Benefits of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding, an age-long practice is a core child survival strategy as identified by the World Health Organisation. The wellbeing of neonates has an impact on the state of the nation including economic, social, and health. The role of this practice in achieving the optimal state cannot be overemphasized. Poor nutrition early in life is related to impairment in intellectual performance, productivity, and general state of health in adolescence and adult life. The human milk plays a unique role in neonatal nutrition because of its special characteristic of matching the nutritive, psychologic, physiologic, and immunologic needs of the infant. It is, therefore, the most appropriate of all available milk for the human infant.
To the baby
- Eliminates the risk of malnutrition: breast milk contains just the risk balance of nutrients for the baby and it is readily available. It provides all classes of food viz carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats in the right quality and quantity.
- Boosts immunity: breast milk contains antibodies, cells, enzymes, proteins, lactulose, and complement which help in the fight against infections.
- Bonding: breastfeeding promotes mother-infant bonding and the development of sensory and cognitive abilities.
- Reduction of hospitalization and infant death: babies who are exclusively breastfed have been shown to fall sick less often because bottle-feeding exposes tender babies to a lot of disease-causing microorganisms.
- Ease of absorption: nutrients in breast milk are more easily absorbed than those in the commercial formula.
- Ease of digestion: breast milk is fully and easily digested.Right taste and temperature: unlike formula feeds that have to be constituted, breast milk comes prepared at a taste that is appealing to the baby and there is no worry of hot or cold.
- Mild laxative: meconium easily evacuated and less neonatal jaundice.Faster milestone development: breastfed babies have been shown to develop motor, cognitive and language skills at a faster pace.
To the mother
- Child spacing: breastfeeding delays the resumption of normal ovarian cycles leading to the absence of menstruation during this period, a process known as lactational amenorrhea.
- Reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhage: breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin from the brain. Oxytocin amongst other effects causes the uterus to contract thereby reducing the risk of bleeding after delivery.
- Reduction in the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Builds bone strength and protects against osteoporosis.
- Aids in weight reduction.
- Faster return of the uterus to its normal position.
To the family, community, and nation at large
- More convenient than bottle feeding.
- Saves family and national resources.
- Environment friendly: no litters in terms of cans and other wastes.
- Food security: a secure way of feeding, breastfeeding can be initiated anytime, anywhere. Babies can thus be fed at the first sign of hunger.
- Comes at no cost and the benefits transcend socioeconomic boundaries.