New Delhi: World Breastfeeding Week takes place annually in the first week of August. Breastfeeding plays a vital role in a child’s growth and development, providing essential antibodies that protect infants from infections and strengthens their immune system from an early age. The theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2023 is ‘Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work!’ Breastfeeding is a natural and fundamental aspect of motherhood that provides numerous health benefits to both the mother and the baby.
“The primary benefit of breastfeeding for both mother and child is bonding”, said Dr. Ranjana Dhanu, Consultant, Gynecology & Obstetrics at P. D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Khar.
“Breastfeeding fosters a strong maternal-infant bond, while also reducing the risk of infections (such as bowel infections, respiratory infections), childhood obesity, eczema, and type 2 diabetes in infants. Moreover, breastfeeding’s immunoglobulins enhance a baby’s immunity and potentially lead to better dental health and fewer bowel issues during school years. Breastfed children also exhibit higher psychological confidence compared to those who are bottle-fed or nanny-fed,” she further added.
Benefits Of Breast Milk A Mother Should Know
Dr Swati Hajare, Lactation Consultant, Sahyadri Hospitals, Pune shared the benefits of breast milk for a mother:
- Uterine Contractions: When the baby suckles and swallows, it triggers signals that cause contractions in the uterus. This helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size, reducing post-delivery blood loss.
- Stress Relief: Breastfeeding provides psychological support for mothers, leading to the release of oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’. This hormone reduces stress, aiding in post-delivery relaxation.
- Weight Loss: Breastfeeding utilizes calories from the mother’s body to nourish the baby. This contributes to gradual weight loss for the mother, helping her shed the weight gained during pregnancy.
- Cost-effective and Convenient: Breastfeeding is a cost-free, safe, and time-saving method of nourishing the baby, as it does not require any financial investment or complicated preparation.
In addition to the benefits for mothers, breast milk also provides essential advantages for babies, told Dr Swati :
- Immunity Boost: The initial breast milk, known as colostrum, is rich in antibodies and immune factors. It acts as the baby’s first vaccination, building their immunity.
- Growth Factors: Breast milk contains growth factors that aid in the development of the baby’s immune, brain, respiratory system and Intestine. This fosters a stronger immune system, reduces the risk of infections and lowers the chances of allergies and other health issues like diarrhoea in the future.
- Nutrition: Breastmilk contain all nutritional factors in appropriate amount that baby required for his physical growth.
- Psychological Support: Breastfeeding like mother gives baby also psychological support, and safety that helpful for his mental growth.
Facts Related To Breast Milk:
Ditician Garima Goyal threw light on some facts related to breast milk and said, “Breast milk is a magic potion for the newborn as it is a source of live immunity bor the baby – both immediate and lifelong immunity. Most mothers don’t know this but breastfeeding keeps their kid away from many infections.”
She also mentioned some other important facts related to breast milk:
- Breastfeeding is the only source of nutrition for an infant for the first six months of his life. An infant obtains all the macronutrients as well as micronutrients from the mother’s milk, thus a lactating women should take extra care of her diet as it has to nourish another human being.
- Mothers need to take extra care of nutrition as this is the time they need best of nutrition amongst different stages of life cycles may it be their teenage, old age, middle age etc. So having nutrient dense meals throughout the day will not only improve the milk quality but also help their body to recover post partum.
- You don’t need to worry if your child is getting enough milk because breast milk contains everything baby needs for the first 6 months of life, in all the right proportions. Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life.
- Breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months allows the baby to feel close to their moms. They feel the same warmth of the womb in their mother’s lap. Hearing the mother’s heartbeat and feeling her warm skin will help her transition from the inner world to the outer world.
- Breast milk also contains a polyunsaturated fatty acid namely docosahexaaenoic acid (DHA) which aids in brain development.
- Even mothers can lose weight with breastfeeding as their body uses almost 400-500 calories daily while feeding their infant and their metabolism is also high.
Challenges Faced By Mothers During Breastfeeding:
In this regard, Dr. Ranjana Dhanu said, “The concern arises when well-meaning family members encourage breastfeeding mothers to indulge in ghee, panjiri, and ladoos, inadvertently subjecting them to an excess of calories. Historically, these foods were meant for malnourished women with large families to provide necessary nutrition. However, in today’s context, excessive ghee consumption can lead to obesity and health problems.”
“In lactating mothers, it i’s crucial to note that each bodily secretion has a specific composition of fat, vitamins, and calories. Excessive ghee and panjiri will not alter breast milk quality; instead, it burdens the mother and compromises her health. Mothers should follow a balanced, healthy diet to maintain fitness, lose weight, and avoid obesity,” she further added.
In addition to that, she said, “First-time mothers should be properly trained and supervised to establish a nursing schedule before leaving the hospital. While some may experience lactation failure, reassurance can be provided that using a bottle is a suitable alternative. Postpartum blues could occur, and mild cases can be addressed through counseling. In severe instances, lactation may need to be discontinued due to concerning symptoms such as jitteriness, suspicion, or harmful thoughts.”
Talking about till what time breastfeeding should be followed, Dr. Ranjana said, “Breastfeeding is ideal for around nine months, until the child receives the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, and rubella). After teething begins, gradual weaning can commence.”
Overall, breastfeeding not only promotes a strong bond between the mother and the baby but also enhances the baby’s health and well-being, ensuring a better quality of life and mother should know both of these aspects of breastfeeding.
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