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Breastfeeding Is More Than Just Food
While the breastfeeding process exists to nourish a newborn and to provideeverything that it needs to grow, breastfeeding is much more than food for ababy. The entire breastfeeding process provides significant benefits forboth the baby and the mother.
1. Breast Milk Is A Living Substance
Babies do not have a fully functioning immune system until they are one yearold. For the first year of life, a breastfeeding mother actually providesthe immune response for a baby who is exposed to a cold or flu. If a babywere to suffer a cold, his mother would immediately start to increase herwhite blood cell production to counteract the bacteria or virus whether ornot she experiences the baby’s symptoms. The baby would get these doses ofimmunity through breast milk. Breast milk contains many white blood cells(the blood cells that fight bacteria, viruses and parasites) and because ofthem, breast milk can actually sit on a countertop for 8 hours and beperfectly safe to drink.
2. Breastfeeding Improves Health
The proteins, carbohydrates and fatty acids in breast milk provideeverything that a baby needs to grow strong bones, muscles and tissues. Allof these components of breast milk exist in perfect proportion to a growingbaby’s needs. Breast milk proteins are easily digested and breastfed babiesfeed often to build up their mother’s milk supply. The fatty acids found inbreast milk help to support the growth of the baby’s brain and nervoussystem. The carbohydrates (or sugars) found in breast milk provide energyfor the baby to play and interact with her world.
Breastfeeding provides great health benefits for the mother after birth, ithelps to contract the uterus back to its pre-pregnant state. Mothers whobreastfeed for longer periods of time experience less breast or uterinecancer later on in life.
3. Breastfeeding Promotes The Bonding and Attachment Process.
The hormone oxytocin stimulates the let down reflex when a baby starts tobreastfeed; however, the role of oxytocin is not just for breastfeeding. Infact, oxytocin is called the hormone of love. Our bodies release high dosesof oxytocin during the infatuation stage of love which creates the wonderfulhigh that we experience when we first fall for someone. Breastfeedingcreates this same feeling of infatuation every time a mother breastfeeds herbaby. These continual doses of oxytocin enhance the bonding and attachmentprocess to securely attach the mother/baby pair.
A Critical Period to Establish Breastfeeding
We all know that breast milk is best for babies. However, there is avulnerable time for both the mother and the baby for the first month afterbirth as they learn to breastfeed. Some babies learn easily, others taketheir time. If a baby is continually fussy during this process a new mothercan interpret the fussiness to mean that the baby has a specific problemwith her, and that can influence her decision whether or not to keep trying.
With a calmer baby, there is a greater chance that the mother will continueto breastfeed, which helps to create a more bonded mother and infant and arelatively peaceful home life. With the reduction of crying and fussiness,the relationship between the mother and father is less strained in thetransitional year to becoming a family, and that helps to bond the familyunit more easily.
The Reason Behind The Baby’s Crying
When a baby fusses or cries, especially in the evening, the problem isusually that the baby is experiencing an adverse reaction to something thatthe mother is eating. If a breastfeeding mother can alter her diet on ashort-term basis, the baby usually calms down and the breastfeeding processbecomes easier for both mother and baby.
The main food source that a breastfeeding mother eats that causes babiesdiscomfort are cow’s milk proteins. Small amounts of cow’s milk proteinsend up in breast milk and can cause the baby to experience either foodhypersensitivities or food intolerances. The resulting symptoms are gas,bloating, discomfort and crying. (Sound familiar?)
There are other foods that consistently cause a baby to experiencediscomfort. For more information, please visit Dr. Melanie’s website.
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