A little mother's milk is better than none. Catherine McCormack looks at the benefits of short-term breastfeeding.
We know that mom’s milk is best for our newborns, but some of us may not be available 24/7 for the first six to 12 months of our babies’ lives. So, what are the benefits of short-term breastfeeding?
Only a handful of moms have the financial resources to take a sabbatical from work, and a long-term expressing schedule is often difficult to maintain. But even a short stint can have a positive impact on you and your baby and
is well worth the effort.
Johannesburg-based dietician Nathalie Mat and Cape Town-based International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Louise Goosen explain the benefits of short and long-term breastfeeding:
“Just one day of breastfeeding will line your baby’s immature gut with a thick, easily digested form of breast milk called colostrum. This protective seal helps prevent bacteria and other antigens from entering her tiny body in a way that formula milks can’t. Colostrum will also help your baby pass the meconium in her bowel, reducing her jaundice risk,” says Mat.
Other benefits of colostrum:
Colostrum is easily digestible and is packed full of antibodies to protect your newborn from infection and help build lean muscle mass and strong bones. It really is the ideal first food.
“Oxytocin, the feel-good hormone released in response to feeding and is instrumental in encouraging your uterus
to return to its pre-pregnancy size, has been hard at work reducing your risk of postpartum bleeding,” says Goosen.
“Your baby has also benefited from an almost complete dose of colostrum – often referred to as the first vaccine,” adds Mat.
“Your body is enjoying the benefit of burning between 200 and 500 calories a day,” says Mat, “which is the equivalent of 30 laps in a pool or 60 minutes of cycling.”
Goosen adds that studies show a decreased incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in breastfed babies. “And your baby’s passive immunity – a temporary immunity granted to your baby through your milk while her immune system develops – has been extended beyond this one month, meaning she’s less likely to get sick.”
6 months and beyond
“Among a variety of autoimmune diseases, babies who are breastfed for six months or more are also less likely to develop diabetes, allergies, childhood and adult diabetes and certain cancers. Some studies also indicate that breastfed babies routinely scorehigher on IQ tests,” 222says Mat.
“It’s unlikely that you’ve started menstruating again: a gap in your cycle is thought to contribute to improved overall reproductive health and a decrease in related cancers. Long-term breastfeeding is associated with improved weight loss, controlled blood sugar and a good cholesterol profile, all of which contribute to lower rates of heart disease,” adds Goosen.
Breast milk – the natural vaccine
“Even if it’s the only breast milk your baby ever receives, colostrum will contribute enormously towards her overall
health,” adds Mat. Available from birth until approximately the second week, this concentrated miracle food has the ability to protect an immature and porous gut from external toxins capable of making your child sick or allergic. It also helps prevent jaundice by assisting in the passing of meconium from your baby’s bowels, while accelerating healing.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.