Women’s Health – The Benefits of Breast Feeding

The late author, professor and humanist, Ashley Montagu said, ” We learn to be human at our mother’s breast”. Breast feeding is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby’s health.

Numerous studies have shown that babies that are breast-fed have one-third fewer hospitalizations than those who are bottle or formula fed, and they have fewer ear infections, respiratory infections and other problems.

According to the late James Grant, former executive director of UNICEF:

“Study after study now, breast feeding shows, for example, that babies who are not breast-fed have a higher rates of death, meaningitis, childhood leukemia, and other cancers, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, bacterial and viral infections, diarrhoeal diseases, otitis media, allergies, obesity, and development delays. Women who do not breast-feed demonstrate a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer.”

When a baby is breast fed, the antibodies pass on from the mother to the baby, helping to protect against illness and allergies.  As the baby’s system matures, its body will begin to make it’s own antibodies, and the baby will be more equipped to handle sensitivities of food.  It is well known that the composition of human breast milk has a superior composition of all of the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids your growing baby needs for healthy growth and brain development. Unlike formula, breast milk is always ready, always available, convenient, and always the right temperature for feeding and its composition changes over time depending on the needs of the baby.

Breast feeding offers many benefits for the mother.  The suckling action causes hormones oxytocin and prolactin to be secreted by the mother’s pituitary gland. Prolactin induces mothering behavior and milk production. These hormones assist in sufficient milk supply. The baby sucking at the breast causes contractions right after birth, leading to less blood loss and bleeding for the mom, and helps to contract mother’s uterus. Sucking on the breast also helps with the development or jaw alignment and the development of the cheekbone.  For this very reason, there is less of a need for costly orthodontic work later in life. Feeding via breasts also burns more calories and helps mothers lose weight faster.

As breast feeding occurs, a very healthy physical and emotional bond is created between the mother and her baby. This “special bond” contributes to developing parts of the brain related to empathy, during the first nineteen-months of life, referred to as the “window of empathy” by Joan Borysenko in her book A Woman’s Book of Life. This assists children in having a healthier outlook on life, by feeling more secure in their childhood and thus be willing to take more risks later in life.

Finally, we live in a culture where unfortunately it is alright to see a woman walking wearing a string bikini but it is unacceptable, unnatural or obscene to breast-feed an infant in a public place. With this mentality women will continue to lose power by putting more faith and trust in baby formulas rather than their own abilities to nourish their babies via the natural way of breast feeding. We should constantly remind ourselves that nature can never be superseded by technology or science. Thinking that a baby formula is as good as mother’s milk is the same as thinking that fifty years of technological evolution is far superior to five million years of nature’s evolution.

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