Nurturing Health: Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother and Baby

Nurturing Health Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother and Baby

Breastfeeding is indeed an incredible journey that goes beyond providing essential nutrition for a baby’s growth and development. It’s a special bond between a mother and her baby, with numerous health benefits for both of them. 

For the baby, breastfeeding provides essential nutrients, antibodies, and enzymes that are vital for their growth, development, and immune system. This early nourishment can have lasting positive effects on a child’s health and well-being. For mothers, breastfeeding can aid in postpartum recovery by helping the uterus contract and reducing bleeding. It also helps burn extra calories, which can aid in weight loss after childbirth.

Breastfeeding benefits for Babies and Mothers?

For Babies: 

  • Optimal Nutrition : Breast milk is nature’s perfect food for newborns. It contains the ideal balance of nutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, tailored to meet the baby’s evolving needs. It is easily digestible and provides all the essential nutrients required for proper growth and development. 
  • Boost Immune System : Breast milk is rich in antibodies, enzymes, and white blood cells that fortify the baby’s immune system. This fortification acts as a shield against a range of infections, including ear infections, eczema, allergies, and illnesses, during the critical early stages of life.
  • Cognitive Development : Studies have shown that breastfeeding may have a positive impact on a baby’s cognitive development. The presence of essential fatty acids, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), in breast milk contributes to brain development, potentially leading to improved cognitive abilities.
  • Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases : Breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of encountering chronic ailments in the future, such as obesity, diabetes, and specific forms of cancer. The bioactive components present in breast milk contribute to  programming the baby’s metabolism and immune system. 
  • Digestive Health : Breast milk contains prebiotics and probiotics that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria in the baby’s digestive system. This helps prevent gastrointestinal issues and enhances nutrient absorption.
  • Breast Milk Shapes Infant Neurodevelopment through Epigenetics:

    • Breast milk contains bioactive components like miRNAs, lncRNAs, stem cells, and microbiome elements.
    • It positively impacts infant neurodevelopment through epigenetic mechanisms.
    • The fetal origin of adult disease theory (DOHaD) suggests that certain health conditions in adulthood, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, may be influenced by prenatal and early-life factors, highlighting the significance of maternal health during pregnancy. Therefore, breastmilk has the potential for an epigenetic impact on neurodevelopment during early life.

Nurturing Health Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother and Baby1

For Mothers: 

  • Postpartum Recovery : Breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that aids in uterine contractions and reduces postpartum bleeding. Additionally, it helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size more quickly, contributing to a smoother recovery.
  • Weight Loss : Breastfeeding burns extra calories, helping mothers shed the pregnancy weight they gained. It also assists in mobilizing stored fat for energy, promoting gradual and healthy weight loss.
  • Hormonal Balance : Breastfeeding can help regulate hormones, including prolactin and oxytocin, which contribute to feelings of maternal bonding and emotional well-being. These hormones also play a role in reducing stress and anxiety levels.
  • Reduced Risk of Diseases : Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of certain health conditions, such as breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression. The act of breastfeeding supports long-term maternal health.
  • Bonding and Connection : Breastfeeding facilitates a unique emotional bond between mother and child. Skin-to-skin contact and the closeness during feeding promote feelings of love, comfort, and security, fostering a strong attachment. 

Breastfeeding: When and How Often?

Best ways to ace breastfeeding: 

  • Early Breastfeeding Initiation : It is recommended to start breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. This helps the baby receive colostrum, rich milk packed with antibodies and nutrients that boost their immune system and support growth. 
  • Exclusive Breastfeeding for 6 Months : Healthcare experts suggest exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of life. During this time, giving only breast milk provides tailored nutrition that aids the baby’s development. This practice contributes to better digestion and immune protection.
  • Breast Pump Usage : Breast pumps can be helpful, especially for working mothers or those facing breastfeeding challenges. They enable the extraction and storage of breast milk in bottles for later use. This method offers flexibility while ensuring the baby continues to receive the benefits of breast milk even when the mother is not present.
  • Hand Expression for Prolonged Breastfeeding : Hand-expressing breast milk is a technique that assists mothers in continuing breastfeeding for an extended period. This process involves gently stimulating milk flow by hand, leading to increased milk production. It’s particularly valuable when direct feeding isn’t possible or regular breastfeeding poses difficulties.

Educate Yourself : Gain knowledge about breastfeeding before your baby arrives. Attend classes, read books, and consult with experts to understand breastfeeding techniques, positions, and common challenges. 

Breastfeeding session duration: 

  • For Newborns : During the initial stages, nursing sessions for newborns can extend up to around 20 minutes or possibly even longer on either one or both breasts. This length of time accommodates the baby’s learning curve and their ability to effectively draw milk. 
  • For Older Babies : As babies become more adept at breastfeeding, older infants may only need 5–10 minutes on a single side to satiate their hunger. This shift in duration is attributed to their enhanced nursing skills and efficiency.

Signals of Tummy Full: 

  • Signs of Satisfaction : A complete feeding session should ideally leave babies feeling drowsy, indicating their contentment and satiation. It’s not uncommon for babies to doze off or appear content after a satisfying feed.
  • Contentment and Sleepiness : Falling asleep or displaying a sense of contentment post-feeding are positive indicators that the baby has received an adequate amount of nourishment.

 Feed Frequency Rate:

  • Recommended Frequency : For optimal nourishment and growth, it’s advisable for babies to be breastfed between 8 to 12 times within a span of 24 hours. This consistent feeding routine ensures that infants receive the essential nutrients required for their development.
  • Individual Variability : Recognize that the frequency of breastfeeding sessions may vary from one baby to another. Thus, it’s essential to attune yourself to your baby’s cues and signals to determine their specific feeding needs.

Are you ready to start the incredible journey of breastfeeding, for your and your baby’s health?

Breastfeeding Diet: What to Eat and Avoid?

Nutrients Intake while breastfeeding: 

To support their own well-being and contribute to their baby’s health, mothers must prioritize the intake of vital nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin K.

  • Calcium and Bone Health : Calcium is crucial for maintaining strong bones and overall skeletal health. Both the mother and baby require an adequate intake of calcium, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Vitamin D : Essential for bone health and immune function, vitamin D is pivotal for both the mother’s well-being and the baby’s proper development.
  • Vitamin B12 : Vital for cell metabolism and nerve function, vitamin B12 is important for maintaining the mother’s energy levels and promoting the baby’s healthy growth.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids : These are beneficial for brain development and heart health. Including sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet can enhance the well-being of both the mother and the baby.
  • Vitamin K : This nutrient is crucial for blood clotting and bone health. Ensuring an adequate intake is essential to supporting the mother’s recovery and the baby’s growth.

Foods to avoid while breastfeeding: 

  • Caffeine (coffee, tea)
  • Spicy foods
  • High-mercury fish
  • Dairy (if the baby is sensitive)
  • Gas-inducing foods (beans, cabbage)

It is recommended to maintain a balanced diet for the well- being  of you and your baby’s well-being. If unsure, consult a healthcare professional.

No breast milk; what to feed the baby?

If breastfeeding is not an option due to an insufficient milk supply, you can feed your baby infant formula. Infant formula is specially designed to provide the necessary nutrients for a baby’s growth and development. It’s important to consult a pediatrician to choose the right formula and get proper guidance on feeding and preparation.

Best Breastfeeding Positions and Comfort Tips.

Nurturing Health Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother and Baby2

Breastfeeding Positions: 

  •  Cradle Hold : Hold your baby’s head in the crook of your arm on the same side you’re breastfeeding from, while supporting their body with your forearm and lap.
  • Cross-Cradle Hold : Similar to the cradle hold, you use the opposite arm to support your baby’s head. This gives you more control over positioning.
  • Football Hold : Tuck your baby’s body under your arm on the same side you’re nursing from, with their legs extending behind you. This position is useful for mothers who had a cesarean section or for babies with a shallow latch.
  • Side-Lying Position : Lie down on your side and position your baby facing you. This can be a comfortable option, especially during nighttime feedings.
  • Laid-Back or Biological Nurturing Position : Lie back with your baby on your chest, allowing them to find their latch naturally. 

Avoid the discomfort:   

Using proper breastfeeding positions can also help alleviate breast pain. Positions like the football hold or laid-back position might reduce pressure on sore areas, ensuring a good latch to avoid discomfort. 

If you experience persistent pain, consulting a lactation consultant can provide personalized guidance.

Embrace the beautiful journey of motherhood

Breastfeeding is a journey of benefits for mother and baby.   Remember, breastfeeding is a personal choice, and every mother’s journey is unique. Embrace the  magic of breastfeeding and cherish this special time with your little one. 

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