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Unlocking the benefits of breastfeeding

Unlocking the benefits of breastfeeding

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Why is breastfeeding so good?

Breast milk serves as the perfect nourishment for infants, providing tailored nutrients while supporting their growth. However, breastfeeding extends beyond nutrition, offering countless benefits for both mothers and babies.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for mums?

  • Enhanced Postpartum Recovery: Oxytocin release while breastfeeding supports postpartum healing by stimulating uterine contractions, aiding in the removal of placenta remnants, and decreasing postpartum bleeding. This hormonal process assists the uterus in returning to its pre-pregnancy size, expediting recovery.

  • Reduced Risk of Diseases: Research suggests a breastfeeding can help with lower likelihood of certain reproductive cancers such as breast and ovarian cancers due to hormone regulation, notably lower estrogen levels.  Breastfeeding also encourages beneficial metabolic changes that may reduce the long-term risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes among women.

  • Emotional Well-being and Bonding: Breastfeeding fosters emotional well-being through a close bond. Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding along with the release of oxytocin often termed the “love hormone,” generates feelings of love and attachment. This hormonal release through breastfeeding diminishes stress and enhances overall mental wellness for both mother and baby.

  • Post-Partum Weight Loss: Breastfeeding supports postpartum weight loss by burning extra calories during milk production, aiding uterine contractions, and triggering hormones that promote fat metabolism. However, individual experiences can vary, and a balanced diet along with exercise is crucial. Consulting healthcare providers for personalised guidance is recommended during this period.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for babies?
  • Optimal Nutrition and Immune Support: Breast milk contains antibodies, white blood cells, and vital nutrients tailored for a baby's rapid growth. Its composition dynamically adapts to meet the baby’s changing needs.
  • Reduced Incidence of Illnesses: Breastfed babies experience fewer illnesses, including lower rates of ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory conditions. Breast milk antibodies strengthen immunity, fostering a healthier gut microbiome and bolstering respiratory health.

  • Lower Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Breastfeeding reduces SIDS risk by potentially aiding in regulating breathing during sleep, maintaining a consistent sleep cycle, and improving vital bodily functions. *Disclaimer: While these factors are associated with a reduced SIDS risk in breastfed infants, it's crucial for parents to follow safe sleep guidelines and maintain a secure sleep environment to further minimize the risk

  • Enhanced Cognitive Development: Breastfeeding supports cognitive development due to essential nutrients like long-chain fatty acids such as DHA. Studies suggest slightly higher IQ scores and improved cognitive outcomes in breastfed children.

  • Reduced Risk of Obesity and Chronic Diseases: Breastfeeding is linked to a decreased risk of obesity and chronic illnesses. It encourages self-regulation in feeding and is associated with lower chances of conditions like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers later in life.

  • Improved Dental Health: Breastfeeding, especially beyond the first year, can positively impact dental health. The act of breastfeeding requires different tongue and jaw movements than bottle-feeding, potentially aiding in proper oral development and reducing the risk of malocclusion and dental issues later in life.

  • Emotional and Psychological Benefits: The emotional bonding during breastfeeding, supported by oxytocin release and skin-to-skin contact, profoundly impacts a child's emotional resilience, security, and overall mental health.

Breastfeeding offers numerous advantages for both mothers and babies that go beyond basic nourishment. These benefits highlight the significance of breastfeeding beyond its immediate role, emphasising its impact on the long-term well-being of both mother and child. Remember, if you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, seeking support from a lactation consultant can be beneficial.

Resources:

Study: Breastfeeding for at least 2 months decreases risk of SIDS. Publications.aap.org. (n.d.). https://publications.aap.org/aapnews/news/13812/Study-Breastfeeding-for-at-least-2-months?autologincheck=redirected

Babic, A., Sasamoto, N., & Rosner, B. (2020, June 11). Association between breastfeeding and Ovarian Cancer Risk. JAMA Oncology. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2763398

Dieterich, C. M., Felice, J. P., O’Sullivan, E., & Rasmussen, K. M. (2013, February). Breastfeeding and health outcomes for the mother-infant dyad. Pediatric clinics of North America. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3508512/

Hauck , F. R., Thompson, J. M. D., Tanabe, K. O., Moon, R. Y., & Venneman, M. M. (n.d.). Breastfeeding and reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21669892/

Murphy, S., Carter, L., Shizawi, T. A., Queally, M., Brennan, S., & O’Neill, S. (2023, October 10). Exploring the relationship between breastfeeding and the incidence of infant illnesses in Ireland: Evidence from a nationally representative prospective Cohort Study - BMC Public Health. BioMed Central. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-023-15045-8#:~:text=The%20health%20benefits%20for%20mothers,fracture%20%5B8%2C%209%5D.

Vennemann MM;Bajanowski T;Brinkmann B;Jorch G;Yücesan K;Sauerland C;Mitchell EA; ; (n.d.). Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome?. Pediatrics. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19254976/#:~:text=Breastfeeding%20survival%20curves%20showed%20that,at%20all%20ages%20throughout%20infancy.

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