29 reasons why breastfeeding makes sense
Breastmilk is the only food a baby needs. Here an expert breaks down the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers, babies and communities.
(iStock)
Source

We don’t have to stretch our minds when we are told that breastmilk is the absolute best source of food for infants. 

It's a fact that has been proven time and time again. 

From 1 to 7 August the world’s focus will be turned to just how crucial breastfeeding is for both mother and baby for the annually celebrated World Breastfeeding Week. 

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Leneque Lindeque, based at Netcare’s Alberlito Hospital, advises that moms breastfeed until their baby is a year old. 

“For the first six months, breastmilk is the only food a baby needs – in fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Thereafter, most doctors recommend that breastfeeding continues while babies can also start consuming other foods.” 

While this is highly recommended, Dr Lindeque says there are reasons some women are not able to breastfeed. 

“There are several reasons why some women decide not to breastfeed. Some mothers may think that it is easier to feed their baby with formula milk or they may be embarrassed to breastfeed. Many women also face financial pressures to return to work before the recommended six-month exclusive breastfeeding period, and they may feel that it is difficult to continue breastfeeding under such circumstances.”


Did a medical or other condition prevent you from breastfeeding? Did you have a painful/uncomfortable experience with breastfeeding? Have you been trolled about breastfeeding in public? Tell us your story by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.   

The perfect system of supply and demand 

Producing enough breastmilk is a common concern for new moms but Dr Lindeque assures that the body is more than capable of creating enough supply to satisfy an infant’s need. 

“Each time a baby feeds and empties the breasts, the body produces more milk. After two to four weeks of breastfeeding, most healthy women produce about three cups of milk a day,” she says citing circumstances like stress, illness, medication, smoking and not enough breastfeeding sessions as reasons why some women are not able to produce enough milk for their babies. 

“However, women who have difficulties in producing sufficient milk should talk to their doctors as there are certain options available to aid with the production of milk.”

So when can breastfeeding begin? 

For Dr Lindeque the perfect time to start is right in the delivery room. 

“Women should start breastfeeding at least within the first few hours of giving birth. During this time, most babies are awake and want to breastfeed.” 

If medical or other reasons make it impossible to begin breastfeeding right after delivery, Dr Lindeque says that a breast pump can be used to express milk for the baby to drink at a later time. 

Another dilemma for moms is cosmetic breast surgery. 

“If you have had breast surgery, you can try to breastfeed and see if you produce enough milk. Many women who had surgery to enlarge or reduce their breasts can produce sufficient milk, but some unfortunately cannot.” 

Breast is not best when…

While the pros far outweigh the cons, there are instances when breastfeeding is not recommended, this includes when a mother: 

  • has an infection 
  • is undergoing cancer treatment 
  • is addicted to drugs and alcohol 

Cases do exist when breastfeeding may be unsuitable for babies, like those born with rare genetic disorders but these are few and far between. Any concerns that your baby isn’t taking to your breastmilk must be shared with a doctor. 

A long list of benefits 

Despite the challenges and no matter how long a woman is able to breastfeed, Dr Lindeque encourages all mothers to try as best they can since the benefits of breastfeeding goes much further than just the mom and baby and can actually benefit the community they live in, even after breastfeeding has stopped. 

Here are Dr Lindeque's list of breastfeeding benefits: 

Breastfeeding benefits for infants

  • The incidence of pneumonia, colds and viruses as well as gastrointestinal infections like diarrhoea is reduced. These illnesses claim the lives of many infants during this critical period.
  • Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers are less likely to occur later in life in individuals who were breastfed.
  • The IQ and development of your baby may be significantly improved when compared to that of formula-fed babies.
  • Transfer of the mother’s immune system:

- Breastmilk fills an immunological gap while the infant’s immune system is immature.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies.
- Breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula-fed babies.
- Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by about half.

Breastfeeding benefits for the mother 

  • Protection against the development of pre-menopausal breast cancer is noted in women who breastfeed. These women also have a reduced risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.
  • A lower risk of developing post-menopausal osteoporosis as lactating women absorb calcium more efficiently.
  • Better healing post-delivery. Women who have had caesarean sections are also documented to heal faster.
  • The uterus returns to its original size faster if breastfeeding is initiated soon after birth, which reduces the chances of detrimental bleeding. 
  • A menstrual vacation! Women who breastfeed exclusively around the clock will have delayed ovulation, which means delayed menstruation. 
  • The best way of losing weight after the baby’s birth. As the production of breastmilk can burn up to 400 calories in a day, this practice can aid weight loss without dieting.
  • Women are emotionally more stable and are less likely to suffer from postnatal anxiety and depression if breastfeeding.
  • More economical. Breastmilk is free, compare that to the significant cost of formula milk.
  • Breastmilk is always readily available at the right temperature, without the need to sterilise bottles. 
  • Bonding with your baby is enhanced and aids in developing healthy relationships for both mom and baby.

Breastfeeding benefits for the community

  • Breastfed babies are less likely to get sick, therefore moms are likely to take fewer days off work and medical costs for the family are likely to be less.
  • It is good for the earth as fewer dairy cows, which are necessary for the production of infant formula, are required. Even though this may sound strange, cows release enormous amounts of methane into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming.   

Did a medical or other condition prevent you from breastfeeding? Did you have a painful/uncomfortable experience with breastfeeding? Have you been trolled about breastfeeding in public? Tell us your story by emailing to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.  

Read more: 

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to receive Parent24 stories directly to your inbox. 

Read Parent24’s Comments Policy
NEXT ON PARENT24X
 
 
 
 
Directories

Everything from parties to pre-schools in your area.