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Benefits of Breastfeeding

What is breast milk?
It is the milk produced in the mammary gland (breast) by a lactating women during pregnancy to feed the child.

Why is breast milk important for the baby?
Breast milk is important because:
1. It is species appropriate milk. Human milk is meant for human babies.
2. It contains exactly the right levels of nutrients that the baby needs, unlike the formula which is present in cow’s milk and tailored to a calf.
3. It contains long chain fatty acids required for are essential for human brain growth,which are not included in most formulas.
4. It contains antibodies against disease and white blood cells for the immune system, which is also not present in formula.
5. It fulfils a baby’s biological need to breast feed from it’s mother and helps to safeguard the baby’s emotional health throughout life.
6. Breast feeding mother’s  don’t get as much breast cancer as mother’s who have never breast fed.

How is the breast milk produced?
Under the influence of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, women produce milk after childbirth to feed the baby. The Milk ejection reflex mechanism-  The milk is transported from the breast alveoli to the nipple sucked by the baby which stimulates the paraventricular nucleus and supraoptic nucleus in the hypothalamus which signals to the posterior pituitary gland to produce oxytocin. Oxytocin stimulates contraction of the Myoepithelial cells surrounding the alveoli which already holds the milk. The increased pressure causes milk to flow through the duct system and get released through the nipple. This response can be conditioned, for example to the cry of the baby.

A healthy mother will produce about 500 to 800 ml of milk per day with about 500 kilo calorie per day.

What is the composition of Breast milk?

Composition of human breast milk-
Fat (g/100 ml)-
•total 4.2
•fatty acids – length 8C trace
•polyunsaturated fatty acids 0,6
•cholesterol 0,016
Protein (g/100 ml)
•total 1.1
•casein 0.4
•a-lactalbumin 0.3
•lactoferrin (apolactoferrin) 0.2
•IgA 0.1
•IgG 0.001
•lysozyme 0.05
•serum albumin 0.05
Carbohydrate (g/100 ml)
•lactose 7
•oligosaccharides 0.5
Minerals (g/100 ml)
•calcium 0.03
•phosphorus 0.014
•sodium 0.015
•potassium 0.055
•chlorine 0.043
Breast milk contains complex proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and other biologically active components. The composition changes over a single feed as well as over the period of lactation.

What is colostrum?

The initial milk produced is referred to as colostrum, which is high in the immunoglobulin IgA, which coats the gastrointestinal tract. This helps to protect the newborn until its own immune system is functioning properly. It also creates a mild laxative effect, expelling meconium and helping to prevent the buildup of bilirubin (a contributory factor in jaundice). Colostrum will gradually change to become mature milk. In the first 3–4 days it will appear thin and watery and will taste very sweet; later, the milk will be thicker and creamier. Human milk quenches the baby’s thirst and hunger and provides the proteins, sugar, minerals, and antibodies that the baby needs.

What are the diseases preventable by breast milk?
In addition to providing essential nourishment to infants, human milk; i.e., breast milk, has a number of valuable uses, especially medicinal uses, for both children and adults. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years.

Breast milk contains strong antibodies and antitoxins that many people believe promote healing and better overall health. However, breast milk lacks sterile and antiseptic properties if a nursing mother is infected with certain communicable diseases, such as HIV and CMV, as breast milk can transmit such diseases to infants and other people. Breast milk has been used as a home remedy for minor ailments, such as conjunctivitis, insect bites and stings, contact dermatitis, and infected wounds, burns, and abrasions. Breast milk has also been used alternatively to boost the immune system of ill persons having  viral gastroenteritis, influenza, the common cold, pneumonia, etc., because of its immunologic properties.

However, breast milk should never be seen or construed as a “cure-all”. Some medical experts are convinced that breast milk can induce apoptosis in some types of cancer cells. However, more research and evidence are needed in this area of cancer treatment.

What is the right time to start breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding should ideally start within 1hour after your baby is born for all conditions including normal delivery, forcep delivery and cesarean section delivery. A baby is usually alert after birth and will spontaneously seek the breast if left undisturbed in skin-to-skin contact with their mother’s body.
For Normal delivery cases:-
Breastfeeding within the first hour or so after birth is important because:

  1. It makes you as the mother more confident that you can breastfeed.
  2. Your baby starts to receive the immunological effects of colostrum.
  3. Your baby’s digestion and bowels are stimulated.
  4. Sucking reflex is higher during this period. so sucking difficulties can be avoided if the baby feeds properly at this stage.
  5. The bond between you and your baby is enhanced.

For Cesarean section
The first breastfeed may occur in the operating room with the baby passed under the sterile drapes while you are being stitched up. When this is not possible, it will commonly occur in the recovery room, as soon as possible after delivery, or as soon as you return to your room.
Benefits of breastfeeding after C-section:

  • Improves neurological development of the baby’s brain.
  • Benefits the newborn’s cardiovascular health.
  • Stabilizes the infant’s body temperature due to the skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding.
  • Helps establish a healthy breastfeeding behavior and effective suckling by the infant.
  • Boosts the production of milk.
  • Provides optimum maternal satisfaction.

What are conditions when you should not breast feed your child?
Breastfeeding is NOT advisable if one or more of the following conditions is true:

  1. An infant diagnosed with galactosemia, a rare genetic metabolic disorder.
  2. The infant whose mother:
    ~ Has been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
    ~ Is taking antiretroviral medications.
    ~ Has untreated, active tuberculosis.
    ~ Is infected with human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II.
    ~ Is using or is dependent upon an illicit drug.
    ~ Is taking prescribed cancer chemotherapy agents, such as antimetabolites that interfere with DNA replication and cell division.
    ~ Is undergoing radiation therapies; however, such nuclear medicine therapies require only a temporary interruption in breastfeeding.

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