Did you know that breast feeding is one of the most important things you can do for your child? It provides them with essential nutrients that they need to grow and thrive. In this guide, we will discuss the importance of breast feeding and provide you with everything you need to know about it!
One of the most important reasons to breastfeed your child is that human milk is the perfect food for them. It contains all of the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly. In fact, it has been shown that breastfed babies are less likely to develop diseases such as asthma, obesity, and diabetes later in life.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend giving only breast milk for at least 6 months and only giving supplementary foods after that until 12 months. The main source of nutrition should be from baby breast milk.
That said, formula feeding has its role, and women who choose to use infant formula either combined with mothers breastfeeding or on its own, should not be demonised. Whilst we all know exclusive breastfeeding really helps boost a child health and immune system, being exclusively breastfed is not always possible.
Women’s health should also be taken into consideration and where there is postpartum depression or other maternal health outcomes which dictate that breastfeeding is not possible, then breast milk substitutes can work just as well. Whilst breast milk is always the optimum outcome, not all the benefits are lost when there is another form of infant feeding, or even with combination feeding.
Benefits of breastfeeding for baby
There’s no doubt that breastfeeding has long-term benefits your baby – with many continuing to bring benefits right into adulthood.
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies.
Research has shown that any amount of breast milk – however little – has an extremely positive effect.
Put simply, the longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection will last and the number of benefits will increase.
Breast milk is the perfect source of nutrition for babies, mainly because it contains appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as all of the digestive enzymes, minerals, vitamins and hormones that babies require.
It also contains valuable antibodies from the mom, which may help the baby resist infections.
So, what is breast milk?
The initial milk which you get in the first few days is called colostrum. Colostrum is a thick, yellowish milk that is packed with nutrients and antibodies. It helps to protect your baby from infection and helps their bowels to get moving. It is very easily digested for a new born.
Colostrum is gradually replaced by mature breast milk, which is a thinner, white milk.
Breast milk has two parts: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is thin and watery, while hindmilk is thick and creamy. Your baby gets foremilk at the beginning of a feed and hindmilk at the end of the feed. Both are vital for the baby.
Hindmilk, on the other hand, contains the fat and calories, which your baby needs to grow, so make sure that you breastfeed well on one breast before you offer the second breast.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months and then continuing breastfeeding as you introduce complementary foods until your baby is 12 months old – or older.
Here are just some of the great benefits that breastfeeding can bring to your baby…..
You’ll have a healthier baby
Research has shown that the incidence of colds, ear infections, viruses and even pneumonia are reduced in babies who are breastfed!
Gastrointestinal infections such as diarrhoea are also less common.
You’ll give them long-term protection
By breastfeeding your baby, you reduce their risk of developing chronic conditions, such as Type I diabetes, coeliac disease, asthma and Crohn’s disease, even against childhood obesity.
You’ll have an ever-ready, custom-made supply!
Breast milk is higher in protein and lower in sugar than ‘full’ milk, so even a small amount can keep your baby feeling satisfied for longer. Plus, it’s always at the right temperature and, even better, breast milk adapts as your baby grows to meet your baby’s changing needs.
You’ll lower your baby’s SIDS risk
Various studies – including a German Study of Sudden Infant Death – have shown that breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about half. It’s mainly thought that breastfeeding has a lower risk of SIDS because it protects infants against minor infections that have also been shown to make sudden death more likely.
You’ll reduce your baby’s risk of cancer
You’ve probably heard a lot in the media about breastfeeding lowering the risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but did you know that breastfeeding can also decrease your baby’s risk of some childhood cancers, including leukaemia? Generally breast milks helps your baby fight off diseases and gives them a reduced risk of a wide range of conditions.
You’ll reduce the chances of weight problems for both of you!
It’s more likely that neither you nor your baby will become obese if you breastfeed! Breastfeeding is a bit of a calorie burner since, with breast milk containing 20 calories per ounce, you can burn around 400 calories a day! So if you want to lose weight, then breastfeeding is ideal! Note though, you should not go on a calories controlled diet when breastfeeding, you cannot eat 1200 Calories A Day While Breastfeeding.
You can feed your baby anytime, anywhere!
If you’re breastfeeding, your baby has a ready supply of milk at all times, so you’re able to feed baby on the go without having to worry about mixing formula or getting bottles ready. When you’re traveling, your breast milk will provide your baby with a sense of comfort if they’re not handling the broken routine well.
You’ll increase your baby’s response to vaccines
Research has shown that breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula-fed babies.
You’ll give your baby the best start…
By giving your baby nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months (26 weeks) of their life, you’ll give them the best start in life and they’ll reap the benefits for years to come! This is even more important for premature babies where breastfeeding or human milk contains antibodies that help protect your child from harmful bacteria and viruses. This can be especially important in the first few months of life, when your child is most vulnerable to infection.
The good news!
The good news is that, as your baby grows, your breast milk will automatically change to meet their nutritional needs, so you never need to worry about what you’re feeding your baby. It’s all good! It keeps them going with everything they need nutritionally until they are ready for solid foods. Knowing when it’s time to wean can be difficult but we have a guide on Signs Baby is Ready to Wean.
Breastfed babies do, however, need additional vitamin D and some may require additional iron. If you have any concerns about this issue, speak to your physician or another healthcare provider.
Is breastfeeding really that important?
Yes, breastfeeding is really that important! Breastfeeding helps your child with essential nutrients that they need to grow and thrive. In addition, it can help protect your child against infections and illnesses, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases later in life. If you are able to breastfeed your child, we highly recommend that you do so! Breast milk has also been proven to reduce baby’s pain!
What happens if you don’t breastfeed?
If you don’t breastfeed your child, they will not be able to reap the many benefits that come with it. Breast milk is packed with nutrients and antibodies that are essential for your child’s growth and development. Without breast milk, your child may be more prone to infections and illnesses, and they may also be at a higher risk for developing chronic diseases later in life.
If you are unable to breastfeed your child, there are many other options available that can provide them with the same benefits. You can consult with your doctor or a lactation consultant to find the best option for you and your child.
Can you make enough milk to breastfeed?
Yes, of course!
Most women are able to make enough milk for their baby, but it’s important to nurse as often as possible in the early weeks and to drink plenty of fluids.
If you’re having trouble making enough milk, your health care provider can help you get on track. If you are struggling to produce enough milk, then follow our tips on producing more milk. Also remember you can mix formula and breastmilk.
There are also a number of things you can do at home to increase your milk supply, including drinking plenty of fluids, eating a healthy diet, and using a breast pump. Read our guide to when Does Milk Replenish After Breastfeeding
The Bottom Line on the importance of breastfeeding
When you breastfeed exclusively you are not just giving more milk, you are giving your baby liquid gold which will reduce their risk of respiratory illnesses, certain cancers and many illnesses. What a great return on investment for something you are doing any way! Breastfeeding Is So Much More Than Just Milk
Breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do for your child. It provides them with essential nutrients that they need to grow and thrive, and it also helps protect them against infections and illnesses. If you are able to breastfeed your child, we highly recommend that you do so!
This article was written by Sandra Baker – full time writer and the mother of four amazing kids (including twins!)
She’s also a breastfeeding counselor and has spent years helping new parents learn how to care for their children. When she’s not writing or caring for her children, Sandra likes to spend time reading and taking walks with her husband.