The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until your baby is six months old, with continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
Not only is breastfeeding the best source of nutrition for your baby, there are advantages for you too.
- Inr Pregnancy and Birth Book, Tina Otte notes that breastfeeding delays your menstrual cycle, which could mean lower incidence of postnatal anaemia and premenstrual tension.
If you’re breastfeeding around the clock, you may only regain your period six months postpartum.
- Johannesburg-based lactation consultant Laura Sayce says breastfeeding for three years or more reduces the risk of breast cancer in the mother by 94%. Studies reveal that breastfeeding moms have a lower risk of uterine, ovarian and breast cancers.
Other benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis later in life.
- Reduced incidence of postpartum depression.
- More sleep (studies are showing breastfeeding mom’s get an average of 45 minutes more sleep a night than formula-feeding moms)
- Bonding with baby is easier due to the hormones of breastfeeding.
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.
- If you’re eager to get back in shape, you’ll be happy to know that breastfeeding burns calories. Midwifery consultant and researcher Dr Diana du Plessis notes your body will become more toned. She says bonding is thought to be better when baby is breasted, because “it feels warm and comforting for both mother and baby.”
- Your uterus contracts when you’re breastfeeding, so it returns to its normal size quicker. This is due to the oxytocin released by your body when your baby nurses. Healing post-partum is, therefore, accelerated. The effect of breastfeeding hormones on the uterus may also help reduce the risk of heavy postpartum bleeding.
- Breastfeeding is also a timesaver, because you don’t have to worry about sterilising bottles and can be done anywhere, at any time. If you co-sleep with your baby, she can simply latch on for a night feed. Breastfeeding your baby frequently will increase your milk supply so you don’t have to worry about running out. “When mom and baby are together, baby will always have milk available,” adds Laura.