Paediatricians recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for at least the first 6 months of their lives. But when you’re struggling with little sleep or having trouble getting your baby to latch right, it is natural to wonder - is this all worth it? And more importantly, is it necessary at all? Here’s a look at why experts continue to recommend breastfeeding your baby.
Protects Your Baby from Illness
Breast milk is rich in antibodies that could protect your baby from certain illnesses. Research suggests that babies that have been breastfed may have reduced risk of conditions like asthma, eczema, ear infections, diarrhoea, lower respiratory infections, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), type 2 diabetes, and childhood obesity and childhood leukaemia. In babies born before the 37th-week mark of pregnancy, it could also lower the risk of developing the gastrointestinal tract disease ‘Necrotizing enterocolitis’ a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in premature babies.
Breast Milk Adapts to the Baby’s Changing Needs
The first milk or Colostrum is rich in both antibodies that protect your baby and nutrients that nourish him/her. It helps the baby’s fledgling digestive system function and grow. Three to five days after your baby is born, the colostrum starts to change to thinner mature milk. And while it appears thinner, it is still packed with all the antibodies and nourishment your baby requires.
Well-balanced Food for Your Baby
Mature milk is a perfectly designed first food for your baby’s growth providing the right quantity of energy and nutrients - it contains fat, protein, sugar, and water in just the right amounts. So there’s no guesswork involved in getting the right quantities of each nutrient into your baby’s diet. Plus, there is no risk of contamination and it is at the right temperature and ready to feed to the baby.
Helps With Sensory and Cognitive Development
According to the WHO, breastfeeding help with healthy cognitive and sensory development of the baby.
Helps With Quicker Postpartum Recovery for the Mum
If you breastfeed your child, it can aid quicker recovery from the rigours of childbirth. When you breastfeed your baby, oxytocin is released. This hormone helps your uterus contract to its regular size faster. It could also cut the amount of postpartum bleeding you experience.
May Also Cut Your Risk of Certain Illnesses
Even mothers stand to get potential protection against illnesses while breastfeeding. Studies show that if you breastfeed your baby, it could lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis as well as certain cancers(ovarian and breast cancer in later life is lower in women who breastfeed their babies).
Delays Return Of Menstrual Period
If you exclusively breastfeed your baby day and night and your baby is less than six months old, you may not experience a return of your menstrual period as quickly. In such circumstances, it could even be a natural form of contraception. However, it is always advisable to use additional protection during sexual intercourse if you are sure you do not want to have another pregnancy in quick succession.
Could Help With Postpartum Weight Loss
Your body uses its fat cells and calories from the food you consume to fuel the production of milk and help you breastfeed your baby. It is believed that breastfeeding could, therefore, help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight faster, though the jury is still out on this with so many other variables involved (like how sedentary your life is, how much you eat and so on).
All in all, there are plenty of good reasons for your health and your baby’s to keep breastfeeding for the early months of his/her life if you can.