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A perspective on how important is breastfeeding and its advantages for mothers

5th Aug, 2020
A perspective on how important is breastfeeding and its advantages for mothers

Breastfeeding is an experience that is very unique to the mother. It is a personal choice that every young mother makes in their life. Breastfeeding is the perfect way to help a child connect to a mother. And while no choice is wrong, the advantages of breastfeeding is plenty. In fact, in order to spread awareness about the advantages of breastfeeding, WHO celebrates the first week of August, every year, as breastfeeding awareness week. It is necessary for mothers to know how important is breastfeeding and what are the breastfeeding advantages?

Breastfeeding or nursing is one of the cleanest, safest form of nutrition for infants. The breast milk contains all the antibodies, energy and nutrients necessary to strengthen a child’s immunity and protect them against many childhood diseases. It is estimated that 800,000 lives can be saved each year, the majority of children under 6 months, if every mother starts to breastfeed.*

How important is breastfeeding?

Mothers are advised to only breastfeed their new-borns for at least 6 months. Continuous breastfeeding is then recommended for at least one year when different food items are introduced in their diet. The first milk produced by the mother called colostrum is high in protein. It helps develop the new-born’s digestive tract enabling them to increase their appetite in the coming days.

The colostrum is rich in immunoglobulin A (IgA) and other antibodies strengthening the baby’s immune system. There are multiple advantages of breastfeeding. Many studies show that babies who are not breastfed are more vulnerable to health issues like pneumonia, diarrhoea and other infections. Breastfeeding reduces the baby’s risk of developing various illnesses such as-

  • Cold and infections
  • Allergic diseases
  • Gut infections
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Childhood leukaemia

Breastfeeding is also largely responsible for promoting healthy weight gain and reduces childhood obesity. Babies fed on breast milk have higher amounts of leptins responsible for regulating appetite and fat storage reducing obesity rates by 15-30%. Researches have also shown that babies who are breastfed have higher brain development compared to formula fed babies and have higher IQs.

Apart from the child, breastfeeding has also shown immense benefits for mothers. It decreases the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.* Breastfeeding help release oxytocin which helps the uterus return to its normal size post-pregnancy and reduces bleeding after birth. And it is the most natural way to help mothers bond with their babies.

COVID-19 and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding during the times of COVID-19 can raise a lot of doubts. While everyone is advised to practice social distancing, is breastfeeding advisable?

According to researches conducted, the results were inconclusive about the transmission of COVID-19 through breastmilk. However, the risk of the infant developing other infectious diseases is more than the risk of developing COVID-19 and hence, WHO recommends continuing to breastfeed even if the mother has tested positive. The benefits of breastfeeding and nurturing the mother-child bond supersedes COVID-19. However, suspected or mothers suffering from coronavirus are advised to follow the below guidelines to practice utmost level of hygiene to protect their child-

  • Practice respiratory hygiene. Wear a mask when near the baby including during feeding
  • Wash your hands with soap thoroughly before touching the baby
  • Clean and disinfect the surfaces you touch around the baby
  • The items used by the baby should be regularly sanitized
  • If the mother is too unwell to feed, she should consider the options of relactation, wet nursing or using human donor milk.

Breastfeeding is an intimate, the most important part of a child’s and a mother’s life. Breast milk is not just a meal, it is a source of antibodies and nutrients to the infants. Keeping the child away from this potion of life can prove to be harmful later in life. While COVID-19 is curable, some childhood diseases can change a child’s life completely due to the lack of breast milk. Hence choose your child’s life and give them the nutrients to lead a healthy life!