Breastfeeding has many benefits for both a mother and her baby. It’s a special way to physically connect with each other, creating a bond that can last a lifetime. Best of all is your own breastmilk gives your baby everything necessary to thrive for the first six months of life.
Once your baby starts eating solid foods at around six months, you can carry on with breastfeeding. Breastmilk is full of nutrients that will continue to do your baby good. Personally speaking, I had to go back to work at ten weeks for both of my boys, and at that point they were given formula on the days I worked by their father. They were then breastfed again when I was home in the afternoon, and of course for the night feedings.
Breastfeeding also helps the baby to fight infections in the first few months of life. Breastmilk contains antibodies which help protect your baby against illnesses such as tummy bugs (gastroenteritis), colds, urinary infections, and ear infections.
Breastmilk also reduces the risk of your baby getting allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema. It can even help to protect your baby against serious illnesses, such as childhood diabetes and leukemia. Breastmilk helps to build a healthy immune system for the baby, so illness in general is less severe.
As well as the antibodies already in breastmilk, the mothers body will make new antibodies as soon as she is exposed to an infection. These antibodies then transfer to the milk, ready for the baby to receive as soon as the next feeding.
Breastmilk has long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are essential for helping your baby’s brain develop. Exclusively breastfeeding for the first few months can improve your baby’s cognitive development. In theory, this means breastfeeding your baby can enhance his or her intelligence.
Breastfeeding is a healthy choice for the mother as well. It reduces the mothers risk later in life of pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and bone fractures from osteoporosis. Another benefit is it makes losing the baby weight easier due to the caloric demands of breastmilk production.
On the practical side, an overlooked benefit of breastfeeding is how convenient it is. There is nothing to wash, sterilize or prepare. The mother and the baby will enjoy it, and the mother will feel a real sense of achievement to see her baby growing and developing due to her efforts. It is not the only way, but it certainly makes one pause for thought especially when the health benefits of the child are considered.