Benefits of Breastfeeding for babies and mother

There are many positive reasons to breastfeed. The primary benefit of breast milk is nutritional. Breast milk contains just the right amount of lactose; water; essential fatty acids; and amino acids for brain development, growth, and digestion. No babies are allergic to their mother’s milk, although they may have reactions to something their mother eats. Human milk contains at least 100 ingredients not found in formula.

Breastfed babies have a lower incidence of ear infections, diarrhea, allergies, and hospital admissions. Breastfed babies receive immunities from their mothers for the diseases that the mother has had or has been exposed to. When a baby becomes ill, the bacteria causing the illness is transmitted to the mother while the baby is breastfeeding; the mother’s immune system will start making antibodies for the baby.

Sucking at the breast promotes good jaw development because it is harder work to get milk out of a breast than a bottle, and the exercise strengthens the jaws and encourages the growth of straight, healthy teeth.

Breastfeeding facilitates bonding between mother and child. The skin-to-skin contact helps a baby feel safe, secure, and loved. Pediatricians encourage mothers of premature babies to hold their babies on their chests—skin to skin. This is called “kangaroo care,” which has been shown to soothe and calm a baby and help maintain the baby’s temperature. Fathers too can participate in kangaroo care by placing their infants against their bare chests.

Benefits for mother include help in losing the pounds gained during pregnancy and stimulating the uterus to contract to its original size. Resting is important for a new mother, and breastfeeding gives her that opportunity. Breastfeeding is economical, always the right temperature, and readily available—especially in the middle of the night.

There is no need to stop breastfeeding when returning to work; a breast pump can be used to express milk for feedings when the mother is not available. Breast milk will keep 8 to 10 hours at room temperature (66°–72°F), 8 days in the refrigerator, 3 to 4 months in the refrigerator freezer, and 12 months in a deep freezer.

Previously frozen milk must be used within 24 hours after defrosting in the refrigerator. Breast milk should not be heated in the microwave or directly on the stove. Those methods of heating breast milk will kill its immune-enhancing ability.
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