Most of theinformation on breastfeeding encouragesmothers to breastfeed solely for a minimum of the first six months – meaning that the baby takes no alternative types of nutrition aside from breast milk
Beyond six months, solids may be introduced, however it’s still advisable to continue breastfeeding as there’s plenty of proof pointing to continued benefits for babies who breastfeed up to at least one or 2 years old and beyond.
Here is a summary of the benefits of breastfeeding:
• It’s Nutritional – with the right constituents for human development
• The babies have fewer illnesses because of the mother’s antibodies being passed through the milk
• Babies that are breastfed are less likely to develop allergies later in life
• Breastfed babies have less risk of developing obesity later in life
• More research is demonstrating that babies that are breastfed have the more optimal brain development
• Breastfeeding lowers the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
• Breast milk contains lots of good bacteria
• Breast milk from the breast is sterile
• Breast milk contains additional 100 ingredients that formula does not
• Babies are not allergic to their mother’s milk (although they may be allergic to some of the foods she eats, this is easily rectified if the mother eliminates that food)
• The suckling action allows the baby to develop strong jaw muscles that encourage the growth of straight and healthy teeth
• Babies breastfed are less likely to develop tooth decay compared to bottle-fed babies
• Premature babies or babies born with medical problems have also been shown to benefit from breastfeeding
• Breastfed babies tend to have a stronger bond with their mothers.
• Babies who are breastfed tend are generally held more closely than bottle fed babies. The skin to skin contact between mother and baby provides comfort for the baby thathas just been removed from the protective environment of the womb.
Although breastfeeding is not without it own difficulties(mostly in the initial stages as it gets easier with time), I would think that given the overwhelming benefits, it’s worth any inconvenience.
Additionally, we should not neglect the fact that breastfeeding is also beneficial to the mother – even more, reasons to breastfeed:
• The suckling action of the baby indirectly results in the contraction of the uterus, protecting the mother from post-partum bleeding
• Exclusive breastfeeding is 99% effective in preventing a second pregnancy the first six months post delivery
• Decreases the risk of developing iron-deficient anaemia
• More rapid and sustained weight loss (milk production uses 200-500 calories a day)
• Decrease the risk of developing breast, ovarian and uterine cancers
• Current literature suggests that breastfeeding may help protect against osteoporosis
It is conjointly found that breastfeeding helps strengthen the maternal instinct. From the scientific perspective, the psychosocial benefits are a little more difficult to analyse, however, one particular study found that mothers with a history of abandonment are less likely to abandon their babies if they breastfeed the baby.
The recommended duration for breastfeeding
Currently, it is generally recommended is to breastfeed solely for six months, and to continue breastfeeding with other sources of nutrition for up to 1 year. However, more and more research shows that it maybe worthwhile to extend breastfeeding beyond the first year and that the benefits of breastfeeding continue even before the first year.
Breastfeeding.com stated that: “in comparing humans to other primates, research showed that humans’ natural age of weaning is a minimum of two and a half years and a maximum of between six and seven years.”
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first four to 6 months of life and continued breastfeeding till a minimum of 2 years.
The American Academy of paediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continued breastfeeding for a minimum of 1 year,but offers no upper limit.