-THE ADVANTAGES OF BREAST FEEDING TO THE BABY
Breast milk is the best nutrition for babies. Due to the immense benefits of breast feeding to both the mother and the baby, the World Health Organization (WHO) strongly urges all women to exclusively breast-feed their babies for the first six months of life and subsequently complement breast-feeding with other feeds for up to two years of life. In this article, we will be looking at some of the various benefits of breast feeding to children.
THE ADVANTAGES OF BREAST FEEDING TO THE BABY
1. A COMPLETE FORM OF NUTRITION FOR YOUR BABY
The breast milk contain just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein required for your baby's growth and development. More importantly, as your baby grow, your breast milk changes to adapt to your baby’s changing nutritional needs. Even in the hottest weather, the breast milk composition changes, to provide everything your baby needs and as such no other fluid is needed for a breast fed baby.
2. EASY TO DIGEST
Because it is easier to digest breast milk than formula feeds. breast fed babies are much less likely to become constipated than babies fed with formula feeds. Immediately after birth, the breast milk acts as a laxative, thus helping with the passage of the baby’s first poo (stools). This stool which is sticky and black in appearance is also referred to as the meconium.
3. PROTECTS THE BABY AGAINST INFECTION
At birth, the first milk produced by a nursing mother is referred to as colostrum. This milk is rich in antibodies. These are substances produced by the mother and secreted into the milk in order to help the baby fight the common infections in it’s environment. This serves as a first line of defense necesary to protect the newborn from many of the common chest. intestinal and ear infections among many other diseases in it’s environment. Even as time goes on, any infection picked by the mother to whom the baby may also be exposed, the mother generates antibodies against them and pass it through the breast milk to protect the baby. So compared with babies who are not breast-fed, babies who are breast-fed have lesser diarrhea, fewer chest infections, fewer ear infections and are less likely to need hospital admissions compared to those who are formula fed. Hence, the longer a baby breastfeeds, the longer it benefits from the protection of the breast milk against infection.
4. LOWERS THE RISK OF SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME
Breast fed infants are noticed to have a one-third reduction in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) also known as crib death compared with infants that are not breast fed.
5. PROTECTS PREMATURE OR PRETERM BABIES
Premature or preterm babies also benefit immensely from the protective effect of breast milk even while they are still within the incubator. It is quite common to see such babies being fed manually until they are strong enough to suck and breast feed themselves. Premature infants, not receiving breast milk have an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition where the intestinal cells die and slough off. This can cause the death of a baby if not promptly picked and treated. The treatment may require surgery along with long duration of antibiotics use in other to save the baby’s life.
6. REDUCES THE FUTURE RISK OF DEVELOPING THE FOLLOWING CHRONIC DISEASES
7. ENHANCES MATERNAL AND CHILD BONDING
Breast feeding, especially when started early promotes the bonding between the mothers and their babies. This is very important for the emotional stability and proper development of the baby. In all instances, early skin contact and breast feeding should be promoted immediately after birth, even before washing and weighing of the baby.
8. IMPROVES THE COGNITIVE FUNCTION AND INTELLIGENCE OF THE BABY
Breast fed babies have been associated with an improved cognition and a higher intelligence, compared with babies fed mainly on formula feeds.
NEXT ARTICLE: BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING TO THE MOTHER
References and further reading:
1. World Health Organization. Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. 2002. Available at: www.who.int/nut/documents/gs_infant_feeding_text_eng.pdf (Accessed on June 01, 2007).
2. African-American Breastfeeding Alliance, www.aabaonline.com.
3. La Leche League, www.lalecheleague.org.
4. The influence of maternal, fetal and child nutrition on the development of chronic disease in later life; Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), 2011.