Dr Rajalaxmi Walavalkar
Nothing can be compared to the properties that are contained in human milk and breastfeeding offers tremendous health benefits to both mother and the child. Breastfeeding is undoubtedly the best nutrition you can give to your baby rather than putting expressed milk in a bottle. It also has added benefits for a mother. As we observe another World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), let us understand the various benefits it has for both mother and child.
Advantages of Breastfeeding for the mother
Breastfeeding lowers breast cancer risk
Mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre and post-menopausal breast cancer. Most women who breastfeed experience hormonal changes during lactation that can delay their menstrual periods. This reduces a woman’s lifetime exposure to hormones like estrogen, which can promote breast cancer cell growth. In addition, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you tend shed breast tissue. This shedding can help remove cells with potential DNA damage, thus helping to reduce chances of breast cancer.
Mothers who breastfeed tend to lose weight and achieve their pre-pregnancy figure more easily than mothers who bottle feed
Your body stores up fat during your pregnancy to provide the extra calories needed for milk production. It is easier to lose lower body fat for the mothers are breastfeeding as compared to those who formula feed their babies.
Breast-feeding promotes mother-baby bonding
While snuggled close to the breast, your baby can quickly recognise your heartbeat. This invokes a feeling of calmness and protection in the baby. Hormone levels also vary between mothers who breastfeed and those who don’t. Oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ that helps nurture emotional bonding is higher in breastfeeding moms.
Advantages of breastfeeding for the baby
Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has the perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat- everything your baby needs to grow. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your child fight off viruses, batteries and harmful allergies. It also lowers risks of having asthma.
Breastfed infants tend to have higher IQs due to good brain development in early life
One possible reason for the advantage of breast milk is that it is rich in long-chain saturated fatty acids which are crucial for brain growth and development which results in the formulation of a higher Intelligence Quotient.
Breastfeeding promotes the proper development of baby’s jaw and tongue
The act of breastfeeding requires a very sophisticated coordination of muscles and movement for the baby’s jaw and tongue, which is much different as compared to when the baby is fed through a bottle. Breastfeeding is also critical for the proper development of the baby’s dental health and airway. It reduces problems in regards to airway restriction.