Breast milk is the perfect nourishment for your baby. However, due to personal reasons or medical reasons, babies’ diets may need to be supplemented with infant formula.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is highly recommended that babies are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life, supplemented with solid food till a year old and as long as mutually desired afterwards.
Benefits of Breastmilk for Babies
- Nutritionally balanced for your baby’s developmental needs
Breast milk has all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that your baby requires for his complete growth and development. It is easily digested which allows little tummies to absorb the nourishment.
- Reduced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) risk
Breastfeeding for at least 2 months has been found to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The peak age of SIDS is around two to four months and there is a need to breastfeed during this period for protective effects to occur. It was found that SIDS was 40% less likely to occur in breastfed infants.
- Positive effect on child’s IQ and behaviour
Breastfed babies have been found to perform better on IQ tests. There were also fewer breastfed babies who were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Protective qualities that extend beyond childhood
There are antibodies in breastmilk which provide significant protection against diseases caused by bacteria and viruses in their environment. Breast milk is unique as it adapts itself to the requirements of the baby.
In the first six months of life, exclusive breastfeeding builds and strengthens gut tissue, creating a barrier that keeps foreign material from the deeper intestinal tissues.
Beyond childhood, it has been found that breastfed babies reduce the rate of childhood overweight and obesity.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mothers
- Postpartum weight loss
Exclusively breastfeeding for at least 3 months and more have been linked to a lower postpartum weight. Breastfeeding mothers require about 300 to 500 more calories per day above what was needed to maintain pre-pregnancy weight.
- Decreased risk of women’s cancers
Studies have shown that lactating mothers have a decreased risk of breast, ovarian and cervical cancer. Lactating mothers have fewer menstrual cycles, which means lesser exposure to estrogen, a link to breast cancer. The same goes for ovarian cancer, where a longer breastfeeding duration has been linked to lower rates of epithelial ovarian cancer.
- Decreased stress levels and better emotional health
Breastfeeding has been proven to lower maternal stress levels and improve maternal bonding with the infant due to the production of prolactin and oxytocin. It also fosters a strong, unbreakable bond between you and your infant which will last beyond infancy and throughout childhood.
- Convenient and affordable
When you breastfeed exclusively, there is no need to purchase expensive infant formula which may cost hundreds of dollars per month. Milk is at the right temperature and easily accessible for your infant without the hassle of having to bring bottles and milk powder containers. Night feeds become easier with the side latching method.
Breastfeeding is more than purely nutrition – it is the best gift for your infant. If there are no medical issues affecting nursing, consider exclusive breastfeeding for your baby!