Breastfeeding has enormous advantages to both the mother and baby and no manufactured product is better than breast milk. The primary benefit of breast milk is nutritional. Human milk contains just the right amount of fatty acids, lactose, water, and amino acids for human digestion, brain development, and growth. Cow's milk contains a different type of protein than breast milk which is good for calves, but human infants have difficulty digesting it. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.


 Breastfeeding protects your baby from gastrointestinal trouble, respiratory problems, and ear infections. Numerous studies from around the world have shown that diarrhea, lower respiratory illnesses, and ear infections happen less often in breastfed babies, and are less severe when they do occur. Exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months seems to offer the most protection. Researchers have found that immune factors present in colostrum (the first milk produced) guard against invading germs by forming a protective layer on your baby's mucous membranes in his/her intestines, nose, and throat. The main immune factor at work here is secretory IgA (immunoglobulin A). It's present in large amounts in colostrum — which is why it's important to start nursing your baby right after birth — but is also found in lower concentrations in mature milk.Several studies have found that breastfeeding for six months or more makes it less likely that your baby will go on to develop food or respiratory allergies.


Another study found that exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first four months after birth reduced a child's risk of developing asthma by age 6. Scientists think that the fatty acids and immune factors such as IgA in breast milk prevent allergic reactions by stopping large foreign proteins from getting into a baby's system. Several studies have found a possible connection between breastfeeding and higher Intelligence. Babies breastfed for six months or more seem to have the most advantage, Experts say that the emotional bonding that takes place during breastfeeding probably contributes to some of the increase, but that the fatty acids in breast milk may play the biggest role in a baby's brain development. Sucking at the breast promotes good jaw development as well and the exercise strengthens the jaws and encourages the growth of straight, healthy teeth of the baby which is not available with bottle feeding.  


Breastfeeding also has psychological benefits for the infant as well, creating an early attachment between mother and child. Many psychologists believe the nursing baby enjoys a sense of security from the warmth and presence of the mother, especially when there's skin-to-skin contact during feeding.  Breast-feeding is good for new mothers as well as for their babies. Breast milk is free. There are no bottles to sterilize and no formula to buy, measure and mix. Exclusive breastfeeding can also help a nursing mother to lose the kilograms of pregnancy as well, since breastfeeding uses up extra calories.


Lactation also stimulates the uterus to contract back to its original size. Nursing is also nature's contraceptive--although not a very reliable one. Frequent nursing suppresses ovulation, making it less likely for a nursing mother to menstruate, ovulate, or get pregnant. There are no guarantees. There are very few medical reasons why a mother shouldn't breast-feed. A few viruses can pass through breast milk, however. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of them. Women who are HIV positive but have babies who are HIV negative are not advised to breast-feed as they put the baby at risk.  

A few other illnesses--such as herpes, hepatitis, and beta streptococcus infections--can also be transmitted through breast milk and mothers with these diseases should consult their doctors.


A nursing mother should eat a balanced diet and she might need to avoid foods that irritate the baby. Mothers should make sure that their intake of protein foods, fruits and vitamins are adequate. Though eating habits change during pregnancy women should not over-endulge on sugary foods and snacks. Women who have to go back to work soon after birth can pump her breast milk and refrigerate or freeze it for the baby to take in a cup later. If she plans to breast-feed, a new mother should learn as much as possible about it before the baby is born. Obstetricians, pediatricians, childbirth instructors, nurses, and midwives can all offer information about nursing. But perhaps the best ongoing support for a nursing mother is someone who has successfully nursed a baby.


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