When two unique lives come together in a bond of mother and child, it’s understandable that the journey should be a nourishing one for both parties. Breastfeeding provides a nurturing environment for mothers and infants to connect through a mutual source of sustenance. In this article, we’ll be looking at the importance of breastfeeding and maternal health in forming a strong and healthy relationship between mother and child.
1. The Unique Bond between Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies
Breastfeeding is one of the most special bonds between a mother and her baby. It is not only about providing vital nourishment, but is also a closing physical and emotional connection.
- Physical Benefits – Breastfeeding is the most natural, hassle-free way to feed your baby. The closeness created during nursing helps baby feel secure, loved, and comforted. Plus, the physical closeness releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps moms establish a strong bond with their baby.
- Nourishment – Breast milk provides the most complete form of nutrition for babies and is loaded with antibodies to help protect them from illnesses. Along with providing nourishment, breastfeeding also helps stimulate baby’s immune system.
- Emotional Bonding – Beyond the physical needs, the emotional connection between mother and baby is established through the simple act of breastfeeding. There is something soothing about being able to comfort baby with mother’s milk, that no other substitute can replace.
When breastfed, babies and mothers form a special bond that lasts a lifetime.
2. Benefits of Breastfeeding for Maternal Health
Breastfeeding is not only beneficial to the child; it offers numerous health benefits to the mother as well! Moms who opt for breastfeeding their baby can experience improvements in health, both physical and mental.
- Physical Health Benefits
The physical health benefits of breastfeeding can help the body in numerous ways. For example, when the mother’s body produces milk, it reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. It can also help to protect against bone thinning and can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. It can even help promote weight loss in new moms, because the body loses up to 500 extra calories a day when breastfeeding. The body also creates the hormone oxytocin, which helps reduce postpartum depression, as well as anxiety and stress.
- Mental Health Benefits
Breastfeeding provides numerous mental health benefits for moms too. The feel-good hormone, oxytocin, is released during breastfeeding and provides a sense of calmness and contentment. It can also help mom bond with her baby and even provide her with a sense of purpose. Additionally, it can be a great source of connection between mom and baby, while also providing a much-needed break from the day-to-day tasks of raising a child. Lastly, it can also help reduce stress and anxiety by giving both mom and baby a break from the outside world and allowing them to spend quality time alone.
3. Challenges of Maternal Breastfeeding & How to Overcome Them
Maternal breastfeeding is without a doubt one of the healthiest and most natural means of nourishing a newborn baby. Unfortunately, it may not always be easy. Here are some of the most common challenges of maternal breastfeeding and suggestions on how to overcome them.
Poor Milk Supply
More often than not, a mother’s milk supply dwindles faster than her baby’s demand for nutrition. When this happens, the best approach is to introduce supplemental feeding either as expressed milk poured from a bottle, directly from the breast or by other means as deemed suitable by a healthcare professional. Mothers can boost their milk supply by increasing their water intake, opting for a balanced diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and proteins. Additionally, supplementing with galactagogues such as fenugreek, fennel, and blessed thistle, can help stimulate milk production.
Breast Pain & Soreness
- Proper positioning and latching are key to avoiding breast pain and discomfort during breastfeeding.
- Mothers should ensure that their babies get a deep and comfortable latch to ensure that their milk ducts are not being blocked, which will cause intense pain.
- If there’s pain or soreness, mothers can try applying cold compresses to the breast for relief.
- Postfeeding, mothers may choose to apply an absorbent pad on top of their bra to keep the area dry and reduce friction.
- It’s also essential for mothers to wear comfortable yet supportive bras.
Postpartum Depression & Emotional Stress
- As with most things, breastfeeding happiness and success are strongly tied to mental health and emotional stability, especially in the postpartum period.
- Mothers experiencing postpartum depression should seek professional medical help.
- Additionally, mothers can talk to family, friends, or a lactation consultant to get the support they need to have an enjoyable and enriching breastfeeding experience.
4. Uncovering the Hidden Benefits of Breastfeeding
It’s no secret that breastfeeding has immense health benefits for both mother and baby, but many don’t realize that it also offers several hidden advantages. From quality savings to convenience, many of the lesser-known benefits associated with the practice are worth exploring.
- More Nutritious & Fresh: Breast milk is highly nutritious, with components that change throughout a baby’s entire breastfeeding period. It can provide better quality sustenance than store-bought formula, and is always fresh.
- Cost Savings: Investing in quality breast pumps, supplies, and support can pay off in the long run, as formula feeding can quickly tally up expenses. Most stores also offer discounts on breastfeeding-related items.
- Bond with Your Baby: Breastfeeding provides time for mothers and babies to bond and enjoy pleasant moments together. During this period, hormones like prolactin and oxytocin are released, leading to increased intimacy with your baby.
- On-the-Go: Breastfeeding is a great way to feed your baby on-the-go, anytime and anywhere. You never have to worry about finding a clean bottle, warm formula, or formula storage.
Aside from the physical and emotional benefits, breastfeeding also serves practical purposes. For many, it’s a huge time-saver in preparing meals for their newborn. And, for other moms, it’s a great way to keep their diet in check. As a result, it can be beneficial to move away from the traditional views associated with the practice and get creative with the rewards breastfeeding can bring.
5. Protecting & Supporting Maternal Health through Breastfeeding
Supporting Maternal Health through Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is an invaluable way of nurturing new life and supporting the health of mothers and babies. When mothers are physically and emotionally supported in their decision to breastfeed, the health of the family, community and society is enhanced.
Benefits to the Mother:
- Reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer
- Reduces postpartum depression
- Helps to build mother-infant relationship
- Assists in losing excess weight gained during pregnancy
Benefits to the Baby:
- Contains antibodies that strengthen baby’s immune system
- Promotes healthy gut development which enhances long-term health
- Delivers optimal nutrition for growth and development
Given all the evidence supporting the immense positive impact of breastfeeding on maternal health and baby health, governments should be advocating for better policies that provide more financial and structural support for women wanting to breastfeed.
With rising evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and infant, one can’t dispute the importance of an enriched mother-infant bond and the long-term health effects of breastfeeding for both moms and babies. With a healthy, nurturing bond, an unrivalled understanding of mutual love, trust, and support is formed, creating a solid foundation for potential success in all future endeavors.