Exclusive breastfeeding of the neonate until the age of six months, and subsequently continuing breastfeeding along with other weaning foods does give an immense survival advantage to the newborn, said Dr Anu Joseph, consultant OBG and Fetal Medicine Maa Kauvery Hospital (Unit of Kauvery Hospital) Electronic City, Bangalore, while stressing that breastfeeding has various benefits for the mother as well.
Breastmilk, in addition to providing nutrition, is also known to impart immunity against various diseases. It is one of the safest, cleanest, and most balanced food for a child. In the first six months of life, breastmilk essentially constitutes a hundred percent of the child’s nutritional demand.
*Between the age of six months to one year, it provides about half the nutritional needs, and in the second year of life, it provides for about one-third the needs.
*The other advantages to the child include continued development, especially dentition and of the digestive system.
*Breastfed children develop better intelligence and are known to have lesser chances of developing obesity, said the expert.
Here’s why it is essential for both
*The breastfeeding time allows the mother-child bond to grow stronger with the skin-to-skin contact and time spent together.
*Exclusive breastfeeding itself burns around 500 calories of energy daily, helping in weight loss without additional exercises.
*The hormones released during breastfeeding, helps in uterine contraction which, in turn, helps in reducing and controlling bleeding after delivery and also in bringing back the uterus to its original size by a process called involution.
*The women who continue to breastfeed are found to have lesser incidence of urinary tract infection and aneamia.
*In addition to the measurable benefits, the hormones of breastfeeding: prolactin and oxytocin, are smoothening hormones, hence reducing postpartum depression, stress and increasing calmness. Many mothers feel fulfillment and joy from the physical and emotional connect they experience with their baby while breastfeeding.
In the long term, breastfeeding reduces the risk of various illness, too.
*Breast and ovarian cancer risks are significantly reduced with the duration of breastfeeding a woman does in her lifetime.
*Due to prolonged duration of lack of menstrual cycle (lactational Amenorrhea), women show lower incidence of anaemia and lower chances of endometriosis.
*Incidence of long-term diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, hypertension and diabetes also are found to be lower in women who breastfeed.
An additional advantage due to the prolonged lactational amenorrhea is the possibility of natural contraception. Most of the women with absence of menstrual cycle in the lactational amenorrhea period, also have natural birth control as ovulation is absent or very erratic.