I'm sure you've heard the phrase “breast is best” – but why is breastfeeding the best? It is best because milk produced by a mother must provide the best nourishment for her baby. Why would nature have created it any other way?
All milks are not equal. Each species of mammal produces milk that nature has designed to be perfect for its babies. Cow's milk suits calves, which grow immensely fast and have to put on a lot of weight in a short period of time. Human milk suits human babies who grow more steadily and slowly over a longer period of time. The composition of breastmilk changes throughout the period of breastfeeding to meet the needs of the growing infant. It makes sense that only its mother's milk is perfect for a human baby.
How does breastfeeding benefit your baby?
- Breastmilk is the perfect food. It provides exactly what your baby needs in the right amounts.
- It protects your baby from many infections and from developing allergies.
- Your baby is likely to have a higher IQ than a bottlefed baby. (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed an IQ of 5.2 points higher.)
- Your baby is less likely to become an obese adult.
skin to skin contact with you has been shown to make your baby happier,
regulate his/her heart rate and breathing, keep his/her temperature
stable and s/he is less likely to cry. Premature babies who have
continuous skin to skin contact are much more likely to thrive than
those who don’t. This skin to skin contact is especially important in
the hour after birth. For further information on the importance of skin
to skin contact
Having his needs met as he expects means that your baby does not have to strive. He can relax into doing what comes naturally for a baby: feeding, sleeping, taking in the new world around him and soaking up good feelings. When a baby is upset, the same stressful hormones are released into his blood as when an adult is feeling stressed. The baby has no way to manage the feelings this produces except by crying. Meeting your baby’s needs as he is biologically programmed to have them met will help him relax. Being breastfed, carried and co-sleeping with you, means that your baby will have relaxing hormones such as endorphins circulating in his blood. He will be more peaceful, sleep for longer and more deeply and be more alert when he is awake.
There are many benefits to mothers, as well as the babies:
- It uses up a lot of calories which makes it easier for you to lose any weight you gained during pregnancy.
- It reduces your chances of getting ovarian cancer or pre-menopausal breast cancer.
- It is much more convenient than preparing bottles, especially at night when it means you don’t have to get out of bed to feed your baby.
- It costs a good deal less than bottle feeding.
- One of the most important benefits, I think, is that it helps you to develop a very close bond with your baby.
Some women don’t breastfeed because they think it will ruin the shape of their breasts. However, a study done in America between 1998 and 2006 by a plastic surgeon showed that there was no difference in the amount of breast sagging between women who breastfed and women who didn’t. It apparently has more to do with smoking (which ruins the elasticity of your skin) and how many children you’ve given birth to.
have trouble breast feeding and do not seem to be producing enough milk,
do not give up too easily. Milk production increases on stimulation,
so feed your baby little and often. Every hour or even more is not too often! Resorting to
topping up with bottles usually make the situation worse. Formula milks are
very filling and stop the baby wanting to feed so often. This means
your milk production will be even more likely to reduce. Keep trying
and you will, most often, be successful. It’s worth it for both your
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