Five reasons ‘breast is best’
I remember when I was a little younger and my older sisters would give birth. My mother would go for ‘omu-gwo’ (a tradition where the mother and baby are taken care of by a close relative such as a mother or mother-in-law). My mother would insist that my sisters breastfeed their children. My sisters really had no choice, she practically forced them. She really didn’t care if you were tired or if it hurt, she insisted that her grandchildren would not be fed formula milk, at least not in the first few months. In fact, her popular phrase was “Breast is Best!” ‘Breast is Best!” And she would say it over and over again till they gave in. Perhaps now they should all thank her because indeed, ‘Mama Knows best!’
Breastfeeding has been extensively researched by numerous medical authorities and the health benefits are endless; both to the infant and to the mother as well. The World Health Organization recommends that nursing mothers should breastfeed exclusively during the first year of a child’s life. According to the WHO, there is well established evidence on cognitive and health benefits associated with breastfeeding as well as significant risks of not breastfeeding. Some of the benefits you provide your child with via breastfeeding are as follows:
Ideal nutrition for the baby
There’s no question around this. Breastmilk provides the ideal nutrition for a newborn baby. It has the perfect mix of vitamins, proteins, fat and sugar needed and is more easily digested than formula for the infant. It helps to form a healthy gut in babies. Also, breastmilk adapts to the baby’s changing needs meaning that mother’s breastmilk is customized specifically for her infant’s needs.
Immunity for the baby
All babies should be breastfed immediately after delivery or within an hour after birth. The Colostrum which is the first milk produced by the mother’s breast is loaded with antibodies to protect the newborn and help fight off initial bacterial and viral infections. These antibodies are passed on to the baby only by breastfeeding. Research has shown that breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula fed babies and a stronger immune system overall, com. Overall, the immune system of children that are breast fed is stronger compared to those that aren’t.
Long term health
Breastfed babies have lowered chances of developing chronic illnesses in the future such as Type 1 and 2 diabetes, Gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohns disease and Celiac disease. Cold and Flu and other Respiratory disorders such as Asthma, Pneumonia are less common in breastfed children. Also, the incidence of SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is reduced by half. There is a decreased risk of childhood cancers such as Leukemia in breastfed children. So you see, ultimately, breastfeeding newborns would keep them out of the hospital in the long run.
Though the jury is still out on this, studies have shown that breastfeeding has been linked to improved academic performance in young children. Of course, I am aware that other factors can positively influence academic excellence such as paying attention in class, personal study time and discipline. Yet, the largest study conducted around this claim, was by Dr. Michael Kramer at McGill University, Canada and on 14,000 children. He concluded that breastfed babies had higher IQ scores and were more intelligent than babies that were formula fed. I guess it won’t hurt to try!
Decreased risk of childhood obesity
Childhood obesity is quickly becoming an epidemic and our young children are getting fatter and fatter. Though it’s not as bad as it is in more developed countries, we still have obese children here in Nigeria. Breastfeeding helps to promote a healthy weight range in children. This may be due to the increased Leptin hormone present in breastmilk that helps regulate appetite and fat storage. Studies have shown that obesity rates are about 20-30% lower in breast fed babies. The risk is lowered the longer the months the baby is breast fed. Each month accounts for about four per cent decreased risk, so if you breastfeed your infant for only 2 months the obesity risk would only be decreased by 8% and so on and so forth.