Breastfeeding benefits aren’t just limited to the baby, but to mums as well. In this article, we’re rounding up all the reasons why breastfeeding is a journey worth embarking on despite the breastfeeding pain and sleepless nights.
What is breastfeeding? In a nutshell, it’s when a mum feeds her baby breastmilk. It can be directly from the breast or by expressing it by hand or using a breast pump. For the World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, breastfeeding is a way to “ensure child health and survival.”
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world. In fact, babies are born with a natural instinct to breastfeed.
These are called the suck and rooting reflex. Basically, the suck reflex is the baby’s instinct to suck anything that touches the roof of their mouth while the latter is when the baby turns towards anything that touches their cheeks or mouth.
Is it a walk in the park then, considering babies seem to be hard-wired for breastfeeding? That isn’t the case, mums. It involves you learning from your baby and vice-versa.
When Should You Start Breastfeeding?
For breastmilk meets the nutritional needs of a baby, the WHO recommends that breastfeeding be initiated during the first hour of life and continued during the first six months of life. According to the Ministry of Health (Singapore), skin-to-skin contact is also important when initiating breastfeeding and should be provided unless there is an unavoidable medical reason.
WHO also recommends breastfeeding up until two years of age and beyond. This is because breastmilk is still able “to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.”
Practical Breastfeeding Tips for New Mums
Breastfeeding is no easy feat but you can be better prepared for what lies ahead with these tips:
- During the first few days of your breastfeeding journey, it pays to have essentials such as Mama’s Choice Intensive Nipple Cream, a breastfeeding pillow and a nursing bra or top.
- If you have the time, sign up for a breastfeeding class before you give birth.
- In the beginning, don’t stress too much. Your milk supply will surely dwindle because of stress. Instead, eat a healthy diet, rest as much as you can, and stay positive.
- You can also choose to use a breast pump like Mama’s Choice Single Electric Breast Pump instead of directly feeding on the breast if you prefer to breastfeed that way.
- Read up on growth spurts, which usually happens around 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. During these spurts, your baby will breastfeed longer and more often.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby
1. Breastmilk provides ideal nutrition for the baby
The WHO describes breastmilk as the ideal food for infants. Safe, clean and always at the right temperature, breastmilk contains all the nutrients a baby needs for the first months of life.
Colostrum is the first milk that mums will produce before it becomes transitional milk and then mature milk. Thicker, more yellow and jam-packed with nutrients (this is why colostrum also goes by the name liquid gold!) is that promotes growth and health in your newborn.
2. Breastmilk contains important antibodies
Just how magical is breastmilk? Well, it’s brimming with antibodies called immunoglobulins that help fight off viruses and bacteria. When a mum is exposed to viruses and bacteria, antibodies are transferred through the breastmilk to boost her baby’s immunity.
And even more amazing is that breastmilk will change when a baby is sick. Researchers believe that a mother’s baby can know this through the baby’s saliva. How amazing is that?
3. Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of diseases
Did you know that the chances of a breastfed baby developing illnesses and diseases are lower? Some of these include asthma, bacterial meningitis, sudden infant death syndrome, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, ear infections and even childhood cancers.
4. Breastfeeding helps prevent childhood obesity
A study published in the Pediatrics journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics highlighted that babies who drink breastmilk directly from the breast had lower rates of obesity.
One reason behind this is because, with direct latching, babies are less likely to overfeed. Unlike with bottle feeding where mums or caregivers will be more likely to encourage babies to finish a bottle, directly feeding on the breast places no pressure on the baby. When they’re full, they will simply stop nursing.
5. Breastfeeding may help children become smarter
Although it does not mean that formula-fed babies can’t be smarter than breastfed babies, several studies have shown that breastfed babies have slightly higher IQ. In a Brazil study, experts have pointed out that those who breastfed for at least a year performed better in intelligence tests.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Mums
1. Breastfeeding helps mum recover from childbirth more easily
Breastfeeding may look effortless but it actually burns about 500 calories a day. Not only does breastfeeding stimulate the release of oxytocin which triggers the let-down reflex but also causes the uterus to shrink and return to pre-pregnancy size. Plus, it also reduces postpartum bleeding. As such, it’s no wonder why breastfeeding mums seem to lose their postpartum weight faster.
2. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of postpartum depression
Breastfeeding benefits don’t just cover the physical aspects. According to a study, mums who breastfeed are less likely to experience postpartum depression.
3. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers
As we mentioned earlier, breastfeeding bolsters a baby’s immunity and protects them from certain diseases. The same goes for mums, as breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer by as much as 4.3% for every year of breastfeeding.
Meanwhile, another study revealed that mums who choose to breastfeed for more than 13 months are 63% less likely to develop ovarian cancer in contrast to mums who breastfeed for less than 7 months.
4. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, in particular, can be prevented by almost 50% among mums who breastfeed for longer than 2 months. And for mums who continue to breastfeed past the 5-month mark, a reduction by more than 50% is noted.
5. Breastfeeding is good for the heart—literally and metaphorically
Breastfeeding forges a connection between a mum and her baby is indescribable. Much of that can be owed to the hormones oxytocin and prolactin that helps mum feel less stressed and more calm, confident and positive.
But other than the emotional benefit, breastfeeding also lowers the risks for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases by 20-30%. This breastfeeding benefit applies to mums who breastfeed for at least four months.
Here at Mama’s Choice, we believe that breastfeeding is a personal decision. We’re just here to help you learn the facts about breastfeeding so you can make an informed decision for yourself and your baby. 🙂
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A mama of one hyperactive toddler, Michelle is adventurous, passionate about fitness, healthy eating and loves to garden in her free time.