Breast feeding is the most excellent source of infant nutrition. It is the feeding of a child directly from mother’s breasts. The sucking reflex of infants enables them to suck and swallow the milk. Breast feeding is very easy for the child to digest and due to this faster digestion baby eats more often.
Breast feeding helps to strengthen the baby’s jaws, increases the immunity and decreases the risk of diabetes. Mother also enjoys many benefits from breast feeding. It helps to decrease depression, decreases the risk of breast cancer, decreases osteoporosis and helps in uterine shrinkage.
During pregnancy and first few days after birth, the milk production is controlled by the human endocrine system. The women’s body generates hormones that stimulate the development of milk duct system in the breasts.
The high level of hormones like progesterone, estrogen, prolactin and other hormones before birth will inhibit the milk production. After birth, the hormone level decreases and which activates the onset of milk production.
Oxytocin is a hormone which contracts the smooth muscle cells around the alveoli to squeeze the milk into the duct system. It is also necessary for milk ejection reflex. Lactation is also induced by a combination of physical and psychological stimulations like response to baby’s suckling, by drugs or a combination of both these methods.
All the properties of breast milk are still not understood. It is produced from nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream and it has a relatively constant nutrient content. Breast milk is the adequate source of fat, sugar, water and protein required for the growth and development of a child.
Breast feeding helps to create an effective defense against infectious diseases to the infant through some biochemical reactions. The long chain poly- unsaturated fatty acids in the breast milk helps in the normal retinal and neural development. Breast- feeding helps the mother to lose weight after delivery, as it uses an average of 500 calories a day.
Infant benefits from Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding offer advantages with respect to general health, growth and development. It increases the immunity of the body against several infectious diseases. Through breastfeeding certain amounts of Immunoglobulin A antibodies pass to the baby via breast milk.
This is one of the significant features of colostrum, the breast milk produced for newborns. Breastfeeding decreases the upper respiratory tract infections.
Infants who have been breastfed completely, has less chance of developing diabetes mellitus type I. The children, who are breast- fed for a short period and exposed earlier to cow’s milk and other solid foods, are prone to various diseases.
The development of depression is less in those children who have had breast milk for more months. It helps to improve the cognitive development also. Breastfeeding appears to reduce the risk of child obesity. Continuous breastfeeding for four months can delay the risk of developing allergic diseases.
Nursing can bring about some discomfort or pain. They may be due to different reasons.
1. For a clogged milk duct, the area should be massaged or hot compression to be applied.
2. Proper positioning of the baby to prevent sore nipples.
3. Air- dry nipples to prevent cracking.