The #worldbreastfeedingweek2018 slogan is Breastfeeding: Foundation for Life.
So, to honour this, I wanted to write my own post about why I believe that Breastfeeding is the foundation for life and why it is so important that we are all educated and informed of the benefits of breastfeeding.
BREASTFEEDING DURING INFANCY, TODDLERHOOD AND BEYOND
I could write pages and pages about why breastfeeding is so important for infant development and nutrition. For the sake of this post, I'm going to keep this short and sweet.
Breastfeeding during infancy has numerous benefits, but some of the more remarkable and relevant benefits include decreased infections, lower risk of chronic diseases, decreased rates of obesity, lowered risk of childhood cancers and so much more. Babies are hardwired to breastfeed. It is the biological norm for mothers and babies to breastfeed. That being said, there are certain medical conditions that make this not possible for some mothers/children and we are very fortunate to have donor milk and breast milk alternatives available.
A woman's breast is able to adjust the composition of the breastmilk dependant on baby's gestational age at birth. That means that a preterm infant will drink breastmilk that is modified to best suit that baby's needs. Our breasts produce colostrum, which is filled with amazing antibodies and immunological protectants to keep our babies healthy and safe. Did you know that babies and children do not develop their own antibodies till at least one year of age? That means that while you breastfeed your child, our antibodies will pass through our breastmilk to protect our babies. This is why it is safe to breastfeed your child when you are sick because your body will share the antibodies to protect your child from developing your cold/bug.
The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life, with the slow introduction of solids and continuing breastfeeding for two years and beyond. When you nurse a toddler, you are not only providing with extra nutrients and antibodies, but you're providing a key part of his/her development by offering a sense of security and love and belonging. Breastfeeding is so much more than food. The developmental benefits that children receive by breastfeeding are tenfold.
A NOTE ON BREAST MILK ALTERNATIVES
One specific important aspect of breastfeeding is that it saves lives. When you give a breastmilk alternative, such as formula it is SO crucial to ensure sterility and proper handling. This means that we need clean and safe water in order to properly make formula. In many countries, this is often not available, or the cost of formula is too high so mothers and families are forced to purchase coffee creamer or other alternatives. This leads to infection, malnourishment, and death in many children. There is often a misconception that bottle feeding is better for the baby in these countries, but unfortunately this is not the case. If we all had access to proper information and support and breastfed our children, millions of lives worldwide would be saved.
Right from the moment that we are born any amount of breastmilk that we take in will help to build to foundation of our health for the rest of our lives. Research has proven that breastfeeding an infant provides lifelong health benefits. While we are fortunate to live in a world that provides alternatives when breastfeeding is not an option, breast milk is still the biological norm for human babies. This means that it is the safest, healthiest most nutritious food a human infant can have. The benefits go beyond babies and toddlers and provide health benefits to mom too (thats a post for another day).
I also wanted to add in that breastfeeding can be extremely difficult for many moms. While it is the biological norm, we are often not told that our babies sometimes don't just latch on perfectly. It is something that needs to be learned by both mom and baby as the breastfeeding relationship develops. Every baby is hardwired to breastfeed, and mothers are most often well equipped to do so. Be sure that if you are struggling you find someone to help support you to meet your breastfeeding goals. I wish I had sought out help with my first because I could have avoided so much excess stress and anxiety, so if you are struggling with breastfeeding please don't be afraid to ask for help! To all of you who persevered and did everything they could to breastfeed and met your goals, you're amazing. To all of you who tried and tried and gave it all you had, but had to stop or have a different feeding experience with your baby than you had hoped for, you're amazing too.
Sending so much love to all of you!
Thanks for reading and happy #WorldBreastfeedingWeek!