Breast milk prevents infections in babies and reduces the risk of diseases in later life. Learn the health benefits of breast milk for your baby in this article.
The newborn infant has a weak immune system and needs support from the mother. IgG antibodies are transferred through the placenta that helps the neonates before birth. All other nutritional requirements after delivery are best fulfilled by breast milk. Breast milk is a biological fluid secreted by the mammary glands during the lactation period. It is vital for the growth and development of the newborn and is an invaluable source of nutrition for infants. The first milk from the mother’s breast after delivery contains colostrum essential for the baby as it contains immunoglobulins that provide efficient protection from infection and reduce the risk of catching systemic conditions in the future. Some studies suggest higher IQ in babies if breastfeeding is appropriately attempted during the initial days of life.
Breast milk contains various macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and various biologically active substances. Apart from the multiple nutritional components, it comprises antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds, and specific immune cells. Breast milk also contains IgA, IgM, and IgG immunoglobulins. It fulfills the babies' dietary requirements and protects the newborn from infection, inflammation, and oxidative stress during the postnatal period until the babies develop their own immune systems.
For babies, it acts as a protective shield against infections and reduces the risk of various systemic diseases, including diabetes, heart problems, obesity, and asthma. It also reduces the risk of certain allergic diseases like asthma and improves an infant's brain development. On the other hand, breastfeeding minimizes the chances of breast and ovarian cancer for the mother.
Additionally, it helps build a bond between the mother and the newborn babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly recommends breastfeeding for the initial six months of life and continuing breastfeeding until the mother and baby desire. It is beneficial for both the newborn and the mother.
If a breastfeeding mother has to return to her work, she gets worried about how to store breast milk for her babies without losing nutrients. Such mothers can follow these guidelines. Various factors affect the safe storage of breast milk, including milk volume, room temperature while the milk was being extracted from the breast, temperature fluctuations inside the refrigerator, and cleanliness of the environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these guidelines for safely storing breast milk without compromising with the nutrients.
It is also essential to follow proper sanitization while handling breast milk and appropriate containers free from chemical bisphenol A should be used for storing breast milk. Although breast milk can be stored safely, fresh milk is still preferred for feeding newborns. This is because the phases of milk secretion keep on changing after delivery according to the baby's nutritional needs.
The phases of breast milk are different phases in which the consistency and nutrients of the breast milk change during the lactation period. There are mainly three phases of breast milk. The components of each milk stage are specific according to the infants' nutritional requirements.
The factors contributing to low milk supply include differences in breastfeeding timing, smoking, and certain medical conditions. However, there are various ways to increase the formation of breast milk naturally.
Seeking the help of a lactation expert to know how to hold the baby and feed.
Attempting frequent feeding for the babies.
Using both breasts for feeding.
Massaging the breast before, during, and after breastfeeding.
Extract extra milk from the breast after finishing breastfeeding.
Applying warm compresses to the breast before feeding.
Practicing more breastfeeding and avoiding bottle feeding.
Apart from these practices, some lifestyle modifications also help to increase milk formation. Some of the contributing factors that can help a mother in increasing their milk supply are;
Drinking more water.
Reducing the intake of caffeine.
Intake of nutritious food.
According to the Centers for calories Control and Prevention (CDC), a well-nourished mother needs an additional 330 calories to 400 calories per day, and the overall calories intake should be 2,000 calories to 2,800 calories per day.
Breast milk is enclosed with multiple essential components that support growing infants and protect against infections. Various formula milk has gained similarities with breast milk, but still, there is no perfect substitute for breast milk. The constituents of breast milk show multiple changes according to the nutritional needs of the baby. It can be stored and used later following the guidelines, but it is always best to feed with fresh milk.
Last reviewed at:
22 Sep 2022 - 3 min read
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