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Importance of Breastfeeding
When a baby is born, the mother goes through a dramatic change in her hormonal levels.There is an increase in prolactin hormone levels. Simultaneously there is a steep fall in estrogen and progesterone levels. Such physiological changes in the body along with others set the stage for lactation.
When the baby suckles the mother’s breasts, it acts as a stimulus for production and ejection of milk into the baby’s mouth. Hence breast feeding the baby is very important for the action of corresponding hormones and milk production.
Breast milk is the first food for the infant. It is also one of the major factors that prevent infant morbidity. It gives most nutrients needed by the infant. Breast milk is not only easily digestible but it also has many anti infective properties because of which the baby is less prone to infections. Breast milk strengthens the infant’s immune system.
It prevents diarrhea and ear infections. Breastfed babies are generally strong when they grow old, less prone to allergy and asthma and have better passive immunity.
Colostrum is the yellowish milky discharge that is produced by the mother within a day or two of the infant’s birth. It provides nutrients needed by the child in concentrated form. It is a rich source of vitamin A, antibodies and antimicrobial factors. It also helps baby pass its first stool and clears excess bilirubin from the body thereby preventing neonatal jaundice. Colostrum stimulates the development of the baby’s digestive system and gives natural protection from pathogens.
Breast milk is easily available, microbiologically safe and requires no preparation. It helps to cut down the expenses of formula feed and indirectly benefits the environment. Most importantly, breastfeeding improves the emotional bond and attachment between the mother and child.
Mothers have many health benefits because of breastfeeding. They don’t begin menstruating during lactation. It helps them to lose weight easily as excess calorie from food consumption is transferred to the milk. It protects them from developing breast cancer.
Mothers suffering from HIV as well as mothers taking medication which may harm the infant cannot breastfeed the child as it may pass on to the infant through breast milk. In such cases there is no other option but to depend on cow’s milk or on commercially available formula feeds.