The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until your baby is 6 months old, with continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary foods up to the age of 2 or beyond.
Not only is breastfeeding the best source of nutrition for your baby, there are advantages for you, too.
Why is breast milk so special?
It’s a unique nutritional source that is easy to digest and provides the perfect balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and nutrients to promote the growth and development of your baby.
In the first few days after giving birth, your body produces a special kind of breast milk known as colostrum. Thick and yellowish in colour, colostrum is very nutritious and is rich in antibodies that help your baby fight off infections and bacteria. It also helps your baby’s digestive tract develop, helping it prepare to digest breast milk. After a few days, your breast milk comes through, which is runnier than colostrum, and whiter in colour.
Breastfeeding not only provides your baby with tailored nutrition, but it’s available on demand, day or night, and it’s free!
The health benefits go well beyond convenience and cost, however, and will have a far-reaching impact on both you and your baby long after your breastfeeding journey has ended.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
- Lower rates of sudden infant death syndrome in the first year of life (an effect that becomes even stronger when breastfeeding is exclusive).
- Lower post neonatal infant mortality rates (a reduction of approximately 21% in the US).
- Lower risk of baby developing eczema, asthma, and food allergies later in life.
- Slightly enhanced performance on tests of cognitive development.
- Lower incidence of infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infections, respiratory tract illnesses, bacterial meningitis, urinary tract infection, and late onset sepsis in preterm babies.
- Improved dental health with less risk of tooth decay.
- Reduction of the risk of obesity later in life when you exclusively breastfeed for at least 4 months.
- Lower rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, leukaemia and Hodgkin disease in older children and adults.
- Breastfeeding also exposes your baby – through the milk you’re producing – to the varying tastes and flavour profiles of the foods you eat, which can influence food acceptance and preferences when they begin to eat solids.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for you
- A unique and powerful physical and emotional connection between you and your baby – breastfeeding is the one parenting duty only a mom can do.
- A non-verbal communication and bond with your baby that only grows to support an ever more intimate and effortless mutual exchange, especially if you stay present while nursing with lots of touching, talking, singing, and eye contact.
- Stimulation of your body to produce antibodies in your milk which in turn helps your baby stay well or recover faster when he’s sick.
- Help with your return to your pre-pregnancy weight by increasing your energy requirements, promoting the mobilisation of fat stores, and quickens your uterus to contract to its pre-pregnancy size.
- Lower risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- A potentially lower risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis in the post-menopausal period.
- Delays the return of your menstrual cycle, which will help maintain your iron status.
*Article by Vital Baby
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