World Breastfeeding Week, an annual global event that promotes and celebrates breastfeeding, celebrated its 27th anniversary in August 2018. Despite increased awareness about breastfeeding benefits, rates are still low in Singapore. According to a national breastfeeding survey of around 2,000 mothers, conducted by the Health Promotion Board in 2011, although up to 96 percent of mums tried breastfeeding at the hospital, many stopped after they were discharged. At six months after delivery, only 42 percent of babies received breastmilk and only one percent were exclusively breastfed. Reasons for this are thought to include lack of regulation on the marketing of formula milk, inadequate support from the workplace and community, and embarrassment of feeding in public. With all this in mind, we thought it pertinent to get a reminder of the benefits of breastfeeding from the team at Pacific Prime Singapore.
Benefits for babies
#1 Rich nutrients
Breast milk contains virtually all nutrients (over 400 different types!) a baby needs. These include vitamins, protein, fat, and omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for brain development. The nutrients found in breast milk are much more comprehensive and balanced than those in infant milk formulas.
#2 Strong antibodies
Scientific studies have increasingly shown that breast-fed babies have a reduced risk of developing acute and chronic infections, thanks to the antibodies in breast milk that combat viruses and bacteria. For example, a recent study in medical journal The Lancet has found that breast-fed babies have a lower risk of developing diabetes and obesity.
#3 Boosting the immune system
Produced during late pregnancy and the first few days upon giving birth, colostrum – also known as first milk – is another great example of how intricate and amazing the human body is. This yellowish fluid is rich in proteins, and also crucial to the development of the baby’s immune system.
#4 Better digestion
The vitamins, enzymes and minerals in breast milk can aid in developing a baby’s digestive system. Since breast milk is easily digestible, babies tend to get hungry quicker and want to be fed more frequently. However, don’t mistake this as a sign that your breast milk is not nutritious enough.
Benefits for mothers
#1 Lower risk of breast cancer
Studies by the American Institute for Cancer Research have shown that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, though the reason behind this is still unknown. One theory suggests that lactation helps get rid of cells with damaged DNA which may contribute to cancer. Other researchers believe that breastfeeding makes breast cells more resistant to cancer-causing mutations.
#2 Helps the uterus contract
The nipple stimulation during breastfeeding spurs the brain to release more oxytocin, a hormone that can help your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size. Oxytocin may also help reduce uterine bleeding after birth.
#3 Weight loss
Good news for mothers who can’t wait to get back in shape; breastfeeding also aids in post-partum weight loss. It’s been found that mothers who breastfeed can burn 300 to 500 calories per day! This is because producing breast milk makes your body work harder.
#4 More convenient and less expensive
With the cost of milk formula increasing, breast milk is a more wallet-friendly option for the family. Mothers who breastfeed do not have to sterilise and warm bottles in the middle of the night to prepare powdered milk for their little. Nor do they have to worry about what type of formula milk to buy.
Benefits for both babies and mothers
In addition to the many advantages listed above, breastfeeding builds an intimate attachment and nurtures the maternal bond between mum and baby. The skin-to-skin contact is psychologically beneficial to both parties as it helps the baby feel more comfortable and secure, while allowing the mum to become more responsive to the needs of her child.
Every mum wants to give the best to her little ones. Apart from breastfeeding, there’s more you can do to provide all-round protection to your kids such as securing health insurance coverage for them.
Read more in our Health & Fitness section!