The following article has been written by Dr Angeli Misra, Director Lifeline Laboratory
Why Breastfeeding is best for a newborn baby and its mother
The new mother lactates as a natural response to her newborn baby’s hunger pangs. Breastfeeding helps to create a close emotional bond between the newborn baby and its mother; as soon as the baby is born, it is hungry and needs immediate nourishment. Experts opine that the more a new mother feeds her newborn baby, the stronger the bond that develops between her and her baby: the skin-to-skin touch and eye contact during breastfeeding evokes a feeling of emotional security in the baby. Besides this, breastfeeding has multiple benefits for both baby and mother.
Benefits for Baby
- Breastfeeding has a positive impact on the infant’s cognitive abilities and brain and socio-emotional development, and thus has far-reaching physical, mental, emotional and psychological benefits.
- Breast fed children who were fed on breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months of their lives, were found to have sharper brains, improved memory retentive abilities and better language skills.
- Breast milk is a complete meal for the newborn baby, replete with rich nutrition of protein, fat and vitamins required for its nourishment and growth.
- The baby that is solely nourished by mother’s milk does not require the ingestion of water or juice for up to 6 months of age, for mother’s milk fulfills all the fluid intake requirements of the baby.
- Mother’s milk is easily digestible for the infant and linked to stronger gut health in the baby, leading to less occurrence of digestive disorders and frequent bouts of diarrhoea, not only during the infancy stage, but also later on in life when the child grows older.
- Colostrum, the yellowish fluid released by the mother from her breasts just prior to beginning of lactation, is highly beneficial for the newborn baby, as it is rich in antibodies (IgG, IgA and IgM) and helps to develop immunity in the baby’s body to fight germs and infections. Due to a lack of awareness towards its benefits, a lot of mothers discard it before beginning to breastfeed their baby: this is a myth that needs to be debunked. Neonatal specialists emphasize that it must not be discarded because it is rich in nutrients like proteins, fats, vitamins, carbohydrates minerals, growth hormones and digestive enzymes which are crucial for the baby’s overall health and nourishment.
- Breastfed babies fight infections better and have shorter bouts of illness, making recovery quicker and relatively easier, as compared to babies who are fed on bottle milk formulae.
- Breastfed babies are believed to develop better immunity against asthma and other respiratory infections, and ear, nose and throat infections and other allergies.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of diabetes in later life.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to die from cot deaths and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- Breastfed babies are believed to develop higher IQ as they grow older.
Benefits for the Mother
- Breastfeeding her newborn baby is as beneficial for the mother as it is for the baby, as it evokes her nurturing and protective instinct.
- Breastfeeding mothers are able to shed pregnancy weight faster, as breastfeeding burns extra calories.
- Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body which helps to shrink her uterus back to its normal size.
- It also reduces post-delivery uterine bleeding.
- Breastfeeding significantly lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- Breastfeeding is economical too, as it cuts down on the money, time and energy spent on milk formulae, sterilizing tablets, sterilizing bottles, rubber teats, and boiling water to prepare the milk formula.