Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beneficial acts a mother can do for her child. Dramatic health benefits have been proven to pass from mother to child through breastmilk, from antibodies which protect an infant at birth...to the exclusive nutrients in mother's milk which have been shown to prevent a number of childhood diseases...the benefits are incalculable. There is no other single action by which a mother can so impact the present and future health of her baby. Yet, in today's society, breastfeeding is often thought of as unnecessary. Young mothers are mistakenly led to believe that formula does very well as a replacement for breastmilk. It emphatically does not! Here are some of the reasons why you should breast feed your baby.
Nutrients and Protection
Breast milk is the best food to help your baby to grow and develop. It is custom-made by each mother for her own baby, and contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Remarkably, as your baby grows, your milk will also change to keep up with your baby’s needs. Human milk is also easier than formula for your baby to digest, which means less mess and fuss! Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that help prevent disease and may reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies. After birth, your first milk, called Colostrum, offers vital early protection and helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by coating your baby’s digestive system. This early protection is even more important if your baby is born prematurely – Colostrum protects!
There is strong evidence that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests, as well as on teacher ratings of their academic performance.
Convenient and Portable
Breast milk is always safe, fresh and exactly the right temperature. It’s ready for baby at a moment’s notice, and you don’t have to heat it, boil water, or sterilize bottles. This makes night time feedings a lot easier. Since breast milk is always with you, travelling and shopping with your baby is simpler, with no equipment to carry or refrigeration needed.
Size Doesn’t Matter
The size of your breasts doesn’t matter. Big or small, they will produce milk for your baby. Breasts begin to prepare for baby very early in pregnancy and are able to produce Colostrum (the first milk) from about 24 weeks of pregnancy. As soon as your baby is born, hormones begin to activate the breasts to make more milk for your baby. You will continue to produce milk through the wonderful partnership of supply and demand – the more your baby breastfeeds – the more milk you will produce!
Benefits Mothers Too
Research suggests that breastfeeding provides a measure of protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and weak bones later in life. Your body uses calories to produce milk, so breastfeeding can help you to gradually lose weight gained during pregnancy. Exclusive breastfeeding may also delay the return of menstruation for at least a little while.
- Continues the Special Relationship
The closeness and comfort of breastfeeding strengthens the bond with your baby, as one part of all the things you can do to build a secure, loving relationship. Dads and moms can’t spoil a baby, so give your baby all the cuddling she or he wants.
- Benefits Don’t Stop
Research shows that breast milk is so important that it is the only food or drink your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Beginning at 6 months of age babies need a variety of foods in addition to breast milk, which continues to provide nutrition and protection. Many mothers continue to breastfeed until their babies are two years old or more, as recommended by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare – any amount of breastmilk is always good for babies.
Easy on the Budget
Breastfeeding saves you money! Without question, breastfeeding saves hundreds – even thousands – of dollars.
Works for Working Mothers
Your baby can have all the benefits of your milk even if you plan to go back to work or school. You can express milk by hand or with a breast pump and leave it with your caregiver to feed the baby. Breast milk can also be frozen for future use.
Some mothers have childcare facilities at their place of work, school, or nearby, so they can breastfeed during their breaks.
Good for Environment
Breastfeeding is good for your baby, for you and the environment! Human milk is produced and delivered to the consumer – your baby - without any pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste.
Ask for Breastfeeding Advice and Support – it is worth it!
Breastfeeding is natural, but learning to breastfeed can sometimes take a little time and patience.
For more information visit your nearest health facility
or contact the Department of Nutrition
Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, 3rd Floor Kaguvi Building
Rooms 3-53 and 3-56
Adapted from a publication by the Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada