Breastfeeding comes with numerous benefits to both the mother as well as the baby. A majority of mothers opt to breastfeed their babies due to those benefits. Deciding when to stop breastfeeding is usually the main challenge that mothers face.
Nutritionists recommend that kids should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months after delivery. Afterwards, breastfeeding should continue for at least six more months, coupled with some formula. For some mothers, breastfeeding for that long may not be possible. There are still benefits which they can enjoy for the duration that they breastfeed, some of which are highlighted below.
In typical cases, breastfeeding should start within less than an hour after birth. This comes with benefits such as skin-to-skin contact. An advantage to the mother is that it stimulates milk production. Milk that comes out during the first few days is thick and yellow. It is referred to as colostrum and provides antibodies and essential nutrients to the baby. Normal breast milk comes after some days and gives the newborn the early nutrition that it requires.
The United Nations Children’s Fund describes breast milk as the first immunisation for the baby. Antibodies in breast milk aid to boost the kid’s immunity during their first year. They are integral in protecting kids against ear infections, infectious diarhoea, chest infections, and digestive problems, among others. As a mother, you get to enjoy all the benefits of the feel-good hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. You also get to recover from birth a lot faster as the uterus will regain normal size quickly.
Three to Four Months
During the third and fourth month, breast milk will continue to improve the digestive system of the baby, as well as provide it with protection against allergens that may be found in foods. As breastfeeding mother, you burn approximately 500 calories each day. This can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Some research suggests that breastfeeding during this period can also lower the risks of getting type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
After six months, the baby can begin to take solid foods in addition to breast milk. The breast milk will continue to provide proteins, iron, vitamin A, and energy, among other benefits. It also continues to protect the baby against illnesses and diseases.
For the mother, breastfeeding for six months reduces the risks of various cancers such as breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is also contraception that is 98% effective, provided menstrual periods have not come back.
By the ninth month, breastfeeding is only on-demand as the baby can consume other foods, three to five times each day. The baby should be breastfed before eating the other meals, as breast milk is still considered more important. The risk of breast cancer continues to lower for the mother.
One of the main benefits of long-term breastfeeding is cost effectiveness. You will not spend a lot of money buying formula for the baby, as would be the case if you do not breastfeed. The babies also develop a stronger immune system. Besides the fact that kids should be breastfed entirely for the first six months, doing it longer goes a long way in making the baby healthier.