Benefits of breastfeeding

The benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond meeting baby’s basic nutritional needs. Not only does it provide ample health benefits for baby, but mum too!

This week is the World Health Organisation (WHO) ‘s Breastfeeding Week which aims to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. According to the WHO breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. For mum, breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, is a secure way of feeding, and is safe for the environment.

This year, WHO is working with UNICEF and partners to promote the importance of helping mothers breastfeed their babies within that crucial first hour of life. Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast stimulate the production of breast milk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine’, which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.

Breastfeeding advantages for baby:

• Breastmilk contains antibodies and other agents that protect your baby from infection and disease
• Breastfeed babies have a reduced chance of developing food allergies and lactose intolerance
• Breastfeeding is important for the development of baby’s eyesight, jaw, teeth, and mouth, and speech development
• Breastmilk adapts to your baby’s changing needs as they get older

Breastfeeding advantages for mum:

• Breastfeeding may help you lose weight
• Breastfeeding enhances the mother/baby bond
• Breastfeeding helps the uterus return to its normal size
• Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of depression

How often should I breastfeed?

The more the baby feeds, the more milk you will produce. You are more likely to have a good milk supply if you:
• Breastfeed frequently, whenever your baby seems hungry
• Let baby finish the first breast
• Breastfeed your baby at night
• Many young babies feed between 8-12 times in 24 hours

Bottom line:

Breastmilk is food for babies, designed by nature. It is both important for mothers and babies.

For more information, head to www.breastfeeding.asn.au which covers other frequently asked questions, resources for mothers, and common concerns surrounding breastfeeding.

References:
Australian Breastfeeding Association (2017). www.breastfeeding.asn.au.
World Health Organisation (2018).  www.who.int.
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