There are not many things in this world that you can confidently say come with a credible guarantee of ‘no harm to baby’. Mother’s milk is a notable exception.
We’ve compiled a list of some of breastfeeding’s top benefits, so that midwives can easily pass on ethical, accurate and optimistic information to women who are still wondering if they should breastfeed or not!
Health and developmental benefits
Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for Baby:
- The rich pre-milk fluid of the first few days, colostrum, provides immunity to a wide range of diseases – and its protection lasts for months!
- Colostrum is so nutrient rich that one teaspoonful is the equivalent of 50ml of milk.
- Colostrum contains vitamin K, which protects baby against bleeding.
- Breast milk decreases the likelihood of digestive problems like constipation and colic.
- Continued breastfeeding reduces risk of infection and illnesses like asthma, eczema, ear infections and diarrhoea due to the anti-bodies it contains.
- There is less chance of digestive discomfort – breast milk is easy to digest, perfectly balanced, and adjusts to meet Baby’s changing needs, e.g. there will be more carbohydrates when Baby starts to crawl.
- Excellent brain development is promoted due to the perfect nutritional balance and the endocrine triggers for ideal maturation.
- The longer a mother nurses her child, the greater the overall benefits will be – some of which are lifelong!
- Eating disorders, which can contribute to heart disease later in life, are less likely.
- Baby has better jaw development.
- Economically, breastfeeding costs more-or-less nothing.
- There are no concerns about hygiene, warming feeds, and whether Baby will be hungry before Mom is able to
- prepare a feed – food is always on tap, at the correct temperature and hygienically packaged!
- Breastfed babies often experience better health, so parents will likely spend less time tending an ill baby, consulting doctors and missing work.
- Breast milk’s individual flavour and aroma ensure that Baby recognises and bonds with Mom.
- Nursing is a wonderful form of communication between Mom and Baby; they bond deeply and intimately as they gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.
- Nursing is a very special ‘feel good’ experience; the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin, is produced during breastfeeding, filling most moms with a glow difficult to describe. Baby experiences it too!
5 Breastfeeding benefits for Mom
Breastfeeding isn’t only good for Baby; there are lots of benefits for Moms too:
- It helps the uterus to contract after birth, to prevent bleeding and to restore your figure sooner!
- It reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
- It’s natural and convenient, no preparation needed.
- It can provide physiological and emotional healing if the mother had a traumatic birth experience. It builds mothering confidence, as the mothers sees that she is meeting her baby’s emotional and physical needs.
The ethics of breastfeeding
Given its many irreplaceable benefits, it’s almost inconceivable that mother’s milk found itself over-shadowed in the popularity stakes by formulated alternatives, in many settings and for many years. Fortunately, ably abetted by legislation, nursing a baby is making an ever-growing comeback.
What about the ethics of health practitioners – doctors, nurses, midwives and others, who all pledged to first do no harm? There is no doubt that ethical considerations were and still are neglected, regarding nursing support for mothers, whether deliberately, a response to personal inadequacies or unthinkingly propagating misinformation. As midwives, all we need to do is to believe in the power of breastfeeding ourselves, and then use that positivity to help every mother in our care to do the natural thing – nurse her baby!