Introduction“Exclusive breastfeeding” is defined as no other food or drink, not even water, except breast milk (including milk expressed or from a wet nurse) for 6 months of life, but allows the infant to receive ORS, drops and syrups (vitamins, minerals and medicines). It is recommended to begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life and to allow it as often and as much as the baby wants. The frequency of feeding decreases as the child gets older. Breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby. Infant formula does not have many of the benefits.
ImportanceIt is estimated that more than a million deaths of babies could be prevented globally per year through more widespread breastfeeding. This is true both in developing and developed countries. The first and the foremost important point that goes in the favor of breast milk is that it creates a special bonding experience between the mother and child, which is unparalleled, and it provides a special nutrition to the infant. Young mothers often misled to believe that infant feeding formula does very well as a replacement for breast milk. However, nothing can duplicate the properties of breast milk, no matter how many vitamins, minerals and other supplements are added to what is basically a chemical formulation.
What are the Different Stages of Lactation?Breast milk is the milk produced by a lactating female. Breastfeeding should commence as soon as possible after giving birth and every 1 to 3 hours per 24 hours (8-12 times per 24 hours). Babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months and continued with weaning until 12 months and further on, depending on the situation of the mother and child. Breast milk is known by different terminologies depending on the time of production and composition-
- Colostrum: The first milk that is produced is called colostrum and technically it is the best for the infant. It is usually present after the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. It is present in small amounts for the first 3 days after the birth to match the small size of the baby’s stomach. It has a yellow tinge and is thick in consistency. Its nutritional qualities are being high in protein and low in fat and sugar. It is rich in the immunities that are being passed from the mother to protect the baby. It also acts as a natural laxative, helping the baby pass the first stools called meconium.
- Mature milk: In about 48 to 72 hours the colostrum gives way to mature milk. The duration varies depending on initiation time of breastfeeding and its frequency. Mature milk consists of two components.
- Foremilk: The first milk the baby receives on initiation of breastfeeding is called foremilk. It is thin and watery with a light blue tinge, composed largely of water, low in fat and high in carbohydrates, and is necessary to satisfy the baby’s thirst.
- Hind milk: Thereafter is produced hind milk, which has the highest concentration of fat and is released after several minutes of nursing. It is similar in consistency to cream and induces sleep in the baby. Hind milk is important for the baby to feel satisfied and to gain adequate weight.
Importance of Breastfeeding for MotherBenefits of breastfeeding for the mother include less blood loss following delivery, better uterus shrinkage, weight loss, and less postpartum depression. It also increases the time before menstruation and fertility returns, known as lactational amenorrhea. Long term benefits may include a decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Breastfeeding is less expensive for a family than infant formula.
Importance of breastfeeding for babyBabies who are fed breast milk have a lower risk of:
- gastro-intestinal (gut) illness
- some childhood cancers
- respiratory tract (chest) infections
- urinary tract infections
- SIDS (cot death)
Perfect FoodBreastmilk has important ingredients that are not found in any infant formula, to build the baby’s immune system. Breastmilk changes from feed to feed to suit each baby’s unique needs, making it the perfect food to promote healthy growth and development. What is the Difference between Breast Milk and Milk from Other Sources? The main ingredients that make breast milk different and superior to pasteurized milk and milk from other sources are-
- Lactose (aids in calcium absorption)
- Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Essential Fatty Acids (Linoleic, Linolenic, Arachidonic)
- Vitamins A, D, E, K, B-complex and C
- Minerals (especially calcium, phosphorus and zinc)
- Whey protein
- Bile Salt Stimulated Lipase (aids in digestion of fats)
- Amino acids cystine and taurine
- Lactoferrin (binds iron and makes it unavailable to bacteria in the intestines)
- Secretory Immunoglobulin A (sIgA)
- Lysozyme Bifidus factor (creates more acidic stool, inhibits growth of harmful bacteria)