Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding initiation should start early (30 minutes) after birth and breast milk should be given alone for the first 6 months of life without adding water and other foods. Only in very few medical conditions is it not advised. Early initiation enables the flow of colostrum, the ‘first milk’ within 24 hours and effective ‘white milk’ letdown by day 2 or day 3. Colostrum is yellowish and has a laxative effect. It helps to prepare the babies digestive system for white milk and to clear ‘black stool’ (meconium). After the first 6 months of life, breastfeeding should still be continued at least to the age of 12 months but other foods and water have to be added. The advantages of breastfeeding a baby are overwhelming. Breast milk is the ideal nutrition for a baby. It has a near perfect mix of vitamins, protein, fat and water. It is easy to digest and its content changes naturally with respect to the age of the baby. It comes out ready to use and there is no need for warming or cooling. It contains antibodies from the mother that help to fight diarrhea and other diseases. Breastfeeding is a natural tranquilizer for the mother and her baby and the skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact between the mother and the baby during the process is a source of confidence and has a unique bonding effect. The long-term benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life to the baby include; reduced risk of ear and lung infection, allergy and asthma. It also reduces obesity and sudden infant death. It is thought to reduce the occurrence of diabetes and cancer but research still has to prove this. Breastfed babies are more intelligent later in life. Breastfeeding is also directly beneficial to the mother. It helps the mother to relax and to reduce weight gained during pregnancy fast. It also reduces the risk of weak bones (osteoporosis) and cancers of the breast, ovaries and inner lining of the womb later in life. Suction of the nipple enables the release of a hormone called oxytocin which helps stop bleeding and return the uterus (womb) to its normal size. Effective exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months helps reduce the chances of early unwanted pregnancy. For effective breastfeeding, the mother and her baby have to be confortable. Breast milk can also be expressed and given to the baby later when the mother is very busy or absent. All attempts to make formula milk have the advantages of breastmilk have proven illusive

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