Most mothers understand that breastfeeding is a natural, healthy choice for their child. Some mothers have no difficulty getting into the rhythm of breastfeeding, while others encounter challenges and may consider formula as an option. However, I know some mothers have told me that if they better understood the incredible array of advantages of breastfeeding, they would have persisted through the initial difficulties.
Of course, sometimes it’s just not working. I’m one of those mothers where breastfeeding did not come naturally to me although it is a natural thing to do. I remember with my first born I was determined to breastfeed. I wanted to be the one who, through my own diet, gave him the benefit of consuming healthy food rather than something artificial. My intention was set, however the reality saw many challenges for us both. For the first three weeks after his birth my nipples were raw, bleeding, scabby, swollen and my boobs hurt like…well, you fill in the blank! It was not the most nourishing experience every time my milk drew down. And when he ‘locked on’ I would cringe, close my eyes, breathe deeply and make a fist with my hands. After about a minute the intensity calmed and the experience was wonderful. Like anything fabulous there is persistence involved!
I knew back then that breast milk has an array of amazing properties… the perfect combination, you could say, for your child and you. Breastfeeding is so much more than ‘food’ for your child. For instance when your colostrum flows in, your baby is getting a perfect blend of nutrients and antibodies which you don’t get from an artificial alternative. It might not look or feel like there’s a lot of food there, but your baby’s digestive system is tiny and not yet fully developed. In fact I remember a wise woman once telling me ‘they get everything they need within the first few minutes… everything after that is simply the cream on top!’And, colostrum has a laxative effect on your baby, helping him pass his early stools.This helps the excretion of excess bilirubin and assists in preventing jaundice. The perfect combination of a baby’s own mother’s breast milk means that ALL of the nutrients are used to assist the growing child which means they poop less often!
What about the broad protection of breast milk? When we look closely it contains fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, iron and water in just the right combination for your child. The components of breast milk promote immunity (both now and when your child grows into an adult!), carry enough hydration for your baby even in very hot weather, and encourage the growth of healthy bacteria. Dr Margit Hamosh notes that ‘in addition to protection against some infectious diseases, breast-fed infants might also be protected at later ages from diseases including insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, lymphoma, Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease.’*
Dr John May of LaTrobe University stated that ‘… breastfeeding clearly protects infants against respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, or decreases the severity of these infections.’** Many studies back this up, with results showing that breastfeeding can protect babies from many illnesses, including ear infections, upper and lower respiratory tract infections, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, colds and other viruses, staphylococcus, streptococcus and E. coli infections, diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, many childhood cancers, meningitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, salmonella, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). And the list continues.
Let me create this visual…
Picture tiny ‘receptors’ within the saliva of the baby that when connected with the breast at just the right time and at just the right pressure trigger the tiny ‘receptors’ on the mothers breast stimulating a cascade of events within the mother to freely flow the correct combination of ‘food’ fresh for the baby/child at that time… we certainly live in an intelligent genius body.
Did you know breast milk contains essential fatty acids in different proportions to those present in cows’ milk and includes some which are often not included in artificial formula? These essential fatty acids are needed for a baby’s growing brain and eyes, and for healthy blood vessels. Essential fatty acids are vital for healthy mental development and eyesight. Not only does breastfeeding build your baby’s immunity, your milk tailors your child’s immunity to your particular environment! In other words, your body’s own defence system is mirrored in that of your child.
And, of course, there’s more …
It’s all about you, too
When you breastfeed, it’s not only good for your baby. It’s good for you!
- Life can be easier when you breastfeed. Breastfeeding may take a little more effort than formula feeding at first. But it can make life easier once you and your baby settle into a good routine. Plus, when you breastfeed, there are no bottles and nipples to sterilise. You do not have to buy, measure, and mix formula. And there are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night! You can satisfy your baby’s hunger right away when breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding can save money. Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year, depending on how much your baby eats. Breastfed babies are also sick less often, which can lower health care costs.
- Breastfeeding can feel great. Physical contact is important to newborns. It can help stimulate growth and have them feel more secure, warm, and comforted. Mothers can benefit from this closeness, as well.
- Breastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet relaxed time. The skin-to-skin contact can boost the mother’s oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps milk flow and can calm the mother.
- Breastfeeding can be good for the mother’s health, too. Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
I’m noting that you might be a mum reading this and saying I cannot breastfed. I want help with what I should do. There is assistance at Vital Moms …
Bottle feeding for vital health
If you bottle-feed your child, there are physical factors to consider.
1) Tuck your child on her side, rather than placing her on her back. When you lay your child on her side, alternating sides each time, your child’s nerve system is stimulated correctly and development of the cranium will take place in a uniform manner.
2) Cradle your child at a slight angle to make swallowing easier. There will also be less impact on your child’s Eustachian tube.
If you are a mother who is challenged with breastfeeding there are fabulous places you can reach out to for assistance e.g. La Leche League you can also email us for a fabulous recipe for alternative formula feeding.
I strongly encourage you to understand the rich gift you are giving your child (and yourself) by breastfeeding until your little one’s at least six months of age. I breast fed all our children until about two years old. With breast feeding you’ll be encouraging healthy development of your child’s nerve system, bones, immune system, eyesight and mental ability. Continue to learn as much as you can about the innate intelligence of our bodies, and model your trust in that intelligence to your child right from the start. In doing the best you can for your children, how wonderful it is to know that the beautiful, bonding experience of breastfeeding works to protect your child’s health and development well into adult life.
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* Hamosh M. Breastfeeding: unravelling the mysteries of mother’s milk. Medscape Womens Health 1996; 16:4–9. 3.