You have just delivered a bouncing baby and you know what? Your breast milk is the first very important thing that you need to give him/her. In particular, the first milk in your breasts is vital because it contains colostrum, which gives your baby some protection against infections when his/her immune system is not yet developed. Breastfeeding your baby gives him/her a strong foundation and can determine how healthy your baby will grow.
Although breastfeeding is very important, it may happen that you are not physically fit to breastfeed your baby. This does not mean that you resort to infant formulas. You can obtain your breast milk using a breast pump and feed your baby from a bottle or using a spoon. It is very important that the milk you obtain by use of a pump is properly stored to maintain the freshness and contents. Likewise, you may not be able to breastfeed your baby due to health reasons such as being HIV positive. In such a case, you may approach a lactating family member to breastfeed your baby with her own breast milk. Alternatively, you can obtain breast milk from special facilities set up to store human breast milk.
Why Mother’s Milk?
Going this extra mile in order for your baby to receive mothers’ breast milk should be enough to inform you of the importance attached to mothers’ breast milk. Never substitute your breast milk or mothers’ breast milk with any other type of milk such as cow’s milk or infant milk. Mothers’ breast milk is naturally constituted with all the nutrients that your baby requires. Mothers’ milk is very rich in
- Polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Varied proteins (casein, lactoferrin, lactalbumin, lysozyme, serum albumin and lactoglobulin)
- Carbohydrates (lactose and oligosaccharides)
- Minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium and chlorine).
These are the basic nutrients that your baby requires for the first six months of his/her life without adding any other food. It is very important to give your baby mothers’ milk until he/she attains six months then start introducing appropriate foods and drinks.
It pains to note that some women stop feeding their babies on mothers’ breast milk even before their babies attain the age of six months. They do so even without thinking of sourcing for mothers’ breast milk from elsewhere. This is putting their babies at great risk of being prone to infections. Should you fail to breastfeed your baby as required, you need to be ready to deal with frequent infections. In case of hospitalization, your baby is likely to take a longer time to heal compared to babies who have been breastfed properly. While you can stop weaning your baby any time after six months, it is always important to do so systematically. Start by reducing breastfeeding frequency but ensuring that he/she has appropriate food to cover breast milk deficit. How long you need to continue breastfeeding your baby after six months largely depends on your work schedule or daily routine. If not seriously engaged, breastfeed your baby up to a maximum of two years.
Importance of Mother’s Milk to New Born
Mothers’ breast milk is important in several ways, to both you and your baby:
- Reduced disease risks – Breastfeeding or giving your baby mothers’ milk greatly lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Occurrence of childhood diabetes, eczema and asthma are also reduced.
- Increased intelligence – Breastfeeding or giving your baby mothers’ milk increased his/her mental development, leading to increased intelligence.
- Reduced infections – Breastfeeding or giving your baby mothers’ milk greatly reduces the risk of infections and in particular, middle ear infection that babies are prone.
Importance of Breastfeeding to the Mother
- Breastfeeding your baby assists in returning your uterus to pre-pregnancy size.
- Breastfeeding enables you to shed off any excess weight you may have gained during pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing breast cancer later in your life.
Breastfeeding your baby should not be a problem. Unless you are incapacitated in breastfeeding your baby, ensure that you find a way of obtaining mothers’ milk to give your baby a good start in life. If breastfeeding, pay close attention to your diet and drinks you consume.