The Benefits of Breastfeeding
The WHO (World Health Organization) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), point out that breastfeeding is an unequaled way of providing the ideal food for a child’s correct growth and development. Find out all about the benefits of breastfeeding in this article.
These organizations also recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months of life. They also advise continuing after 6 months, accompanied by other foods appropriate for their age.
This recommendation of at least 6 months is because breastfeeding is one of the most effective methods to protect a child’s health. If this practice were extended worldwide, the lives of some 820,000 children would be saved each year.
From 2 years of age, this type of feeding can be extended as long as the child and the mother want, since the exact duration of lactation in humans isn’t known.
Some published anthropological studies conclude that the natural lactation period in humans is between 2.5 and 7 years.
Health benefits of breastfeeding
There’s no doubt that breast milk is the best food for a newborn baby. The many advantages and benefits of breastfeeding mean that the baby can benefit from milk in many other ways as well.
Besides serving as food, breast milk also protects the baby. This one is packed with ingredients including:
- White blood cells
- Beneficial bacteria
All of these substances help fight infection, prevent disease, and contribute to normal, healthy development.
Children who are breastfed for the first 6 months are less likely to suffer from diarrhea and nausea, gastroenteritis, flu and colds, as well as ear and chest infections, and yeast infections. In turn, breastfeeding reduces the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome in the baby.
However, breastfeeding doesn’t prevent the baby from getting sick, but it does offer benefits to a sick child. The reason for this is that the mother’s body produces specific antibodies against any infection she may have, favoring recovery.
Lasting benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Breastfeeding isn’t only beneficial for the first few months. As we have said, the ideal duration isn’t known. It is known that the longer you continue to drink breast milk, the more benefits the child will obtain.
Each time the child breastfeeds, oxytocin levels rise, both in the mother and the child, reinforcing the link between the two.
Studies show that children who are breastfed as babies are less likely to develop some types of cancer such as leukemias or lymphomas. They also tend to have better vision and straighter teeth.
In addition, there are also studies that conclude that the baby is less likely to develop diabetes as an adult.
Some tips to begin breastfeeding
Here are 3 simple tips to keep in mind when you try to breastfeed for the first time. It must be taken into account that, in general, the duration of the feedings is variable and is determined by the response of the baby.
At first, it may take more time on each breast, and then a shorter period will suffice. Every child is different. Keep these simple tips in mind.
- Maintain a correct posture: the child should have their mouth open about 180 degrees and should cover the entire areola with his mouth.
Clamping with your fingers to get more milk isn’t recommended, as it can actually clog some ducts. The conventional position is one in which the mother’s belly and the child’s belly touch.
- Frequency and duration of feedings: It’s always recommended to breastfeed when the child requires it. A newborn baby doesn’t have a schedule, but little by little they will pick up the habit. To facilitate this adaptation, it’s advised that the child spends as much time as possible with the mother.
- Other tips during the feed: the fat concentration is higher at the end of the feed, and so it’s important to let the child completely empty one breast before giving them the other.
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- Furman, L., & Schanler, R. J. (2017). Breastfeeding. In Avery’s Diseases of the Newborn: Tenth Edition. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-323-40139-5.00067-X
- González Méndez, I., & Pileta Romero, B. (2002). Lactancia materna. Revista Cubana de Enfermeria.
- Aguayo, J., Arena, J., Díaz-Gómez, M., Gómez, A., Hernández-Aguilar, M. T., Landa, L., … Lozano, M. J. (2004). Lactancia materna: guía para profesionales. Comité de Lactancia Materna de la Asociación Española de Pediatría. https://doi.org/84-8473-277-0