It is widely known that breastfeeding is the most nutritious way to feed an infant, but it is less known that the benefits that a child and mother receive from breastfeeding continue throughout life even after breastfeeding has stopped.

It is often said that breastfed children are healthier than formula fed children, and there are many facts that support this statement. Breastmilk aids in the proper development and maturation of an infant’s immune system. Breastfeeding decreases a child’s risk of developing several chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma, diabetes as well as many others.

Allergies – Studies show that colostrum and breastmilk can help to prevent a child from developing inherited allergies. This is because the child’s immune system has a chance to develop prior to being exposed to allergens when exclusively breastfed for the first six months.

Asthma – Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 4 months of life provides substantial protection against a child developing asthma even when other factors including asthma in the family, gender, prematurity and exposure to cigarette smoke are considered.

Diabetes – Studies suggest that exclusive breastfeeding decreases the likelihood that a child will become overweight or obese later in life. This leads to the belief that breastfeeding can help to prevent obesity related diseases like type 2 diabetes.

The body’s responsiveness to childhood vaccinations is said to be enhanced in breastfed children, which helps to keep the child’s immune system strong throughout childhood.

As a breastfeeding mother, you will also continue to receive many health benefits long after you baby is weaned. Mothers who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing certain types of cancer like ovarian, breast and endometrial cancer. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months after birth delays the return of your menstrual periods. This delays acts as a natural birth control, which allows your body to have sufficient time to fully recover from the birth experience.

Since the benefits of receiving breastmilk exclusively are long lasting for children and their mothers it helps to reinforce the fact that breastmilk is the perfect first food for all babies.

This article was contributed by Elizabeth from Breast Pumps Direct
As a nursing mother to her 1-year-old daughter and a breastfeeding counsellor, she spends a great deal of time everyday thinking, talking and writing about breastfeeding and breastmilk.

References

Boyles, S. (2006, September 26) Weight Benefit Seen Even if Mothers Are Obese or Have Diabetes. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/content/article/127/116842.htm

Inman, M. A. (1999, November/December) Breast Milk and Allergies: Prophylaxis or Risk? RespiratoryReviews.com. http://www.respiratoryreviews.com/novdec99/rr_novdec99_BreastMilk.html

Jackson, K. M. & Nazar, A. M. (April 2006) Breastfeeding, the Immune Response, and Long-term Health. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.http://www.jaoa.org/cgi/content/full/106/4/203

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Although breastfeeding is a natural process, a little practice and skill is needed in order to master it successfully. Learning the proper latch and positioning techniques can make all the difference when you first begin to breastfeed.

It is important for first-time breastfeeding moms to know that even though there may be a few challenges along the way a successful breastfeeding relationship is possible. Some of the most common breastfeeding problems include engorgement, mastitis and sore or cracked nipples.

Engorgement refers to an extreme fullness of the breast and can make it difficult for a young baby to latch on properly. It most commonly occurs in the early days in breastfeeding when a mother’s body is still trying to regulate how much milk it needs to produce for her baby. When engorged you may experience throbbing pain and breasts that feel hard. Engorgement can be relieved with frequent nursing. You can also express just enough milk to relieve the pressure with a breast pump. In engorgement persists you may develop mastitis.

Mastitis, an inflamed breast infection, is diagnosed by breast tenderness, swelling and flu-like symptoms. Mothers who miss feedings, are overly stressed and have cracked or bleeding nipples are at a higher risk of developing mastitis. If you are affected with mastitis, you should continue to breastfeed on the infected side, drink lots of fluids and get plenty of rest. Some mothers may need a round of antibiotics to clear up a case of mastitis. An infection can be avoided by relieving engorgement promptly.

Breastfeeding should not be a painful experience. Sore or cracked nipples are a result of latch-on or positioning problems. Learning how to position your baby comfortably and achieving a good latch can eliminate pain while feeding. A couple of drops of breastmilk or pure lanolin can help to heal cracked nipples more quickly.

Line Up a Lactation Consultant –

If you are planning to breastfeed your child, then selecting a lactation consultant prior to his or her birth should be one of your top priorities along with choosing a pediatrician. Finding a lactation consultant before your child’s birth will ensure that you have access to a breastfeeding expert from the start. Your lactation consultant can be a lifesaver when you need help achieving latch-on or comfortable positioning in the early days of breastfeeding.

Be Sure to Have a Strong Support Group – Overcoming even the smallest challenge will be easier if you have a group of people that are supporting your decision to breastfeed. Your husband or partner is often the most important member of your support group. If he is uneasy about your decision to breastfeed it can help to educate him on the many benefits that breastfeeding will give you and your child.

Joining the La Leche League chapter in your area is another way to build your breastfeeding support group. By attending LLL meetings, you’ll have a chance to interact with mothers who are going through the same experiences as you or have been through them before. These mothers can help to provide you with much needed encouragement and support when breastfeeding is a challenge.

Being thoroughly prepared and having a support group can make it easier for you to handle any problems that you might experience during your breastfeeding relationship with your baby.

This article was contributed by Elizabeth from Breast Pumps Direct.
As a nursing mother to her 1-year-old daughter and a breastfeeding counsellor, she spends a great deal of time everyday thinking, talking and writing about breastfeeding and breastmilk.

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