Benefit from Breast Milk
Babies benefit from breast milk tremendously. Breastfeeding provides time for mother and child to be up close and personal consistently during a very formative time. It soothes baby and helps her to develop a trusting relationship with Mum. However, there are also some very physical benefits that babies take away from the breastfeeding relationship.
Although formula can be an excellent tool for mothers who cannot breastfeed, it is also much more difficult for babies to digest. This can lead to uncomfortable constipation. On the other hand, breast milk is made especially for a baby’s sensitive tummy. All children benefit from this customized meal plan, but premature babies in particular thrive with mother’s milk.
In addition to being easily digestible, breast milk provides children with their own immunity boost. Children who receive breast milk are less prone to illness in general, but are especially less likely to have diarrhea and ear infections. Other illnesses that breastfeeding protects babies from are asthma, necrotizing enterocolitis, Type 2 diabetes, lower respiratory infections and even becoming overweight. Breastfeeding also reduces the risks that a baby will fall victim to SIDS.
Although research isn’t conclusive on this time, it is widely speculated that breastfeeding also gives babies a first line of defense against leukemia and Type 1 diabetes.
How Breastfeeding Helps Mum
Of course, at one time, breastfeeding was the only way for babies to receive nourishment. It is only recently in history that women have even had another serious option for feeding their children. However, it has taken only this short amount of time for breastfeeding to become somewhat taboo is many communities. While the benefits that babies receive from breast milk is pretty well known, many are unfamiliar with just how beneficial breastfeeding can be to Mum, as well.
Just like baby’s, Mum’s health is positively affected by the breastfeeding act. The chances of developing Type 2 diabetes, postpartum depression and ovarian and breast cancers are lowered significantly for the breastfeeding mother. It is also speculated that breastfeeding helps to protect mom from osteoporosis, although this particular finding is still being studied. Mom may have an easier time losing baby weight, as well.
Aside from physical benefits, there are some very practical advantages to the Mum who chooses breastfeeding. There’s no doubt that learning to breastfeed can be tough initially. However, practice does make perfect, and once the routine has been established, breastfeeding can actually make mom’s life a little easier. Breast milk is always available. There’s no running to the store to pick up more because breast milk is wherever mom is. Additionally, Mum doesn’t have to worry about preparing bottles, formula and water with a screaming, hungry baby in her arms.
Furthermore, an often overlooked absolute fact is that breastfeeding is far less expensive than formula. Not only are breastfed babies generally healthier than formula fed babies, which saves on the cost of healthcare, but formula itself is rather costly. Breast milk is free.
Being the mother of a newborn is understandably overwhelming. However, breastfeeding can actually relieve some of the pressure that mom is under. Nursing takes a significant amount of time. While some may look at this as a major inconvenience, it is actually a blessing to a mother. Breastfeeding gives her the opportunity to sit quietly with her baby several times a day, allowing her rest and also the knowledge that she is performing an essential duty to her family.
Not only does nursing help to protect mother and child from illness, but it also gives excellent opportunities for bonding. Breastfeeding, though natural, may take time and patience to learn. However, once mastered, it is an amazing process which benefits the nursing duo.