Sujata Kar, Gynaecologist & Obstetrician
Bhubaneswar, Aug 12: Breastfeeding plays a vital role in nurturing infants' health and development and fosters an intimate and irreplaceable bond between mother and baby. But breastfeeding is more than just a bonding experience; it plays a pivotal role in promoting a mother's health and provides a plethora of benefits to her. Despite the long list of benefits, a lot of myths are associated with breastfeeding. Hence, along with spreading awareness regarding breastfeeding, it's also essential to dispel some myths surrounding it while highlighting the undeniable facts.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the child:
- Optimal Nutrition: Breast milk is uniquely tailored to meet the nutritional needs of a baby, providing the perfect blend of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
- Immune System Boost: Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infections, reducing the risk of illnesses like respiratory infections, ear infections, and gastrointestinal issues.
- Cognitive Development: Studies suggest that breastfeeding may support better cognitive development in infants, potentially leading to improved IQ and cognitive abilities later in life.
- Lowered Risk of Allergies: Breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of developing allergies, asthma, and eczema in infants.
- Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Breastfed babies may have a lower risk of developing certain chronic conditions, such as obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and childhood leukemia.
- Proper Jaw and Teeth Development: The act of breastfeeding helps babies develop proper jaw and teeth alignment.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother:
- Reduced Postpartum Bleeding: Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin, which helps the uterus contract and reduce postpartum bleeding.
- Weight Loss: Breastfeeding burns calories, aiding in post-pregnancy weight loss and helping mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight.
- Hormonal Balance: Breastfeeding can help regulate hormones, potentially reducing the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety.
- Reduced Risk of Certain Cancers: Long-term breastfeeding has been associated with a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers.
- Delayed Return of Fertility: Exclusive breastfeeding can act as a natural form of birth control for the first six months, known as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM).
- Convenience and Cost Savings: Breast milk is readily available and requires no preparation, saving time and money on formula and feeding supplies.
- Health Benefits for Mothers: Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis later in life.
For breastfeeding to be successful, a well-balanced diet is essential. Mothers should consume nutrient-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Staying hydrated is also crucial for maintaining an adequate milk supply. Additionally, finding the most comfortable breastfeeding position is key to ensuring a satisfying and enjoyable experience for both mother and child. Common positions include the cradle hold, the football hold, and the side-lying position. Each mother-baby pair is unique, so experimenting with different positions to find what works best is encouraged.
In spite of its numerous advantages, breastfeeding is a topic often surrounded by a plethora of myths and misconceptions. Let’s debunk some of the common myths:
The formula is as good as breast milk.
Breast milk is uniquely tailored to a baby's nutritional needs & formula can’t replicate the benefits of breastmilk.
Small-breasted women produce less milk.
Milk supply is primarily determined by hormone levels and the mother's overall health and nutrition.
Babies need water in addition to breast milk.
Giving water to a breastfed baby may fill them up, reducing their intake of essential nutrients from breast milk.
You should stick to a strict breastfeeding schedule.
Feeding on demand is recommended for newborns and infants
Breastfeeding can distort a mother’s figure
Breastfeeding can help new mothers she pregnancy weight by burning extra calories & fats.
These misconceptions, including many others, can lead to misunderstandings and may deter mothers from considering or continuing breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a fundamental aspect of early parenthood, providing immeasurable benefits for both mother and child. All mothers should be encouraged to embrace this nurturing bond, dispel common myths, and seek the support they need to make breastfeeding a fulfilling and rewarding journey. By empowering women with knowledge and fostering a supportive environment, we can celebrate the transformative power of breastfeeding in promoting lifelong health and wellbeing for families.