Breastfeeding is the easiest, complete method of providing fresh, natural milk with immunologic and growth-promoting properties to infant. Yet, the need and significance of breastfeeding is not totally acknowledged across the globe. Breastfeeding advantages extend not only to the baby but to the nursing mother as well. Understand the benefits of breast feeding and a suitable diet for a nursing mother. Is alcohol taboo while breast-feeding? What are the likely problems you may encounter while breastfeeding? Find out answers to these and more!
Breast feeding in early stages
Every mother who decides to breastfeed is securing her newborn’s health and development from the early stages of development. A pregnant woman’s breasts begin to produce colostrum (early breast milk) mostly around the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. Immediately after delivery, even though the mother won’t be producing milk yet, her breasts contain a thick yellowish creamy fluid, referred to as colostrum. Full of antibodies, colostrum extends important protection to the newborn against bacteria and virus. Colostrum is easy to digest and is a perfect starter food for newborns.
Colostrum is low in fat and very high in carbohydrates, rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals. It is also low in volume but high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn baby. Colostrum also acts as a perfect intestinal watchdog. The baby gets extended antibody protection from secretory immunoglobulin (IgA), which is present in colostrum in large quantities. This serves as a perfect vaccine against possible attack from germs, particularly in the mucous membranes, in the throat, lungs and intestines.
Colostrum changes into transitional milk around the third or fourth day of delivery and lasts upto ten days. Transitional milk contains high levels of fat, lactose, and water-soluble vitamins. The amount of calories is higher in transitional milk than in colostrum. Transitional milk finally becomes mature milk approximately around the tenth day of delivery. Mature milk is made of 90% water and 10% of fats, sugars, proteins, minerals and enzymes. While water helps to maintain hydration of the infant, the rest promotes brain and body growth of the baby.
Benefits of breastfeeding – For baby
Right mixture: Breast milk has the exact combination of fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and enzymes required at various stages of growth of the new born. Breast milk has properties to enhance nervous system development too. Breast milk is easily digestible.
Immunity: Breast milk increases a child’s resistance to infections. Macrophages that occupy 80% of the cells in breast milk kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Hence, babies who are breast-fed have fewer ear infections, respiratory illness, allergies, diarrhea and gastrointestinal infections.
Perfect infant nutrition: Breast milk enhances the nervous system development and increases IQ, 8 points higher compared to babies who were not breast-fed.
Reduced instance of SIDS: The risks of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in breastfed babies are reduced.
Meets demands of growth: Breast milk is constantly changing in its composition to meet the changing needs of the growing baby.
Better dental health: Breast-fed children have better overall dental health (due to unique sucking action required while breastfeeding).
Reduces risks of breast cancer: Breast-fed adult daughters are at lower risk of developing breast cancers.
Protection against Intestinal disorder: Breast-feeding helps babies avoid developing chrohn’s disease later in life.
Breastfeeding benefits – For mother
- Breastfeeding is an emotionally rewarding and relaxing experience to mother and baby.
- Women who breastfeed have lower incidence of breast cancer
- A perfect natural way to bond intimately with the newborn.
- Mothers tend to lose the extra pounds gained during pregnancy as nursing uses up extra calories.
- The uterus contracts back to its original size after having been stretched during pregnancy.
- It delays return of monthly periods.
The duration of breastfeeding differs from each mother and baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that mothers breastfeed babies with breast milk exclusively for the first six months.
Diet during breastfeeding
Unmindful of her own weight and body shape concerns, breastfeeding mothers should adhere to an overall protein and calcium rich diet. Exercising and other physical activities can always answer weight gain concerns, if any. The food should include – a variety of fruits and vegetables, bread and cereals, all kinds of milk products, lean meat, fish, chicken, meat, eggs, lentils etc. It is always beneficial to increase fluid intake and avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking. Nursing mothers must keep themselves well hydrated. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages before breast feeding. Maintain an iron and calcium rich diet during breastfeeding.
Breast feeding problems
One of the most common breast feeding problems is that of sore and bleeding nipples. This is usually the result of improper positioning. While this condition improves over time, you can use an ice pack before feeding to reduce pain. You can manually express some milk so as to aid easier breast feeding. Some mothers experience pain and flu-like symptoms. Sometimes a woman may suffer from Mastitis - bacterial infection of the breast. This problem is usually resolved with antibiotics.
Breastfeeding is an ideal way to experience motherhood in totality. One could always accommodate the changing demands of motherhood with support from family and friends to make these special moments of life really enjoyable for her as well as her baby for breastfeeding is the only natural and nutritious food to promote health today and always.