Is there something important that you should know at this time of the year? Its not one of those yearly Diwali puja or Rakshabandhan yet. But during the first week of August, the week is celebrated internationally as the “World Breastfeeding Week (WBW)”. This is an initiative that is organized by WABA (World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action), WHO (World Health Organization) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund).
Today, at a very basic level, we are going to take you through the benefits of breastfeeding both for yourself and your precious one. The benefits just stretch beyond the basic nutrition requirements. It is an elixir for your child that protects her from catching a long list of diseases and protects her life from being taken away within a year from birth. One large study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren’t breastfed, with longer breastfeeding associated with lower risk.
Secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) that is present in colostrum which is your first Milk, guards against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat.
And it goes a long way and not just during the time when your baby is breastfed. It shows its goodness even when your child needs protection later in her life stages. The list of diseases that are kept at bay is long including Diabetes, Bowel disease, ear infections, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, many childhood cancers, meningitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, salmonella, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS) as well as lifetime protection from Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, some lymphomas, insulin dependent diabetes, and for girls, breast and ovarian cancer.
Antibodies present in a mother’s milk are very specific molecules that are extremely critical to help put the immune system of the body in place. Since a newborn is not fully developed for the same, the milk of a mother becomes the only support function for the child. Human milk enhances the immature immunologic system of the neonate and strengthens host defense mechanisms against infective and other foreign agents. Mechanisms to explain active stimulation of the infant’s immune system by breastfeeding are through bioactive factors in human milk. Following breastfeeding termination there may be prolonged protection against infections due to influences on the infant immune system mediated via human milk.
A few factors in milk like anti-antibodies (anti-idiotypic antibodies) and T and B lymphocytes have in some experimental models been able to transfer priming of the breastfed offspring. This together with transfer of numerous cytokines and growth factors via milk may add to an active stimulation of the infant’s immune system. Consequently, the infant might respond better to both infections and vaccines. Such an enhanced function could also explain why breastfeeding may protect against immunologic diseases like coeliac disease and possibly allergy. Suggestions of protection against autoimmune diseases and tumors have also been published, but need confirmation.
Now that we are convinced, both scientifically and intuitively about the several benefits of breastfeeding, let’s look at some precautions and things to keep in mind while breastfeeding your child. This is especially for first time mothers who are very new to the game plan.
- Learn the right position for your child while you are ready to feed him. You will have to make sure that his mouth covers most of your aerola. The common way to identify whether this is ensured is that if you are comfortable and without pain, that means he is in the right position.
- When your baby grows, he starts developing teeth (3-4 months). It is terribly painful to experience that he bites with breastfeeding. But we have to remember that whether a baby understands words or not, he surely understands his mother’s reactions. To help prevent biting, break his suction once he is finished breastfeeding or if he has fallen asleep. To break his suction, slip a finger into the side of his mouth. If your baby bites you, respond with surprise or unhappiness. Offer praise when he does not bite you.
- Regularity in breastfeeding– The frequency must be around 8-10 times in a day.
- Equal breastfeeding– He should be breastfed from both the breasts and not one during the day to ensure better filling up of his stomach.
- Meetings with caregiver– In case you experience any kind of problems in breastfeeding, be vocal about it to your caregiver. Many women do not talk about it and end up suffering from complications and delaying the cause. This is not advisable.
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