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7 Reasons Why Breastfeeding Is Important For You And Your Baby
PHOTO BY Pexels/Joao Henrique
  • Lactation in the time of COVID-19 pandemic underscores the answer to why is breastfeeding important. For starters, lactating mothers are advised to continue breastfeeding even if they get infected by the virus, though they have to follow the safety protocols, and even when they get vaccinated.

    Breastfeeding is best for babies

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding mothers don’t seem to be passing on the virus to their infants. Based on evidence, “breastfeeding outweighs any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in June 2020. He added that the organization had carefully investigated the risks of women transmitting COVID-19 to their babies during breastfeeding.

    Ghebreyesus pointed out that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 “should be encouraged to initiate and continue breastfeeding and not be separated from their infants, unless the mother is too unwell."

    On the other hand, studies have shown that lactating moms, who are vaccinated, pass on the antibodies to their babies. This is how infants get protection against the virus. Therefore "there is no need to discontinue breastfeeding in patients who receive the COVID-19 vaccine," said Dr. Sybil Lizanne R. Bravo, a member of the Philippine Obstetrical And Gynecological Society (POGS), in a talk organized by the Department of Health (DOH).

    Why is breastfeeding important

    Science has proven the advantages of breastfeeding prove beneficial not just to the baby but his mom as well. That's why initiation of breastfeeding is one of the necessary protocols included in the program Unang Yakap (First Embrace), or Essential Newborn Care (ENC) by the WHO and the DOH, along with immediate drying of the baby, delayed cord clamping, and skin-to-skin contact.

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    Birth and breastfeeding doulas Noelle Pollack and Ros Padua of the Pinay Doulas Collective, as well as birthing coach and childbirth educator Chiqui Brosas-Hahn, all agree on the benefits of breastfeeding.

    Provides complete nutrition

    WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life. Breast milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs during this time. In fact, it is the sole nutrition he needs until he's ready to start solid foods at around 6 months. (Doctors strongly advise against giving water to infants from birth to six months. If you are not exclusively breastfeeding, make sure to follow instructions of your formula milk. Never add extra water to stretch the baby milk formula.)

    Saves lives

    Breast milk changes daily and adapts to your baby's needs. Breastfeeding ensures that your baby gets antibodies present in breast milk to help your little one from getting sick when exposed to bacteria or viruses. This is crucial in the first three months of a baby life when his immune system is still developing, and he is still not old enough to be vaccinated against certain illnesses.

    Helps your child to grow strong and intelligent

    The longer you breastfeed, the more advantages it provides for your child's cognitive development. One study suggests the breast milk contains essential fatty acids that help shape a child's brain and central nervous system.

    Another study showed that feeding a baby on demand, which is easier to achieve when nursing, helps kids score higher intelligence quotients (IQ) and perform better academically once they go to school.

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    Breastfeeding also strengthens the child's immunity even beyond the first six months of life. If a child is healthy and less sick, he is less likely to miss school and more likely to be in better shape to learn.

    Breaks the cycle of diarrhea and malnutrition

    As a baby passes through the birth canal, he instantly becomes a magnet for microbes, including trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, which make up the human microbiome.

    Bacteria that reside in the gut, in particular, are believed to play a crucial role in digestion, metabolism, and the development of the immune system. The more diverse a human's microbiome is, the better.

    Breast milk has been shown to "plant good bacteria" in a baby's digestive system. "Breast milk protects the gut, and so breastfed babies are less likely to have cases of severe diarrhea," Pollack pointed out.

    Promotes bonding between mom and child

    "When you are breastfeeding, you are more bonded with your child. You hold your baby close," Padua explained. Breastfeeding helps release oxytocin, also called the "love hormone," which is often associated with hugs, snuggles, social bonding.

    Breastfeeding also helps your baby also feels secure as he's always attached to you, which in turn enables you to respond to your baby's needs more attentively helps creates a secure attachment between mother and child.

    Protects mom's and baby's mental health

    Aside from triggering the release of the love hormone, breastfeeding also helps release prolactin or the hormone responsible for milk production. They help to relax the mother and make her feel more nurturing toward her baby, which is good for her mental health. These hormones have also been proven to reduce inflammation response in the body, which has also been associated with depression.

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    Breastfeeding also helps moms sleep longer and promotes lower stress levels. Both are things that can help lessen a mom's chances of experiencing baby blues, depression, and other perinatal mood anxieties and disorders.

    A 14-year-long study also shows that the longer you breastfeed your child, the more it contributes to the better mental health for the child, Padua shared. Attachment to the mom through breastfeeding also helps build a child's resiliency.

    Reduces the mom's risk for ovarian and breast cancer

    These breastfeeding perks have been associated with extended breastfeeding of nursing your baby up to two years and beyond. Nursing may also lower the chances of breast cancer coming back after successful treatment. Having fewer menstrual cycles (ergo, less exposure to estrogen) is one of the theories why it lowers breast cancer risk. Nursing also delays ovulation and thus lessens the chance of cell mutation, which triggers ovarian cancer.

    Aside from these cancers, extended breastfeeding has also been linked with reduced risks for developing endometrial cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and several conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, muscle degeneration, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are just so many reasons why is breastfeeding important.

    To learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding, read here.

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