Breastfeeding is the act of feeding an infant through milk from a woman’s breast. Breastfeeding does not only have benefits to the infant but also to the mother. It is thus advisable for all mother to exclusively breastfeed their children for up to 6 months before introducing them to solid food. Breast milk has everything the baby needs to grow and develop. It has a unique and required level of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Direct breastfeeding-The baby is latched directly on the breast to feed through suckling. However, it is the most common method.
- Exclusive breastfeeding– In this type, an infant is fed on breast milk without any additional fluids or solids. It happens in the first six months of the baby’s life.
- On-demand breastfeeding– This method involves feeding the baby whenever they show hunger cues or signs of wanting to breastfeed. Therefore, they have no feeding schedule.
- Scheduled breastfeeding– Here, the mother feeds the baby based on a predetermined schedule.
- Cluster feeding- In this method, the baby feeds more frequently over a shorter period, mostly in the evenings.
- Combination feeding– It is also known as mixed feeding. It involves giving both breast milk and formula milk to the baby.
Benefits of breastfeeding to the infant.
Breast milk lowers the risk of disease in the infant and also helps to build up their immune system to be strong. A child who is breastfed has a lower risk of infections such as:
- Bacterial meningitis.
- Ear infection.
- Respiratory infections e.g. pneumonia.
- Childhood obesity.
- Sudden children death syndrome.
Nutrients in breast milk.
Nutritional benefits of breastmilk include:
- It promotes healthy weight gain in the infant.
- It is easy to digest for the immature stomach and intestines of the baby.
- Has the correct level of vitamins, sugar, water, proteins, and fat which are needed for development.
- Contains antibiotics that boost immunity and protect the infant from diseases.
- Has substances that soothe the infant.
- It changes as the infant grows to meet the nutritional requirements.
Benefits of breastfeeding to the mother.
Breastfeeding makes one:
- To produce oxytocin hormone that helps the uterus to contract after childbirth.
- Helps to create a bond between the infant and the mother.
- It is cheap as there is no buy of formula as it’s from the mother’s breast.
- In some people, it promotes weight loss gained during pregnancy.
- It lowers the risks of infections such as:
- Cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure.
- Breast cancer.
- Thyroid cancer.
- Ovarian cancer.
- Endometrial cancer.
- Type 2 diabetes.
Foods to eat while breastfeeding
While breastfeeding it is important for the mother to eat a balanced diet so as to produce enough milk for the infant. Foods that promote milk production are:
- Whole grains like oats.
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach.
- Foods rich in protein e.g. fish, chicken, and meat.
Apart from eating, it is advisable for the mother to take enough fluids as the highest percentage of milk is made of water. Fluids like water do not only hydrate it also has mineral and vitamins. Food rich in calories but low in nutrients the consumption should be limited. They include :
- Fast food such as burgers, and pizza.
- Drinks with added sugar such as soda.
- Snacks like chips.
- Dessert and sweets.