Every year between 1st and 7th August, World Breastfeeding Week is observed. The goal is to emphasize the tremendous health benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and the child. The World Alliance For Breastfeeding Action also utilizes this day to push for improved maternal nutrition and disseminate knowledge about breastfeeding.
As new parents, you too may have many questions about breastfeeding. Now that we are in the midst of World Breastfeeding Week, let’s discuss some facts and information that you need to be privy to.
Why is breastfeeding important?
By now, all of us know that feeding a baby, mother’s milk has many more benefits than its alternative baby formula. But you may not have known that breastfeeding can do wonders for the mother’s health as well.
Let us first delve into how your baby will be benefited through breastfeeding:
- Breast milk contains exactly those nutrients that a growing baby needs such as protein, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
- Mother’s milk shields the baby from many forms of infections and allergies and helps in the formation of antibodies.
- A breastfed baby is less likely to become obese in the future than a formula-fed baby.
- Breast milk is easily digestible for a baby. Your little one will not have to endure acidity, diarrhoea or stomach infection.
- When a baby is breast-fed, bowel movements are regularized and chances of constipation go down.
- Breast milk leads to higher IQ in children.
- Breast milk changes in composition as your baby grows older to meet the changing nutritional needs of the baby.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother:
- Breastfeeding speeds up weight loss after delivery.
- Nursing the baby helps her uterus to shrink to its original dimensions and this reduces postpartum bleeding.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
- Breastfeeding also triggers the production of oxytocin (happiness hormone) which can to an extent help with postpartum blues.
Another vital benefit of breastfeeding is the generation of a strong bond between the mother and the baby. It not only provides nutritional support but is crucial for the baby’s psychological growth.
Nutrition for nursing mothers
The mother’s diet during this phase needs to be carefully planned. Firstly, her body is recovering from having given birth. Secondly, what she consumes ends up in her milk. That means the more nutritious the meals, the more wholesome the milk.
Here are a few things that all nursing mothers should include in their diet-
- Fish enriched with Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Dairy products
- Healthy fats such as full-cream milk or yoghurt, avocados, coconuts, etc.
- All kinds of nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts, chia seeds or pumpkin seeds.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Dark chocolate
Breastfeeding during COVID-19
According to WHO, even if the mother has contracted COVID, she can breastfeed her baby. COVID does not spread from mother to her baby through the feed. However, in severe cases, you may give your baby expressed breast milk. This way, your baby will not come in direct contact with you.
If you are unable to give the baby expressed milk, make sure to wash your hands and put on two masks before handling the baby.
Kangaroo mother care
Kangaroo mother care is not only good for both premature and full-term babies but also the parents. Both women and men can practice skin-to-skin bonding with the baby. It can save the lives of babies born pre-term. They are usually unable to generate enough body warmth. Nor are they able to suckle at the mother’s breast.
Such babies are gently strapped to the mother’s (usually) or father’s chest. The parent’s body warmth keeps the baby stable, reduces the secretion of stress hormones, improves oxygenation of the blood and speeds up growth. When strapped to the mother, kangaroo mother care also promotes breastfeeding.
How long should one breastfeed
It is recommended that a baby is nursed solely on breast milk for at least 6 months. After that, complementary foods should be introduced into the baby’s diet. However, a mother can continue breastfeeding for up to 2 years.
Early initiation of breastfeeding, especially Colostrum-mother’s first breast milk is extremely important. The baby should receive the first breastfeed as soon as possible and preferably within the first hour of birth. Breastfeeding is crucial for a baby and has many benefits for the mother too. It is very common for new mothers to experience difficulty in breastfeeding. In case of any difficulty, consult your doctor or lactation expert who will guide you well. Do not let your baby miss the amazing benefits of your breastmilk.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.