Breastfeeding is very crucial as it provides a child with nourishment and also improves their intellectual quotent and brilliancy. The mother is also well protected against the risk of other health conditions during the course of breastfeeding her child. In today’s article we will be discussing the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and her child.
What is breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is process of feeding an infant with the milk in the breast of a woman. It is an important factor that determines the health and survival of a child by supplying necessary nutrients and antibodies to fight against infections. WHO and UNICEF recommended that breastfeeding should start within the first hour of childbirth and children should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months i.e., no food, drinks and water should be included. When the child attains six months of age breastfeeding should continue with water food and other supplements up to 2 years or above.
It is very important to breastfeed infants as they demand for it at night and day because breast milk is an ideal food that contains all the nutritional requirements for healthy growth and development and it is also made up of antibodies that will help your baby resist and fight common infections during childhood.
Benefits of breastfeeding for babies
Breast milk is the best food for your baby as it contains several nutrients, enzymes, hormones and antibodies that helps your child to fight against infections and also ensure healthy growth and development. Infants that are exclusively breastfed for 6 months have low chances of developing asthma, ear infections , thrush, chest infections, diarrhoea and gastroenteritis.
Breast milk contains mixture of nutrients such as vitamin E, calcium, vitamin D potassium, carbohydrate and fat, these nutrients are important for energy, good eyesight, strong bones and teeth, healthy skin and general healthy development of your baby. Intellectual quotents and brilliancy in children have been linked to exclusive breastfeeding. Infants that are well breastfeed usually have healthy weight and their risk of having diabetes, cancer and gastrointestinal infection is reduced.
Breast milk are also made up of antibodies that protect your baby against infections from bacteria and viruses, colostrum which is the first milk that is produced in the breast of a nursing mother is very vital and crucial for the healthy development of infants as they contain higher amount of antibodies that is available to fight against germs and harmful microorganism as well as eliminate meconium from their body system. colostrum also provides nourishment that is necessary for the growth of the baby.
Breastfeeding is also very important for preemies (premature babies) as it is the best possible food for their immature digestive system. Breast milk consist of different nutrients such as protein, fats, carbohydrates and vitamins which is important for rapid growth as well as immunity of the baby.
Benefits of breastfeeding for mothers
Nursing mother can also derive healthy benefits from breastfeeding their babies. The benefits include:
- Exclusive breastfeeding helps to delay the return of menstrual period and fertility
- It enhances rapid loss of pregnancy weight
- It reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer
- It stimulates the release of oxytocin and pitocin hormone which helps the uterus of the mother to return to its normal size more quickly and also reduce bleeding
- Breastfeeding enhances bonding between a mother and her child
- It aso reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and heart disorder
Health conditions that is not suitable for breastfeeding
There are some health conditions of the mother that poses threat to the health of her baby if being breastfed. Therefore it is important to stop breastfeeding your baby if you have the following health challenges:
- Active tuberculosis: tuberculosis is a very dangerous infection that can present more serious complications if not treated at early stage and nursing mothers that are suffering from active tuberculosis should stay away from breastfeeding their babies because there are higher chances of passing the infection to their child through breast milk.
- HIV infections: pregnant women who are HIV-positive can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their child when they take HIV medications throughout pregnancy period. It is highly advisable that HIV positive women should not breastfeed their babies as the virus is still very much present in the breast milk and could be transmitted during breastfeeding.
- Leukaemia: nursing mother that is suffering from cancer of the blood should avoid breastfeeding their babies.
- Nursing mother that are on chemotherapy should not breastfeed their babies as these drugs can interfere with their growth and development.
- Nursing mothers that are addicted to recreational drugs such as heroin, cocaine tobacco and morphine should avoid breastfeeding their babies as this may cause mental retardment and other health conditions in them.
Foods to eat while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding provides nourishment to your baby as well as other health benefits to you, eating good food gives you energy and vitamins you require to take care of your baby. The following are the groups of food you need to eat to boost nourishment for you and your baby during breastfeeding
- Fruits and vegetables: they contain mineral, vitamins are fibres that provides nutrients for the nursing mother and other health benefits such as reduction of blood pressure, maintenance of healthy weight, prevention of diabetes, cancer and heart disorder. Examples of fruit and vegetable include apples, citrus, watermelon, tomato, avocados, banana, mangoes, lettuce, garlic, onion, garbage and pumpkin.
- Fish: it contains protein and omega-3 fats that is highly beneficial for both the mother and her child, fish that contains low amount of mercury should be consumed during breastfeeding.
Examples include salmons, catfish, shrimp and sardines.
- Nuts and seeds: they are rich in fibre, protein, minerals, vitamins and and antioxidant that ensure overall health benefits and also boost the immune system of both the mother and her baby. Examples include almonds, Walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts
- Nuts and seeds helps to increase the quantity of breast milk, enhance healthy weight gain, improve healthy skin, reduce the risk of health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Beefs: they are good sources of protein, zinc, iron, vitamin and energy. Beef is important for bodybuilding, maintenance of energy, blood, healthy skin and bones.
Other food that are beneficial during breastfeeding include egg, beans, rice, breads, apricot, oatmeal, pasta and yoghurts.
Foods to avoid during breastfeeding
What you eat while breastfeeding is the source of nutrients that your child derives and it is crucial to make a healthy choice of food so as to give the best nourishment to your baby and enhance rapid growth and development. The following examples are foods that you should avoid during breastfeeding:
- Raw meat
- Raw fish
- Undercooked egg
- Artificial sweetener.