Breastfeeding is recommended for up to two years of an infant’s life and the importance of a mother milk for a baby whether it is for the physical or mental health, cannot be overstated.
From carrying a baby in the womb for nine months, going through the mixed bag of physical pain and yet a sheer joy from within and then giving birth to it, the pregnancy journey of a woman can be a rollercoaster ride. However, as crucial as the period of nine months is, studies have shown that the first two years of motherhood is equally important. Those 24 months can represent a critical period of growth and development of the new-born and determine its life-long health as well. This pertains to the kind of nutrition it receives during those months that can greatly affect its overall growth and development.
That said, the importance of breastfeeding cannot be overstated. In fact, the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for six months up to 2 years. While everyone knows that an infant feeds on breast milk during the first few years, not many know the importance of mother milk for a baby. Thus the inevitable question lies – Why is breast milk highly crucial for a new-born?
Why is mother milk so important for babies?
While parents play a key role in how their child’s future is shaped out, as a mother, there can be nothing more you can do that can have as profound effect on your baby emotionally and physically as that of breastfeeding. The breast milk contains certain nutrients that are essential for the growth of an infant – physically and mentally.
- The immune system of a new born baby tends to be weak and there for the antibodies that human milk contains can strengthen an infant’s immune system and help fight off the illnesses.
- Additionally, the oligosaccharides that breast milk contains helps nurture the growth of good bacteria in the digestive system of the baby.
- It also constitutes certain fatty acids that are important for the development of brain, eyes and nervous system.
- Studies have also shown that breastfed babies have lower mortality rates and decreased risk of suffering from infectious diseases and obesity later on in life.
While the list of benefits of breastfeeding is goes on, did you know that breastfeeding in the first hour of life is the most important? The first breast milk contains colostrum, a sticky yellow-white substance that mother’s breast produces soon after birth. Colostrum is rich in antibodies and all the essential nutrients. However, due to ignorance, many people are unaware of its significance and they thus discard it away.
As important as breastfeeding is for the babies, it is equally beneficial for the mother as well.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for mothers
- Breastfeeding will lead to a reduced risk of suffering from breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer.
- By increasing your energy requirements and mobilising the fat stores, breastfeeding will help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight faster.
- Decreased risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis
While these are some of the health benefits, breastfeeding can generate a strong emotional and physical connection between you and your baby. It is also a great way to bond with your baby in a non-verbal manner especially by singing, talking and making eye-contact with him as you nurse him.
Motherhood can be emotionally overwhelming and challenging as well. Parenting know what is best for their kids and therefore, there is no definite ‘rulebook’ to it. However, before putting yourself through the journey, it is important to educate yourself and get a clear head on the basic do’s and don’ts especially for the first few years while you will be breastfeeding.
With that being said, how do you plan yourself for the breastfeeding journey? What are the things you need to know about breastfeeding?
Breast feeding – Connecting the dots
The experience of breastfeeding may not be same for all mothers. While for some it can be a wonderful emotional experience, for others it cannot go quite as planned leaving you fretting over. However, it is important to be prepared for what may lay in store for you beforehand.
There are three stages for a breast milk – Colostrum, transitional milk and mature milk.
- As mentioned earlier, colostrum is the sticky yellowy substance that is yielded by mother during their first hour of breastfeeding. Since it is highly nutritious, just a few teaspoons at a time will go a long way.
- The milk after the three to five days of birth will be the transitional milk. It is more diluted and light orange in colour.
- A mother generally yields mature milk between the tenth day and second week after birth.
Lesser known things about breastfeeding: How long does an average mom breastfeed?
For some mothers, your baby may naturally be into breast milk right after birth whereas for others, it take some time for both you and your baby to get a hang of it. In this regard, finding the right position to breastfeed is highly important.
You can lie back with your head, shoulder and neck supported and then bring your baby’s mouth to the height of your nipple. Another great way is to cradle the baby in your lap, keeping its head between your elbow bent and then bringing baby’s head to your nipple level with the help of pillows. If none of the ways work, you may want to seek help from experts, who, in this case, are none other than mothers who have already gone through the breastfeeding journey.
Once you and your baby get a hang of the practice, the next important thing is – How long should I breastfeed my baby on a daily basis?
An average breastfeeding can last from 10 to 45 minutes depending on various factors. An older baby can get enough milk in a short period of time. Infants with health issues may move away quickly during breastfeeding. Additionally, your milk supply and the flow of milk are also the factors that can influence the process.
New-borns should be breastfed at least after every 2 – 3 hours for about 15 minutes on each side. If your baby has had enough wet diapers for the day and sleeps well, it may be a good sign that s/he is being breastfed long enough. By the time he is 3 to 4 months old, it only takes about 5 to 10 minute for him to get all the milk he needs. Once your baby is 6 months old or beyond when you start feeding him semi-solid foods, it takes a short while to breastfeed him.
Breastfeeding can be tough but it takes a lot of patience and before you even know it, both you and your baby will be used to it and it will be a lot quicker and easier. It can be worrying at times being a mother and during those moments, it is the best to consult your doctor.