Breast-feeding is the act of a mother feeding a baby from her breasts, which is the natural way for babies to feed during the early part of their life. Research indicates that breast-feeding imparts a number of advantages to the health and wellness of both the baby and the mother. Still, the practice can sometimes be a challenge for new mothers. Most health organizations recommend that a mother breast-feed for at least 12 months, if possible, and feed the baby exclusively breast milk for the first six months.
Advantages of Breast-Feeding
When babies are first born, the milk they receive from their mother is called colostrum. It’s thicker and filled with nutrients and antibodies to help the baby get off to a good start. As time goes on, the breast milk changes and gets thinner, but it still seems to help the baby in many ways. Research has shown that breast-fed babies have lower levels of asthma, diabetes, obesity and other future health problems.
What’s more, breast-feeding seems to have a number of advantages for the mother, as well. Lower levels of postpartum depression, diabetes and ovarian and breast cancers have all been linked to breast-feeding. And from an economic standpoint, breast-feeding is much more economical than formula feeding.
Help for Breast-Feeding Mothers
Though breast-feeding has a number of advantages, it can be challenging for new mothers. The act of breast-feeding takes practice and patience to get it right, and it can be painful at times. Women can help themselves by getting good prenatal care, taking a breast-feeding class or getting help from a lactation consultant. Trying different positions and different strategies for getting the baby to latch can also help mothers find the approach that will work best for them.
SOURCES: U.S. Office on Women's Health
Breastfed babies are much less likely to be obese later in life.