With an exclusive breast-feeding rate at 32%, South Africa lags behind the World Health Organization (WHO) global target of 50%, which member states should reach by 2025.
UNICEF and WHO recommend that breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour of birth and all babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. From the age of 6 months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond.
Breastfeeding is beautiful, but unfortunately also difficult – it requires dedication and determination. So why is it worth it? Check out the 11 most important reasons for you to breastfeed your baby.
1. By breastfeeding you reduce the risk of allergies in your baby
Breastmilk protects your baby from allergies in the future – according to specialists, the risk of allergies is reduced by up to 50% in children who are breastfed. During lactation, you should be careful what you eat, as some foods in your diet can cause an allergy in your baby. Of course, eliminating certain foods without good reason is not recommended during the lactation period and if you notice any disturbing symptoms, please report them to your doctor.
2. You lose weight faster
By breastfeeding, you will lose unnecessary kilograms faster after pregnancy. When producing milk, your body must use a large amount of energy, which often comes from the fat stored during pregnancy. In this way, you are able to burn up to 500 extra calories per day, and your metabolism will also improve.
3. You reduce the risk of cancer
According to specialists, breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer.
4. You shorten the bleeding time
The decision to breastfeed will certainly have a positive effect on the postpartum bleeding time, which will be shortened. In addition, your uterus will contract better, allowing you to return to your pre-pregnancy form much faster.
5. You save time, money and energy
Natural feeding is a much more economical solution than feeding with milk formula. In addition to eliminating the costs associated with the purchase of a formula, bottles and other necessary feeding accessories, you save time too because breastfeeding does not require such preparation. You can feed your baby properly at any time and in any place.
6. The mother's food matches the needs of the developing baby
No modified mixture can replace the mother's milk. Your milk contains the perfect proportions of nutrients that change with the needs of the developing baby. The composition is different for a newborn baby and different for a baby who is a few months old. Interestingly, your milk also changes during the feeding itself – in the first phase, it contains more water to quench the baby’s thirst, while in the second phase, which occurs after a few minutes, it has more calories.
7. You protect your baby from infections
A baby's immune system develops with age. Antibodies found in the mother's milk give the baby exceptional protection against various diseases. Even if the baby does catch an infection, it is milder than formula-fed babies.
8. You can feed your baby at any time
When feeding your baby, you do not have to worry that the milk is too cold or too hot, because it is always at the perfect temperature, is fresh and sterile and not toxic, provided you do not consume alcohol or dangerous drugs.
9. You protect the child's bite
According to specialists, sucking on the mother’s breasts not only develops the baby’s facial expressions, but also contributes to the good positioning of baby teeth in the future. Studies show that breastfed babies have a better developed nasal cavity, which in the future reduces the risk of sleep apnea and snoring.
10. You prepare the baby for new flavors
Modified milk has the same taste all the time, but the mother's food may taste different each time, because its taste depends on what you have recently eaten. Thanks to this, your child is gently introduced to the diverse world of tastes. When the time is right to expand the diet, he will be happy to try new products in his menu.
11. You create a unique bond with your child
By breastfeeding your baby, you create a special bond with him. When you are close, the baby feels safe and calms down faster, because it smells the familiar scent and hears your heartbeat, the rhythm of which it remembers from his fetal life.
The moments spent together also have a positive effect on you. Breastfeeding your baby makes you calmer. It is a good way to relieve stress and soothe your nerves. In addition, physical contact during feeding enables you to get to know yourself and build trust.
Mommies please share your experiences whilst breastfeeding and your advice to other mommies and mommies-to-be?