Breastfeeding or nursing is feeding of babies and young children with milk from a female breast. Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter. It’s also one that’s likely to draw strong opinions from friends and family. Many medical authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding. But you and your baby are unique, and the decision is up to you. Breastfeeding offers many benefits to your baby.
Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients to help your infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler. Some of the nutrients in breast milk also help protect your infant against some common childhood illnesses and infections. It may also help your health. Certain types of cancer may occur less often in mothers who have breastfed their babies.Women who don’t have health problems should try to give their babies breast milk for at least the first six months of life. There are some cases when it’s better not to breastfeed. If you have HIV or active tuberculosis, you should not breastfeed because you could give the infection to your baby. Certain medicines, illegal drugs, and alcohol can also pass through the breast milk and cause harm to your baby.
What Are the Benefits of Breastfeeding for Your Baby?
Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat — everything your baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. What’s more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children. The AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It’s been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers as well, but more research is needed. Feeding your infant provides more than just good nutrition. It also gives you a chance to hold your newborn close, cuddle him, and make eye contact. These are relaxing and enjoyable moments for you both, and they bring you closer together emotionally.
Nutrients and Protection
Breast milk is the best food to help your baby to grow and develop. It is custom-made by each mother for her own baby, and contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Remarkably, as your baby grows, your milk will also change to keep up with your baby’s needs.
Increase Brain Power
There is strong evidence that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests, as well as on teacher ratings of their academic performance.
Convenient and Portable
Breast milk is always safe, fresh and exactly the right temperature. It’s ready for baby at a moment’s notice, and you don’t have to heat it, boil water, or sterilize bottles. This makes night time feedings a lot easier.
Benefits for Mothers Too
Research suggests that breastfeeding provides a measure of protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and weak bones later in life.Your body uses calories to produce milk, so breastfeeding can help you to gradually lose weight gained during pregnancy. Exclusive breastfeeding may also delay the return of menstruation for at least a little while.
Works for Working Mothers
Your baby can have all the benefits of your milk even if you plan to go back to work or school. You can express milk by hand or with a breast pump and leave it with your caregiver to feed the baby. Breast milk can also be frozen for future use.
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