BREASTFEEDING AND BENEFITS
Have you ever wondered why infants who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months hardly come down with malaria infection?
The prevalence of parasitemia increases sharply beginning at about 20 weeks of age. Nonetheless, children remain remarkably resistant to high parasitemia, fever, and severe disease until about 6 months of age. This protection has been thought to be associated with the presence of maternal immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies, since IgG is acquired by the fetus in utero, mainly during the third trimester of pregnancy, and IgG levels decrease from birth over the first year of life. However, at least one study has ruled out maternal antibodies against malaria antigens as the basis of this protection1. Alternatively, the protection of infants may be associated with parasite growth-inhibitory factors such as lactoferrin and secretory IgA found in breast milk and in maternal and infant sera2’
The World Breastfeeding week is celebrated 1st -7th of August every year in over 170 countries of the world. The celebration aims at bringing to fore the purpose and benefits of breastfeeding.
Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. 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.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). And scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding is good for your health, too.
Breast feeding your child has lots of advantages. I would list a few here:
- It protects your baby from a variety of illnesses. One large study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren’t breastfed, with longer breastfeeding associated with lower risk. This is due to the presence of a secretion by the immune system called the Immunoglobin A (IgA). This secretion is present in large quantities of colostrum (colostrum is the first milk your body produces). It is also present in small quantities of mature breast milk. The substance guards against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat. Breastfeeding’s protection against illness lasts beyond your baby’s breastfeeding stage, too. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of developing certain childhood cancers. Scientists don’t know exactly how breast milk reduces the risk, but they think antibodies in breast milk may give a baby’s immune system a boost. The breast milk also helps prevent types I and II diabetes later in life. So do you see why your baby needs that milk? They also prevent high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease.
- It can protect your baby from developing allergies: as stated above, IgA helps protect your child from allergies since they perform immune responses. Scientists think that immune factors such as secretory IgA (only available in breast milk) help prevent allergic reactions to food by providing a layer of protection to a baby’s intestinal tract. Without this protection, inflammation can develop and the wall of the intestine can become “leaky.” This allows undigested proteins to cross the gut where they can cause an allergic reaction and other health problems. Formular-fed babies don’t enjoy this benefit.
- It may boost your children’s intelligence. Preterm (born or occurring after a pregnancy significantly shorter than normal, especially after no more than 37 weeks of pregnancy) infants with extremely low birth weight who received breast milk shortly after birth improved their mental development scores at 18 months when compared with preterm infants who weren’t given breast milk. In a later study, researchers found that the higher scores held at 30 months, and that the babies who received breast milk were also less likely to be hospitalized again because of respiratory infections.
- Breastfeeding may protect your child from obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as a way to help reduce your child’s risk of becoming overweight or obese. An analysis of 17 studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that breastfeeding reduces a child’s risk of becoming overweight as a teen or adult. The strongest effect is in children who were exclusively breastfed, and the longer the baby was breastfed the stronger the link.
- Experts think that breastfeeding may affect later weight gain for several reasons:
- Breastfed babies are better at eating until their hunger is satisfied, leading to healthier eating patterns as they grow.
- Breast milk contains less insulin than formula. (Insulin stimulates the creation of fat.)
- Breastfed babies have more leptin in their system, a hormone that researchers believe plays a role in regulating appetite and fat.
- Compared with breastfed babies, formula-fed infants gain weight more rapidly in the first weeks of life. This rapid weight gain is associated with later obesity.
- Breast feeding may lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDs)
Breast feeding isn’t only beneficial to the baby as mothers also have things to benefit.
- It may reduce your risk of stress level and postpartum depression. You can still breastfeed if you are been treated for depression though. Kindly speak with you doctor.
- You are less at risk to certain types of cancer. Numerous studies have found that the longer women breastfeed, the more they’re protected against breast and ovarian cancer. For breast cancer, nursing for at least a year appears to have the most protective effect.
- It’s not entirely clear how breastfeeding helps, but it may have to do with the structural changes in breast tissue caused by breastfeeding and the fact that lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen your body produces. Researchers think the effect on ovarian cancer may be related to estrogen suppression as well.
According to infact canada, formular fed babies are at risk of 14 different illness or diseases such as asthma, allergies amongst others.
Africans have struggled (and still struggling) with breastfeeding postures. There are different postures and you can choose whichever is convenient for you as well as the child. Taking a good and correct posture helps the baby enjoy the meal as well as latch well while the mother is also relaxed. See correct postures below.
Conclusively, breastfeeding should be enjoyed by both mother and child as that period is a period to bond well. Infant formulars can and shouldn’t take the place of breastfeeding. Give your child a good start in life.
See different breastfeeding positions below.
1. Cradle Hold
2. Cross-cradle Hold
3. Lying on side
4. Football Hold
5. Laid Back
For those with twins, you can practice the football hold as well as the laid back or any other position suitable for you.
How does latching on work?
Scooping in a big mouthful of breast lets your baby draw your breast deeply into his mouth.
Your nipple will then be right at the back of his mouth, where the hard roof of his mouth gives way to the soft area.
With a mouthful like this, your baby will be able to use his tongue smoothly and rhythmically against the under-surface of your breast. This action removes milk from the ducts.
Your baby’s jaw will move up and down, following the action of his tongue, and he will swallow your milk as it flows to the back of his mouth. This should be painless for you, because your nipple will be so far back in his mouth that it won’t be squashed or pinched by his tongue.
Your baby’s lower gum will never touch your breast, as his tongue will always be between them, and his top jaw does not move.
1 Lack of association between maternal antibody and protection of African infants from malaria infection.
Riley EM, Wagner GE, Ofori MF, Wheeler JG, Akanmori BD, Tetteh K, McGuinness D, Bennett S, Nkrumah FK, Anders RF, Koram KA
Infect Immun. 2000 Oct; 68(10):5856-63.
2 Inhibitory factors in breastmilk, maternal and infant sera against in vitro growth of Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite.
Kassim OO, Ako-Anai KA, Torimiro SE, Hollowell GP, Okoye VC, Martin SK
J Trop Pediatr. 2000 Apr; 46(2):92-6.