Breastmilk, liquid gold, milkies… whatever you call it; it is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for babies to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months when they are born because of all the incredible benefits it provides your baby. The WHO also encourages babies to continue breastfeeding until at least age two. As parents, our goal is always to protect our children by keeping them safe and healthy. Especially during times like these, we are more than ever focused on hygiene and awareness of “germs” and diseases. This is a great opportunity to talk about the importance of breastmilk and how it protects your baby.
Why is it important for your baby to receive this nutritious and delicious liquid? The components of breastmilk are amazing and the short term and long term benefits are well researched and documented. When your baby is born, their immune system is still not fully developed. Breast milk helps promote the development of their immune system. Colostrum, the milk during the first few days of the baby’s life, has a high amount of nutrients and protective factors that prevent infection and provide immunity to the baby. The antibodies in breast milk have the ability to remember illnesses that the mother has encountered throughout her life and provide the same immunity to her baby by passing on those antibodies. Therefore your baby will be protected from those illnesses and develop immunity from them. The antibodies prevent the microorganisms from entering into the tissues of your baby’s body. If the breastfeeding mama becomes sick, it is still totally okay for your baby to continue to breastfeed. In fact, it is super beneficial for the baby and I highly recommend it! The components of breast milk also prevent allergies and hypersensitivities in your child by developing their immune response.
Breast milk is the first probiotic food given to infants as it contains a diverse number of microbes which helps promote gut development. Breast milk contains all the essential nutrients that your baby needs in order to grow and live a healthy life. It also continually adjusts depending on your baby’s age and needs.
Breast milk is mainly comprised of:
- Lipids (Fats)
- Other components that provide nutrients, promote growth and support the immune system: enzymes, leukocytes, secretory immunoglobulin (antibodies), osteopontin, cytokines, growth factors, hormones
Research shows that people who have been breastfed or received breastmilk show lower risk of some communicable and non-communicable diseases later in life. Isn’t that great news? If you have a premature baby, breast milk significantly reduces complications associated with having a baby preterm.
Breast milk lowers the risk of all of the following diseases:
- Respiratory infections
- Gastrointestinal infections
- Otitis media – a type of ear infection
- Celiac disease
- Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
- Cancer – child and mother
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Childhood tumors
It’s easy to focus on all of the benefits breastfeeding is for the baby, however let’s not forget about how important it is for mamas too!
Here are some of the benefits for mamas:
- Reduced bleeding and uterine contraction – it speeds up the shrinking of the uterus back to its normal size and reduces the chance of postpartum hemorrhage and anemia
- Produces oxytocin – increases the pain threshold which reduces discomfort during your recovery.
- Faster weight loss and return to your pre-baby weight since breastfeeding consumes additional calories every day
- Reduces maternal stress levels and reduces anxiety. It decreases the chance of postpartum depression. Breastfeeding lowers your stress hormones (cortisol) so that you feel more relaxed.
- Strengthens the mother-child bond
Support is key in achieving a successful breastfeeding experience. Breastfeeding takes lots of practice, time, and support as you and your baby are both learning a new skill. Reach out to your local mama coach for lactation support if you are experiencing challenges. We are here for you! You got this mama!