August 1- 7 is celebrated as World Breastfeeding Week. A breastfed baby is the best-fed baby. Breastfeeding is the gold standard of infant feeding. It gives babies important immune protection, as well as overwhelming health and emotional benefits which a bottle can never give. This week brings to attention the value of breast milk.
The right time to breastfeed:
The best time to start breastfeeding is within 20 to 30 minutes of the baby’s birth if there are no complications with delivery. In addition to the benefits of bonding and immune protection, breastfeeding also releases oxytocin, a hormone that helps shrink the mother’s uterus back down to its normal size.
Duration of each breastfeed:
For the first few days, feedings may last about 10 minutes on each breast. Later, feedings will last about 10 to 20 minutes at each breast. It’s normal for a baby to nurse every 11/2 to 3 hours for the first few weeks. Newborns need to eat often because they have small stomachs and breast milk is easily digested. Eventually, the time between feedings may lengthen to 3 or 4 hours.
Every baby and nursing mother is different. With time, most mothers and babies find a feeding style and schedule that are uniquely their own.
Benefits of breastmilk:
- It is nature’s provision for the baby. For each species, nature provides nourishment that matches the needs of the young one. Breast milk has enzymes, hormones, and immunoglobulins that gives the ideal nutrition and cannot be matched by tinned food.
- The composition of breast milk varies from month to month, providing the type of nutrition that the baby needs at that point in its life.
- It contains the Omega-3 fatty acid DHA, important in brain development.
- It is raw. It is not contaminated by handling. Therefore it is highly nutritious.
- The colostrum your baby receives in the first few days and later from the breast milk contains antibodies which will help increase your baby’s resistance to infection. On the other hand, bottles, if not maintained hygienically, can make the child prone to infection.
- Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for at least the first six months of his life. You need not look for supplements.
How it helps the baby:
- It satisfies the baby’s inborn desire to suck.
- It is most comforted by the smells and rhythms of the mother and being close to her while feeding enhances this.
- Breast milk is never too cold or too hot or stale.
- It is easily digestible.
- It satisfies the baby’s hunger and thirst.
- It increases the bond between the baby and the mother.
How breastfeeding helps the mom:
- It is readily available. The mother does not have to prepare feeds from time to time.
- It does not involve the cleaning and sterilising of bottles/feeding equipment!
- The nutritional needs of the baby are met. The mother does not need to look for supplements.
- The baby is healthier and is resistant to diseases, enabling the mother to return to productive work.
- The economic benefits of having a healthier baby, with no spending on baby food, bottles, sterilising equipment are huge.
- Breastfeeding does not mean that the mother has to stay at home all day. Many women are able to breastfeed as well as work outside the home.
- Breastfeeding is a natural contraceptive process.
- Women who breastfeed get back in shape faster than other mothers. When the baby feeds oxytocin is released. This hormone makes the uterus contract and returns to its pre-pregnant state more quickly, minimizing blood loss.
- Prolactin, which helps you relax, is also released while the baby is breastfed.
- Nursing burns up extra calories. Losing weight is easier.
- Women who have breastfed children are under less risk of breast cancer. A study reveals that nursing mothers can reduce their relative risk of breast cancer by 4.3% for every 12 months they breastfeed, in addition to a relative decrease of 7% for each birth.
- Breastfeeding moms are also less likely to develop ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis and may have improved cardiovascular health.