"Adriana put to bed 2 months ago. Since the birth of her baby, she has practiced exclusive breastfeeding. But she wants to return to work in a month's time and is planning to introduce formula into her baby's diet. Her mom has advised to breastfeed a little longer as there are numerous benefits for both her and the baby. Is there any truth to her mom's advice?"
Breastfeeding has numerous physical benefits for both the mother and the baby. Research has linked breastfeeding to stronger immune system in babies protecting them from infections, diarrhea, sudden death, and more. For mothers, breastfeeding has been linked to a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Does breastfeeding have any mental health benefits? Let's find out.
Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of postpartum depression
Research has shown that parents who want to and are able to breastfeed have the lowest risk of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a severe form of depression that occurs about 1-3 weeks after childbirth and which can interfere with one's ability to care for themselves, their baby, and even handle basic household tasks.
Enhances brain development in babies
Breastfeeding has a strong, long-term effects on cognition and behaviour. Breastfed children are more likely to have better memory, well-developed reasoning, and critical thinking skills, and may also grasp language faster.
Maternal health experts have stated that the affectionate bonding that occurs during breastfeeding helps to reduce behavioural and social problems in children as well as adults.
Breastfeeding has also been linked to emotional wellness in babies. Babies who are breastfed tend to be calmer and cry less often.
Reduction of maternal stress
Breastfeeding mothers tend to deal with daily stress better. They experience less anxietyand have more positive moods. This has been linked to production of the hormonesoxytocin and prolactin during lactation. Oxytocin creates a peaceful feeling that prompts mothers to relax as well as a nurturing urge that prompts a sense of attachment and affection for the baby.
Quality sleep is essential for optimal functioning of the brain and body. Concentration, attention, mood, and energy are some of the areas affected by inadequate sleep. New mothers need sufficient sleep to take care of themselves and their babies. Although breastfeeding mothers wake up often to feed their babies, they also fall asleep easily and sleep deeply for a longer time.
Breastfeeding has immense physical, cognitive, and psychological benefits for both mothers and babies, from reducing the risk of severe diseases to better brain and behavioral development. These benefits are most prominent when breastfeeding takes place for at least 6 monthsand the mother has sufficient support at home and at work.