The Many Benefits Of Breast Feeding For A Mother And Her Baby

Midwives, health-visitors and doctors all highly recommend breast feeding for numerous reasons. Breast milk contains the perfect balance of nutrients for your baby, and also antibodies that will boost your baby's immune system providing a strong defence against infection. Breast stimulation by your baby immediately after delivery encourages your uterus to contract and hence reduces bleeding. Breast feeding enhances bonding with your baby. There are very few medical reasons why a mother shouldn't breast-feed.

Cow's milk and soya contain different sets of proteins to human milk. Most formula milks are derived from cow's milk which may be perfect for calves, but babies can have difficulty digesting it. Bottle fed infants tend to be fatter than breast-fed infants, but not necessarily healthier. The volume of milk you produce for your baby is independent of the size of your breasts, as both small and large breasts contain virtually the same amount of mammary glands. Only the fatty tissue varies.

Colostrum is the first food available to breastfeeding newborns, and is tailor-made to meet the nutritional requirements. Breast feeding babies do not require the large volumes of fluid required by bottle fed babies during the first few days of life.

Breast milk may reduce the onset of late onset B streptococcal disease, a potentially lethal condition that rarely afflicts newborn babies. It has been suggested that the antibodies in breast milk would be neutralized by the acids in your baby's stomach. However, it has been shown that protective factors are present in higher concentrations in the stools of breast-fed infants than in stools from formula-fed infants. A breast-fed baby's digestive tract contains large amounts of Lactobacilli, which are beneficial bacteria that prevent the growth of harmful organisms.

Human milk straight from the breast is always sterile and never contaminated by polluted water or dirty bottles which can lead to diarrhoea in the infant. Breast-fed infants have a lower incidence of diarrhoea, respiratory disease, and otitis media (middle ear infection). Diarrhoea claims a toll of 5 million children each year in the developing countries. The risk of dying from diarrhoea would be reduced 14-24 fold by universal breast feeding.

Predominantly breast feeding for at least six months and partial breast feeding for up to one year may reduce the prevalence and subsequent morbidity of respiratory illness and infection in infancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breast-fed for six to 12 months. In the USA, almost two thirds of children had ever been breastfed and only 27.0% and 12.3%, at 6 and 12 months respectively, were receiving some breast milk. In a study in Greece reported in 2007, breastfeeding initiation was reported by 96.1% of the participants but exclusive breastfeeding was initiated only in 19.1% and predominant breastfeeding in 7.2% of the cases. On-going breast feeding continues to require encouragement.

Full breastfeeding lowers the potential chance for hospital admission as a result of infections among infants who are younger than 1 year within an industrialized country.

Breast milk reduces childhood asthma and skin problems such as eczema, childhood and adolescent obesity and it seems to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, lipid profile and possible insulin resistance/type-2 diabetes.

Breast feeding may protect against infection later on in childhood. There seems to be an association between a high breastfeeding rate in the population and a reduced incidence of HI meningitis 5 to 10 years later.

Breast feeding reduces the prevalence of several chronic diseases. It has been estimated that in the population of the 596,122 babies born in England and Wales in 2002, the number of cases of asthma, obesity and coeliac disease that could have been prevented over 7-9 years if babies that had "no breast feeding" as a risk factor would have received breast milk were 33, 00 for asthma, 13,639 for obesity and 2,655 for coeliac disease. The incidence of childhood leukaemia is reduced in children who have been breast fed.

Human milk is flavoured by the taste of the food that the mother has eaten and provides her baby with its first insight into the rich variety of culinary delights to come. The infant's response to a particular flavour in milk may depend upon the recency and duration of previous exposures. Breast-feeding has been significantly and positively associated with educational attainment achieved in childhood and even as far as age fifty. There is, however, conflicting evidence on the benefits of breast feeding and intelligence with some showing a positive relationship and others finding that enhancement of the child's intelligence is unrelated to initial feeding method.

Natural feeding allows you and your baby to get closer - physically and emotionally. So while your child is feeding, the bond between you can grow ever stronger. Mothers who breast feed are less affected by stress. Despite popular belief, there is no compelling evidence that breastfeeding is effective in combating postpartum depression.

Breast milk is free so that you can save a lot of money not having to buy formula and it is readily available. Women who breast feed return to their pre-pregnancy figure faster as they give calories to their babies. Breast feeding suppresses ovulation (egg release), reduces menstruation and the chance of pregnancy, but there are no guarantees. Mothers who do not plan to conceive should use contraception even while nursing. The mini-pill is acceptable but the combined pill can suppress milk production.

Rheumatoid arthritis and hip fractures due to osteoporosis after the menopause are less common in those who have breast fed their babies. Breast feeding reduces a mother's risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breast cancer risk decreases according to the total months of breast-feeding. Average duration of breast-feeding of 11-12 months reduces the risk of breast cancer by 54% compared with the duration of 1-4 months.

Some medications contraindicate breast feeding. Always check with your health care provider. Most common illnesses, such as colds, flu, skin infections, or diarrhoea, cannot be passed through breast milk. Just a few viruses can pass through breast milk. Unfortunately, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of them. Women who are HIV positive should, therefore, not breast-feed.

Breast feeding can have some disadvantages. In the early weeks, it can be painful. A woman's nipples may become sore or cracked. She may experience engorgement more than a bottle feeding mother, when the breasts become so full of milk that they become hard and painful. Some nursing women also develop clogged milk ducts, which can lead to mastitis, a painful infection of the breast. While most nursing problems can be resolved with home remedies, mastitis requires prompt medical care.

A nursing mother is tied to her baby more than a bottle-feeding mother. The baby needs her for nourishment and she needs to nurse regularly to avoid uncomfortably full breasts.

Some women simply do not feel comfortable with the idea of nursing. They find the thought of handling their breasts to be unattractive, or they want to think of them purely as sexual, and not functional. They may be concerned about modesty and the possibility of having to nurse in public. They may want a break from child care and let someone else feed the baby, especially in the small hours of the morning.

If a woman is unsure whether she wishes to nurse, she can try it for a few weeks. It's very difficult to switch to breast-feeding after bottle-feeding is begun. The decision to breast-feed is a personal one. Provide yourself with all the information you require and then come to a decision. Obstetricians, paediatricians, childbirth instructors, nurses, health visitors and midwives can all offer information about nursing. But perhaps the best ongoing support for a breast feeding mother is someone who has successfully nursed a baby, particularly her mother. Only you can decide if breastfeeding is appropriate for you.

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