Tuesday, August 25, 2015
There are many advantages with breastfeeding, both for mothers as well as their offspring. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other global health agencies recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Additionally, all infants should start receiving foods from 6 months of age (complementary feeding) until at least 1 year.
Benefits of breastfeeding for infants are as follows:
• Nutrients such as taurine and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) promote brain development enabling infants to achieve full intellectual potential.
• Antibodies present in breast milk provide the infant with immunity against childhood diseases such as common cold, strep throat and gastrointestinal problems.
• Compared with breastfed infants, formula fed infants have a shocking three times higher risk of developing ear infections. This is because during bottle feeding, the formula may flow into the infant’s eustachian tubes and middle ear whereas during breastfeeding the eustachian tubes close preventing backflow.
• The incidence of allergies and the likelihood of developing asthma and diabetes are lower in breastfed infants.
• Breastfed infants have lower risk of developing childhood obesity.
• Compared with formula, breast milk is easily digested, thus reducing the chances of diarrhoea and constipation.
Mothers who breastfeed benefit in the following ways:
• Post delivery, the weight gained during pregnancy is lost faster when breastfeeding is initiated. Also, mothers recoup faster from pregnancy and childbirth.
• Breastfeeding helps reduce postpartum blood loss and hastens the return of the uterus to the normal size and position in the abdominal cavity.
• Breastfeeding helps establish a nurturing bond and allows both mother and newborn to relax.
• Breastfeeding is a more economical option than formula feeding. Mothers even have the option of pumping and storing breast milk when they are away and breastfeeding is not possible.
• The risk of breast and ovarian cancers drops and there is reduced incidence of osteoporosis during old age in women who breastfeed.
Although breastfeeding offers so many advantages, some women choose not to breastfeed or to stop earlier than recommended. Women feel that they may not be successful at it, that it may inconvenience them or that they may not produce the required amount of breast milk to meet the infant’s needs. With adequate information and support, and knowledge of the breastfeeding experience from other mothers, women can successfully breastfeed their infants.
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