Mothers Milk | Breastfeeding | Health Benefits For Mom and Baby
The greatest divine boon for survival of the offsprings of all mammals in the universe is the milk generated from their mothers’ breasts. It is the natural nectar which is the basic form of life-sustaining precious unique liquid-food during the entire phase of infancy. From times immemorial, mother’s milk has been medically proved the superior form of fluid-food abundant with all the vital nutrients indispensably required for the baby.
Breast Milk Natural nectar
Child birth is a crucial event where two key occurrences take place simultaneously. It is not only the commencement of life for the infant but also a sort of re-birth for the mother too due to the magnitude of endangerment to her life involved in the process. All the excruciating labour pains undergone by the mother immediately vanish into thin air at the very lovely sight of the tender baby clutching tightly that has just begun the saga of new life. The veritable process of breast feeding is associated with two main aspects…one is giving the life-sustaining nectar to the baby and the other is an inexplicable cosmic pleasure the mother experiences as the milk flows from her body to the baby from the very moment she starts breastfeeding. The mother’s happiness gets enhanced with the smile on her baby’s face and continues to get multipled with progressive stages of development of the child.
The dependence of a baby on the mother begins from the incipient stages during the formation of embryo. Various stages in prenatal embryonic development occur safely in mother’s womb. The first moments in the life of an infant begin with bouts of shrieks of cry due to several factors such as surgical severance of umbilical cord, sudden change in the ambience from the warmest natural shelter of mother’s womb into a comparatively cooler open environment, abrupt emerging into a new open world from the dark, warm tightly-bound cervical muscular cavity. The initial shrieks of infant’s cry are silenced by way of oral feeding from the mother’s milk secreted from mammary glands. It takes certain amount of time for the new born to adapt itself to the newness of the unfamiliar world. One of the main reasons for the inability of an infant to open eyes is due to sudden entry into brightness of light as against the dark cosy world within the womb. However, the tender eye lids also are also required to gain sufficient energy to open to see the surroundings. There are host of reasons for an infant to feel uneasy and cranky in the inconvenient openness, where the tight snugness is suddenly deprived off apart from the disconnection of blood supply through navel.
Time and again, it has been proved beyond doubt the mother’s milk has all the necessary nutritive ingredients for providing strength and immunity for the baby and it is the most wholesome liquid food in the earlier stages of infancy. Mother’s milk protects infants from being affected by childhood obesity and other infections. Breast feeding is found to be mutually beneficial to both baby as well as mother.
Depending on the stages of lactation, mother’s milk can be of the following categories:
- Colostrum – It is the secretion produced during the first seven days of birth. It is rich in high amount of proteins, less fat and a lot of immunizing factors to the new born.
- Transitional milk -- This is produced between 8-20 days after child’s birth from the breast tissue.
- Mature milk – Approximately after 20th onwards, the milk produced is known as mature milk which supplies adequate energy to the baby by way of fat content present in it. With the advancement of lactation period, energy levels too increase progressively and the extent of energy varies in different individuals ranging from 270-315 kJ per 100 ml.
Nutrients in Breast Milk:
The nutrients contained in breast milk are as follows:
- Free water
- Proteins – Breast milk consists of about 75% of nitrogen-rich compounds
- Non-protein compounds – These substances too contain nitrogen like urea, nucleotides, peptides, free amino acids and DNA.
- Fats – Essential fatty acids and long chain poly unsaturated fatty acids
- Carbohydrates – Lactose is the chief ingredient of carbohydrates in breast milk
- Minerals, vitamins and small traces of elements are in breast milk.
In addition to the above nutrients, breast milk also contains non-nutritive substances which are equally essential for proper growth of baby such as digestive enzymes, hormones, antimicrobial factors which also develop immunity power in the babies.
The well-established principle for breast feeding the bay is for a minimum period of six months. When supplementary semi-solid food has begun to be given to the child, the daily dosage of breast milk can be decreased / replaced proportionately. In countries like Australia and New Zealand, the practice of breastfeeding the babies for more than a year is still in vogue. The World Health Organisation has even recommended extension of breastfeeding to two years and beyond, if it suits both mother and child.
Benefits to the Breastfeeding Mother:
Medical researchers at Kaiser Permanente, California, USA have observed that about half of the women who nurtured their infants with their breast milk showed remarkably less vulnerability to type II diabetes during the entire child-bearing years. Breastfeeding has also shown good results in mothers for being less prone to ovarian or breast cancer, from the medical study of cases during a period of thirty years.
Dr. Tracy Flanagan, M.D., director of women health in Kaiser Permanente recommends that women should breastfeed their infants as long as possible since there is more likelihood of development of immunity from type II diabetes on account of longer spans of breastfeeding phase. In some cases, it has been found that mothers who breastfed their babies were observed to have been safe from diabetes even after fifteen years of child birth.
Mutual Benefits to Mother and Baby:
In a meeting of WHO / UNICEF on August 1, 1990 a declaration was unanimously passed to declare the first week of August as breastfeeding week to promote and educate people about the benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk is found to be the most ideal food easily digestible for the baby and it augments in acquiring higher levels of IQ at later stages of development of the child. It also diminishes about by half the risk of developing SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), where child is found dead after having been put to bed with no signs of suffering.
Mother’s milk helps the child to avoid gaining overweight during later stages of childhood. Breastfeeding is also reported to have helped mothers lose pregnancy weights and keep themselves from immune from osteoporosis. “Breast milk contains 20 calories per ounce”, Dr. Lawrence asserts, “ If mothers breastfeed their babies 20 ounces, the body of mothers is unloaded of 400 calories, which comes as an indirect method for shedding off calories. Mother’s milk undeniably improves bone-strength of baby.” The act of breastfeeding is more beneficial to the baby, when the actual time baby gets hungry is correctly synchronized with breastfeeding and proper gaps are maintained between each bout. Breast milk gives the baby sufficient strength to fight against diarrhea. It also acts as a calorie incinerator for the mother.
Breastfeeding stands out as a win-win case for baby as well as mother!!!