The first thing I will have to stress here is this—I am not a doctor or a medical personnel. Medical pieces are not really my forte but, as humans, we have a natural instinct to crave knowledge and seek for answers.
Some days ago I overheard two young mothers arguing about the duration they will both love to breast feed their babies. The younger of the two stressed on not to breast feed for long; her reason was to keep her breasts firm. The other made it clear that hers will be a maximum of 5 months. I was a bit curious. From the little I know, breast feeding is very essential for infants and the standard duration was not commensurate with what the women discussed. A deep research led me to these findings.
Breast milk, to be specific human milk, is the milk produced by the breasts (or mammary glands) of a human female for her infant offspring. Milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns before they are able to eat and digest other foods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with solids gradually being introduced around this age when signs of readiness are shown. Supplemented breastfeeding is recommended until at least age two and then for as long as the mother and child wish.
The initial milk produced is referred to as colostrum, which is high in the immunoglobulin. This helps to protect the newborn until its own immune system is functioning properly.
Importance of breast feeding
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beneficial acts a mother can do for her child. Dramatic health benefits have been proven to pass from mother to child through breast milk – from antibodies which protect an infant at birth to the exclusive nutrients which have been shown to prevent a number of childhood diseases…the benefits are incalculable.
In today’s society, breastfeeding is often thought of as unnecessary. Young mothers are mistakenly led to believe that infant formula is a good replacement for breast milk. Nothing can duplicate the properties of breast milk, no matter how many vitamins, minerals and supplements are added to what is basically a chemical formulation. Breast milk remains the one and only natural, complete and complex nutrition for human infants. It is nature’s formula for ensuring the health and quality of life for infants, as well as on through childhood to adult life.
Health benefits for breastfed babies
1. Children receive the most complete and optimal mix of nutrients and antibodies.
2. The varying composition of breast milk keeps pace with the infant’s individual growth and changing nutritional needs.
3. Protection against ear infections, respiratory illnesses, pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney infections, and septicemia (blood poisoning), meningitis, botulism, childhood lymphoma, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative entercolitis.
4. Reduced risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
5. Decreased risk of tooth decay (cavities).
6. Good facial structure development, enhanced speech, straighter teeth and enhanced vision.
7. Breastfed infants develop higher IQ’s, and have improved brain and nervous system development (Breastfeeding is considered the 4th trimester in brain growth and development…there are specific proteins in human milk that promote brain development).
8. Reduced risk of heart disease later in life.
9. Increased bone density
10. Breastfeeding plays an important role in the emotional and spiritual development of babies.
Health benefits for moms who breastfeed
Life can be easier when you breastfeed. Physical contact is important to newborns. The skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn child can boost the mother’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps milk flow and can calm the mother.
1. Reduced risk of breast, ovarian, cervical, and endometrial cancers.
2. Reduced risk of anemia.
3. Protection against osteoporosis and hip fracture later in life.
4. Reduced risk of mortality for women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been associated with total time of lactation.
5. Helps the mother’s body return to its pre-pregnancy state faster – promotes weight loss.
6. Helps delayed return of fertility, and helps to space subsequent pregnancies.
7. Develops a special emotional relationship and bonding with child.
8. Breastfed babies don’t fall ill frequently thus reducing healthcare costs to family.
9. Helps the uterus contract after birth to control postpartum bleeding.
There are also other benefits of breast feeding – it makes a mother feel good; the hormones produced during nursing have an endorphin effect giving you a relaxed feeling; it’s the only time you can ever lose weight without dieting or exercise; breastfeeding is more convenient when traveling, all you need is to take diapers; and the very best—the milk is always available, sterile, and at the right temperature.
Now, I hope you are all enlightened. But a thought still lingers in my mind, I wonder how long I was on my mama’s case.