Due to the increasing work demand of today’s economy, its discomforting nature and the sacrifice required, some women have come to question the all-important attributes attached to exclusive breastfeeding.
Exclusive breastfeeding will continue to be the best food for any baby in the first 6 months of life because:
- Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby will ever need in the first 6 months.
Breast milk is very rich in protein, minerals, lactose (a carbohydrate), fat and water in the proportion that is absolutely best for the baby. Another good thing is the nutrients in a mother’s breast milk change proportionately to the nutritional needs of the baby as the months go by. This simply means that breast milk initially contains high quantities of protein and minerals which the baby needs more than the other nutrients in the first month, and towards the 4th month and onwards when the baby needs more of lactose and water, its nutritional contents change to meet this need.
- Breast milk protects the baby against infection.
Breast milk contains colostrum which is secreted in the first 4 days after delivery. Colostrum has high quantities of antibodies from the mother, and breastfeeding the baby within 30 minutes to 1 hour after birth and continuing this for 6 months without adding any other food or water ensures he or she gets every single drop of this colostrum. This passes some of the mother’s antibodies in the colostrum to the baby, protecting him or her against infections.
- Diarrhoea is less common in babies who are exclusively breast-fed
Breast milk contains a particular chemical substance that works in a unique way to decrease the rate of invasion of the baby’s intestine by disease-causing microorganisms that are associated with diarrhoea. Also, giving a baby other foods in addition to breastmilk in the first 6 months can lead to diarrhoea because of the inability of the intestine to properly absorb some of the food at this stage of life. And exclusive breastfeeding prevents this.
- Exclusively breast-fed babies seem to have higher IQs than those who are not when they grow up
Evidence is emerging from some medical research studies that exclusively breast-fed children have higher intelligence quotient when compared to those who received mostly or only infant formula feeds; these studies excluded all other factors that may determine intelligence during growth and development to arrive at their findings.
- Oxytocin released during the process of breast milk secretion quickens the return of the womb to its non-pregnant state, reducing the amount of blood loss experienced by the mother after birth. So exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months will hasten this return and save the woman from excessive blood loss.
- Mothers who exclusively breast-feed have a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers
Studies comparing mothers who did exclusive breastfeeding and those who didn’t have found out that exclusive breastfeeding confers a form of protection against breast and ovarian cancers before menopause. These studies also found that the longer the mother breast-fed her baby the lower the risk of having these two cancers compared to mothers who don’t breast-feed for that long.
- Exclusive breastfeeding helps the mother lose her pregnancy weight
If appropriate care is not taken, some women can go on to become overweight and even obese by the time they are through with having children. But exclusive breastfeeding has been shown to lower the likelihood of this because of the high nutrient demand it places on the mother. And if a woman does exclusive breastfeeding for all her children, the chance of her becoming obese is significantly reduced.
Exclusive breastfeeding is not a joke. But it has its benefits. Sometimes, you may be too busy or tired to breast-feed as a nursing mother. You should express your breast milk for times like this. You can express the breast milk by hand or use of a breast pump. Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before expressing the milk. Also, make sure the breast milk container is sterilized each time you want to express milk.
Mothers are advised to initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes to 1 hour after birth. They should feed the baby every 2 to 3 hours until he or she is satisfied. Expressed breast milk should be fed to the baby with a cup and spoon. And babies should be breast-fed for up to 18 months (1 year 6 months) before taking them off of breast milk.
For more advice and help, feel free to ask a Doctor via The Reliance Care App