The Benefits of Breastfeeding
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
At birth, 74% to 81.9% of babies are breastfed. Those numbers decrease dramatically within the first six months of life. It is estimated that only 43.5% to 60.6% of infants are breastfed by the time they reach six months of age (Ricci, Kyle & Carman, 2013). There are some circumstances when breastfeeding an infant is contraindicated, such as in the presence of maternal HIV or active tuberculosis. Breastfeeding should also be avoided if a mother is using illicit substances and with the use of certain prescription medications. Otherwise, there are very few instances when a child’s health prevents them from breastfeeding. It is imporatant that expectant parents receive all of the information needed to make an educated decision as to which feeding method will be used when their newborn arrives.
Breastfeeding benefits the infant in a number of ways. One of the reasons why breastfeeding is the preferred method for feeding newborns and infants is because breast milk provides complete nutrition that changes to meet the demands of the growing child. Breast milk is rich in nutrients, and has a balanced amount of lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, and water to provide all of the calories needed to support babies’ growth (“Why Breastfeed”). Breast milk also has enzymes that make it easier for a child to digest when compared to formulas made from cow’s milk.
Generally, breastfed babies are healthier babies. Mothers’ milk provides immunity against several illnesses. Breastfed babies have a lower incidence of upper and lower respiratory infections, childhood asthma and otitis media. There is also a lower incidence of obesity and type II diabetes among breastfed children, as these children are less likely to be overfed. In addition, breast milk provides many immunoglobulins that help to protect the child from infections of the gastrointestinal tract. Breast milk positively impacts the development of the growing newborns and infants. The lipids and amino acids found in breast milk may aid in mylenation of the nervous system (Ricci et al., 2013). In addition, research has shown that children who were breastfeed tend to have higher IQs than non-breastfed children due to enhanced cognitive development (Eden, 1998).
The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous for the growing newborn and infant, but there are also several benefits to the mother as well. After delivery, the initiation of breastfeeding within 30 minutes of birth is encouraged. One of the reasons for this is that breastfeeding initiates the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin not only enhances bonding between the newborn and mother, it also increases the strength of uterine contractions. When uterine contractions are strengthened, uterine involution occurs at a faster rate. Efficient uterine involution is also associated with less postpartum bleeding (Ricci et al., 2013). In addition, regular breastfeeding is linked to increased weight loss after delivery, without dieting. Although extra calories are required for sufficient milk production, these calories are burned when feeding the newborn or infant. As long as the mother does not consume more calories than she is expending while breastfeeding, weight loss will occur at a slow steady rate. Slower weight loss is recommended when compared to losing a significant amount of weight at a fast rate so that the mother does not lose lean muscle tissue. There are several sources that can be used to assist a new mother in tailoring her nutritional needs while breastfeeding. The United States Department of Agriculture is just one resource that enables women to view nutritional recommendations for her specific situation, whether she is exclusively breastfeeding or chooses to supplement with formula (“SuperTracker”). Of all of the many advantages of breastfeeding for women, the link between breastfeeding and disease prevention may be one of the greatest...
References: Eden, A. N. (1998). Infant Feeding: Putting Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics Work Group on Breastfeeding into Practice. Nutrition In Clinical Care, 1(2), 89.
Godfrey, J. R., & Meyers, D. (2009). Toward Optimal Health: Maternal Benefits of Breastfeeding. Journal Of Women 's Health (15409996), 18(9), 1307-1310. doi:10.1089/jwh.2009.1646
Henderson, A. (2011). Understanding the Breast Crawl. Nursing For Women 's Health, 15(4), 296-307. doi:10.1111/j.1751-486X.2011.01650.x
Ricci, S. S., Kyle, T., & Carman, S. (2013). Maternity and pediatric nursing (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
SuperTracker. (n.d.). SuperTracker. Retrieved June 7, 2014, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools/supertracker.html
Why Breastfeed. (n.d.). HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved June 10, 2014, from http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Why-Breastfeed.aspx
Why breastfeeding is important. (n.d.). womenshealth.gov. Retrieved June 26, 2014, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/why-breastfeeding-is-important/index.html#b
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